In its 2022 Impact Report, Pro Bono Ontario, an access to justice organization to which McMillan is a gold-tier member of its Access to Justice Leadership Circle, revealed that it reached a record 34,000 clients and extended its service hours by 45%.
Pro Bono Ontario has greatly furthered its mission to provide legal support to vulnerable Ontarians, helping people address their legal troubles before they escalate into costly social problems such as homelessness or bankruptcy. It also provides corporate law support to Ontarian charities, start-ups, and entrepreneurs.
For most callers (87%), Pro Bono Ontario's hotline provides their first opportunity to speak to a lawyer, like McMillan's Reuben Rothstein. In the 2022 Impact Report, Reuben is recognized as an honour roll volunteer, a distinction given to 30 lawyers in Ontario who provide more than 50 hours of pro bono legal service through the organization. Reuben has volunteered more than 90 hours in each of the last four years. "I appreciate the opportunity to support my community," says Reuben, "It is personally and professionally fulfilling to provide expertise through Pro Bono Ontario. Everyone deserves access to justice. Also, I feel very well supported by management. They value the work I do for Pro Bono Ontario. It's one of the reasons the firm has been such a good fit for me."
Reuben is not alone. Our firm has a longstanding commitment to Pro Bono Ontario and to several other pro bono initiatives. "McMillan's emphasis on pro bono work is evident in our founding and we are proud to continue that tradition today," says Jeffrey Levine, chair of the Pro Bono Committee. McMillan's founder, Newton Rowell, was counsel to the five female plaintiffs in the famous "Persons" case in 1929. More recently, we represented the plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court of Canada's decision in M. v. H. which recognized spousal support rights and obligations for same sex couples for the first time.
Our lawyers consider it to be a unique privilege to support and ensure marginalized people and communities have access to justice. We encourage others to donate to Pro Bono Ontario. Additional funding will expand access to legal services for low-income Ontarians. This includes through targeted initiatives such as a dedicated hotline for those who have suffered workplace sexual harassment and another for protecting the rights of children at school. Lawyers can also consider volunteering. The organization has the goal of doubling its volunteer base this year, as more than half of the calls to the Free Legal Advice Hotline go unanswered.