Guidelines for Better Legal Workshops
These guidelines drawn on the practical experience of public legal education (PLE) workshop facilitators and staff at the Ontario Justice Education Network. They are intended for legal professionals who are providing PLE workshops to the community.
1. Know your audience.
Assess what the community needs before you prepare your content. Talk to community members or local community workers to identify relevant topics.
2. Use or adapt existing resources.
Many legal clinics and public legal education organizations have produced excellent workshop materials, fact sheets, and other useful tools (like OJEN’s Steps to Justice Workshops). They are well-placed to create accessible, responsive materials that will work for the public.
3. Make the content practical.
Explain how the legal topic works in practice, using realistic scenarios and examples.
4. Explain your role and its limits.
Begin your workshop by explaining that you can’t give legal advice or discuss anyone’s personal situation, but you can give good information and help identify where they should go.
5. Be a good host.
Treat your audience with respect.
6. Use clear and simple language.
Use plain language wherever possible when creating your materials and running your workshop. Your audience may include English language learners and people who struggle to read difficult text.
7. Define your legal terms early and often.
Sometimes your audience needs to understand a legal term because they are likely to hear it used. Explain the term the first time you use it, and re-explain if necessary later in the workshop
8. Let the audience apply what they’ve learned.
Encourage people to internalize what they’ve learned by applying it to a concrete exercise.
9. Connect the audience with free or low-cost legal services.
Most people don’t know where to begin looking for a lawyer and many can’t afford one. Be prepared to refer them to helpful free or low-cost services.
10. Provide take-away legal information resources.
Offer participants legal information resources they can take home and use after the workshop. Don’t leave them to rely on their memory of your workshop.