Teen Legal Helpline
Our Impact Why We Exist
Teens face legal problems everyday. While solving these problems lets them stay in control of their lives, the reality of living in Toronto is that this help is out of reach for most teens.
We are changing that. Teen Legal Helpline connects teens with experienced lawyers who work with them to solve their hardest problems. By giving any teen in Toronto access to free and confidential legal advice from a caring lawyer, we give them the support they need to succeed.
Our Story What We Do
Teen Legal Helpline was founded by a team of Toronto lawyers and professionals who were troubled by the way legal problems affected the teens they mentored and by how difficult it was for them to get good help. We incorporated as a Canadian charity in March 2012 and with help and funding from the legal, social services, and business communities, we launched an anonymous helpline to connect teens with experienced and caring lawyers in February 2013. We have since helped hundreds of teens with their legal situations.
- Help hundreds of teens resolve their legal situations
- Run a battle-tested, user-friendly technology platform for managing highly sensitive conversations between teens and lawyers
- Maintain a team of highly dedicated volunteer lawyers
- Cultivate strong community and school relationships
- Run the TLH Community Network – a network of youth-serving individuals in Ontario who want to understand how legal issues affect their work
- Radio interviews on CBC Metro Morning with Matt Galloway and Ontario Morning (January 9, 2013)
- News article in CBC News for Hamilton (January 22, 2013)
- News article and blog post in Canadian Lawyer Magazine (January 10, 2013)
- Television news segment on Global News (January 30, 2015)
Since founding, our goal has been to lay a foundation on which we can grow the service to reach as many teens as possible. The combination of solid infrastructure, community relationships, and lawyer commitment has enabled our current trajectory and sets us up to reach every teen in Ontario.
Our Programs How We Do It
Teen Legal Helpline operates a service that provides free and confidential legal advice to teens in Ontario.
Teens use the service by going to our website (https://www.teenlegalhelpline.org/) and asking questions. When a teen submits her question, she receives a passcode that allows her to access her secure online conversation. If she wants, she can choose to be notified by email or text message when her lawyer has replied. There is no limit to the length of the conversation and the format is familiar for teens.
Our service has had a remarkable uptake, giving us a unique window into the types of legal problems that teens face. We have received questions from teens struggling with: bullying, domestic violence, crime victimization (including sexual assault), custody arrangements, CAS, criminal accusations and charges, Legal Aid, and police relations.
Based on our experience and the best practices of other legal helplines, we developed five core operating values and four best practices for our volunteer lawyers. Together they ensure that we serve teens at the highest standard.
- Always available
- Legal advice, not legal information
- Attorney-client relationship
Lawyer best practices
- Recruit lawyers who already have practice area and youth expertise
- Insist on using plain language and simple explanations
- Make the service simple to use for lawyers and teens
- Continually train and improve
Toronto's Vital Signs® Report
High levels of inequality profoundly affect the health and wellbeing of all members of a society. Residents in cities with more equal income distribution are likely to live longer, have less risk of a range of health problems from addiction and mental health issues to obesity, trust one another more, and commit less crime. (Gap Between Rich and Poor)
Research shows that legal problems hurt teens in these very areas. At the same time, legal advice is out of reach for most: the average lawyer cost is $224/hour and free legal services are failing to fill the gap. We serve where others have left off.
What You Can Do
Spread the word. If you work with teens, let them know a resource exists for them anytime they need to speak to a lawyer. Print our flyer and post everywhere. No teen should go without legal advice. That is why we exist.