One of the core practices of public legal education is to undertake a substantial assessment of the needs of the intended users of a resource or service or participants in an initiative. There are a range of ways of carrying out those assessments, some more formal than others. Some are also more comprehensive than others, addressing a range of needs that includes learning preference, favoured communication channels, timeliness of information, as well as the actual legal content that might be appropriate.
Not all needs assessments result in a document specifying the needs. Rather, it may be a case of the PLE staff members immersing themselves in the community being served and learning as much as possible in the time available.
One of the early lessons of PLE is that there really is not such thing as ‘the general public’. Rather there are numerous ‘publics’ to which PLE resources and services are directed. Work with respect to the needs of several publics are listed next. However, Ab Curries study of the everyday legal needs of Canadians provides a scan of the range of legal issues Canadians face.
In the early years of PLE, we had to assure critics that we were not trying to turn people into their own lawyers. After all, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and you certainly wouldn’t try to perform your own brain surgery. With the prohibitive costs of legal services putting access to justice at risk for numerous people, PLE has been called upon to help people represent themselves on a variety of legal matters.
Documents of Interest