Legal case work is a core part of ISAC’s day-to-day work. ISAC’s case selection policy was updated in 2022 and is designed to ensure that:
- ISAC is providing consistent service to clients, communities and legal clinics;
- ISAC’s work fits within our mission, mandate and strategic priorities identified in ISAC’s strategic plan and service delivery goals.
The purpose of publishing this information is to provide clarity on what is included in ISAC’s considerations and transparency around who makes final decisions. This also helps to ensure that a consistent process is followed and decisions are made fairly. Additionally, as a specialty legal clinic focused on income security issues, ISAC’s case selection process may differ from processes used by local community legal clinics.
What we think about when deciding which cases to take on:
When determining whether ISAC should take on a litigation case, the ISAC legal team, in consultation with the Executive Director, will consider the factors listed below, which have been categorized into general factors, clinic resource factors, and risk management factors. Other ISAC policies may need to be considered when deciding to take on a case, such as the Financial Eligibility Policy.
No single factor will determine whether or not a case will be taken on. Each factor will be considered in the context of all other factors.
General factors ISAC considers when determining whether or not to take on a case:
- Does this case fit into ISAC’s strategic priorities? To what extent would the case be consistent with ISAC’s Service Proposal Objectives?
- Does this case respond to legislative changes and / or the evolving legal and/or advocacy needs of community legal clinics and client communities with respect to income security programs or workers’ rights?
- Does this case prioritize advocacy for equity-seeking groups who may be underserved and underrepresented in accessing justice, income support, or decent work?
- Does the case raise issues that have province-wide importance? Alternatively, does the case have a potentially significant impact for a community identified in our strategic priorities, or in an important but neglected part of our constituency?
- Does this case explore or advocate for alternative or additional income security measures?
Factors related to clinic resources:
- How does the case fit with other litigation or policy development and community organizing currently underway or expected?
- Do we have the staff and time resources to take on the case? Will it take time needed from other priority work?
- Are there other resources (CRO, other clinics or private bar pro bono services) that we could draw on to co-counsel or support this case? Alternatively, is there a more appropriate or effective referral for this case?
Factors related to risk management:
- What are the legal strengths and weaknesses to the case – can it be won? If success is unlikely, are there other reasons to take on the case such as having a potentially useful impact on raising public awareness of issues affecting low-income people and/or community legal clinics?
- Are there clear risks associated with taking the case? Does it raise contentious issues where there is a lack of consensus across impacted communities and in clinics?
- What is the potential negative impact if the case is lost? If the case wins, is there a potential negative impact on other individuals and communities experiencing low income? Who else will be affected by the decision?
- Does the case qualify according to the ISAC Financial Eligibility Policy, either on the basis of financial criteria or as an exemption?
Who decides if ISAC will take on a case?
- Where the case falls within ISAC’s strategic goals, the Executive Director has final authority to accept or refuse the case.
- Where the case is contentious or there is a risk of it causing divisions in the community, staff will consult with the Board before making a decision.
- Where the case falls outside ISAC’s strategic priorities but staff recommend that it should go forward, staff will obtain approval from the Board (or a committee or individual designated by the Board).
- Where a case that is recommended by staff falls within the strategic priorities but is expected to require significant resources such that the clinic’s other strategic priorities are affected, staff will obtain approval from the Board.
- Where a case qualifies as exempt from the financial criteria in the Financial Eligibility Policy, the Executive Director has final authority to approve or accept the case and upon approval must make an Exemption Report to the next meeting of the ISAC Board of Directors.