The Law is All Around Us: A Case for Public Legal Education and Information.

Date01 March 2023
AuthorTremblay, Nathalie

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Greater legal capability--the ability to understand and use legal information--helps people to learn the right vocabulary, formulate questions, decide on next steps, decide who to talk to, etc.

Learning about the law is not just something you do when confronted with a serious legal issue. Personal legal capability is about awareness, citizenship, human rights, social engagement and having the confidence to advocate for yourself when you have to. This article will introduce the readers to the work of the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA) and its efforts to increase Albertans' access to justice by developing free accessible resources about the laws that are all around us--from everyday legal issues to more significant matters.

About CPLEA: the importance of a name

CPLEA is a non-profit organization that has been active in Alberta for almost 50 years! First introduced as the Legal Resource Centre, a decision was made by its board in 2012 to start operating as the "Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta". The new name was deemed to better reflect the identity and purpose of the organization. It also obviously signals that its main goal is to serve the general public. It is very important for an organization devoted to increasing Albertan's "legal literacy" with plain language information to present itself clearly.

What do we mean by legal literacy?

In the Public Legal Education (PLE) field, the concept of legal literacy is mostly referred to as legal "capability". This is a fairly new addition to the PLE vocabulary describing the basic legal competencies and awareness that everyone should have. Meaning, the ability to understand and use legal information. We can all imagine how one can feel when involved in a legal matter full of unknowns. Having timely access to reliable, plain language information can make a difference in the anxiety level an individual experiences by providing some sense of control over a given situation. Greater legal capability helps people to learn the right vocabulary, formulate questions, decide on next steps, decide who to talk to, etc. More clarity and better awareness provide more decision-making opportunities.

People who cannot afford to access the services of a lawyer (unrepresented litigants) or people who make the decision to represent themselves (self-represented litigants) have a variety of needs when it comes to legal information. Organizations such as CPLEA become an...

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