How PLEI Resources Can (and Cannot) Help Self-Represented People.

AuthorSurtees, Jeff

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Reliable and current public legal education and information (PLEI) resources can help self-represented people prevent and resolve legal problems in many situations.

What is PLEI?

PLEI stands for public legal education and information. While it may seem self-explanatory, one description of what is does is as follows:

PLE provides people with awareness, knowledge and understanding of rights and legal issues, together with the confidence and skills they need to deal with disputes and gain access to justice. Equally important, it helps people recognize when they may need support, what sort of advice is available, and how to go about getting it." (See "Effectiveness of Public Legal Education initiatives: A literature review" by Dr. Lisa Wintersteiger et al)

The first sentence above describes how PLEI is meant to help. The second sentence is a caution, hinting that there might be a line in some legal disputes where information will not be enough and advice from an expert (usually a lawyer) is needed. It might not always be easy to see where that line is, especially for a participant trying to solve a legal problem. It will depend on the unique facts of the case and the unique abilities of the person dealing with the problem.

Only lawyers can give legal advice

In Alberta, and in most provinces across the country, only active, insured lawyers can practice law, or give legal advice. "Active" means the lawyer is a member of the Law Society of Alberta and must follow a strict Code of Conduct. "Insured" means the lawyer carries insurance to cover situations where they make a mistake. And to "practice law" means to look at the facts of an issue and advise the client on what they should do in their specific situation.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, including for self-represented parties. However, non-lawyers can still provide legal education and information.

See CPLEA's Legal Information vs. Legal Advice: What is the difference? info sheet for a deeper look at the distinction between legal advice and legal information.

How PLEI can help

Getting legal advice from a lawyer is not the only solution to a legal problem. Good legal information and education can also help.

Not everyone has a burning interest in legal topics. As a result, most people will likely only start looking for legal information about a topic when they have a problem. This can create pressure for the person if they must learn things quickly.

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