The problem

The problem

Canada has an access to justice crisis: most people can’t afford a lawyer and don’t know how to get help when they have legal problems.

In 2013, the Canadian Bar Association released the Equal Justice Report, an important milestone in access to justice advocacy. In a unified voice, the legal profession detailed the causes of the crisis, the steps needed to address it, and set ambitious advocacy goals for 2020. However, seven years later, we’ve made little progress towards these goals.

Leaders in the legal profession have acknowledged that tried and tested strategies — like special reports, consultations, and pilot programs — are not doing enough to address the crisis. Instead, they’ve called for new strategies and a culture of collaboration across disciplines:

“If logical thinking alone could have solved the access to justice problem, it would have been solved by now… taking a new approach requires a shift in justice system culture.”

A2J BC’s Framework for Action

“We have a problem in law: we think we know everything and we’re wrong… We need to get over the idea that because we’re lawyers, we can’t learn from any other field.”

The Harvard A2J Lab’s  Challenge to Legal Exceptionalism

Our vision

Our vision

We all agree on what a fair justice system needs to look like.
It has to:

  • Be user-centered
  • Engage citizens
  • Develop legal capability
  • Have strong data practices
  • Innovate by working across discipline
Supporting organisations. Equal justice, Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, Access Justice BC, Access to Justice Research Network, The Access group to access to Justice, Canada's Justice Development Goals

Our mission

Our mission

The Law & Design CoLab is a volunteer-led nonprofit based in Toronto and Waterloo, Ontario. Our mission is to make public legal education and advocacy more impactful by:

  • using design methods,
  • working across disciplines,
  • leveraging multimedia formats, and
  • experimenting with and testing our products.

We’re different than other legal nonprofits because we prioritize:

  • building on existing information products,
  • ensuring our designs are backed by expert research and community consultation,
  • growing a diverse network of volunteers, collaborators, and supporters, and
  • sharing our work products and methods openly for others to replicate and build upon.

What we do

What we do

Inspired by leaders in the field of legal design such as the Stanford Legal Design Lab and the UK Ministry of Justice, we identify opportunities in Ontario’s justice sector for collaborative, interdisciplinary projects.

The CoLab’s 3 core roles
The CoLab’s 3 core roles

skilled volunteers, legal experts, community stakeholders, and thought leaders

skilled volunteers with legal stakeholders on well-scoped projects

legal information products by leading and managing interdisciplinary projects

Our work is aligned with several movements such as “law labs” in higher education, plain language/ simplification (e.g. the Simplification Centre), digital government services (e.g. 18F, Ontario Digital Service, Canadian Digital Service), and Civic Tech (e.g. Code for America, Civic Hall NYC, Code for Canada, Civic Tech Toronto).

Our organization

Our organization


  • Recruit volunteers in design, multimedia, software development, marketing, law & public policy

CoLab Exec Team

  • Identify new project opportunities
  • Grow our network & partnerships
  • Share our work and connect with leaders in the field

Project Teams

  • Create volunteer teams
  • Partner with institutional collaborators
  • Scope, lead,& manage projects
Law and Design Colab's organisational structure


  • Develop partnerships
  • Secure financial & in-kind support

How we work

How we work

Our professional and student volunteers bring skills from a wide range of disciplines including:

UX design
Service design
Graphic design
Multimedia artists
Advertising and marketing
Software development
Business development
Video game design
Humanities: law, political science, public policy
Corporate consulting

Experienced professionals, recent grads, and students volunteer with the CoLab because they want to:

  • Work on challenging problems using design and digital media.
  • Be part of a fast-paced, collaborative, and inclusive team
  • Practice and hone their skills
  • Work on meaningful projects that have a positive social impact.
Volunteers work in 3-8 month cycles on project phases including:
  • Research & Scoping
  • Stakeholder Engagement & Feedback
  • Design / Prototyping
  • Testing / Validation

Though several projects can run in parallel, a volunteer usually works on only one project at a time. Volunteers to check-in with their teams at least once per week for project updates, planning, or co-working sessions. Meetings are held both in-person (snacks included!) and online.

If you’d like to learn more about volunteer roles, please don’t hesitate to get in touch