Paralegals can be a powerful tool of justice, helping to resolve disputes and empower individual clients and whole communities. Living and working in the communities they serve, community-based paralegals combine their knowledge of the formal justice system with mediation and community education to help the poor and marginalized address their justice problems.
Less expensive than lawyers, and often able to generate results outside of and more quickly than the formal legal process, community-based paralegals are especially effective in transitional, post-conflict, and developing countries. In Pakistan, for example—where there are only 10 judges and about 100 lawyers to meet the justice needs of over three million people—paralegals help resolve land disputes, negotiate divorce settlements, and hold government officials accountable. Perhaps more importantly, community-based paralegals can educate whole communities about their rights, increasing citizens’ agency and helping them demand more from their governments.
The Community Paralegals Workshops organized by OLASS helps establishing and operating a community-based paralegal program, from assessing a community’s needs to training paralegals and resolving justice problems. The program includes workshops, seminars and community sessions based on case studies, training curricula, client intake forms, and other materials drawn from paralegal programs in Cambodia, Hungary, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, and elsewhere.