High needs communities are defined by a set of criteria relating to the level of access to legal services (and access to justice) in the area, including the following:
- There is high, unmet demand for local lawyers that provide legal aid services.
- Generally, a high needs community has a relatively small total population.
- The community or legal service area has very few lawyers relative to its population.
REAL BC acknowledges that availability of face-to-face legal services in the community is a significant indicator of access to justice in any given community. Statistics alone cannot completely define a high needs community or legal service area. So it is necessary to consider the following other factors:
- Are the local lawyers meeting the demand for services?
- Are the local lawyers providing the type of legal services that the community needs?
- Are the local lawyers available?
- Are there lawyers who live in the community but do not practice in that community?
- Does the community or legal service area have access to Court/judicial resources?
- Does the community provide services to surrounding communities that have no lawyers? In that case, there will usually be a higher level of demand for legal services beyond what the lawyers per population ratio indicates.
Note: The criteria set out above are for guideline purposes only. They are not intended to be standalone criteria. Not all criteria need be satisfied before a community will be considered to be “high needs”.