It may be heresy to say so, but I still consider the in-person, face-to-face, in-the-same-room contacts that we at the LCO have to be crucial to our work. I’ve emphasized how important outreach generally and consultation on our projects are to what we do, mostly in connection with wanting to develop smart technological means to accomplish both (or maybe especially the consultation on particular projects). Of course, we’re still working on doing more, but, I hope, only when it enhances old-fashioned ways of interacting with people, when it allows us to hear from people we might not otherwise hear from, for example. Still, just as searching the library shelves or skimming through a real book still reveals hidden gems one wouldn’t know enough to look for deliberately, there’s nothing like the sudden laugh, or frown, or upraised eyebrow to invoke a conversational detour that in turn can lead to a new project idea, a previously unexpressed view on a subject the LCO is studying.
We all meet with groups and individuals who are interested in our work, but one of my favourite responsibilities is to develop relationships with as many groups and organizations I can. We’re nowhere near finished doing that – we probably never will – but what a great benefit that unmediated, unfiltered personal contact has been. Whether an ad hoc group of people concerned with seniors’ issues in Kingston, workers in specialized community clinics, representatives of sexual assault crisis centres from across the province, workers’ organization, lawyers’ and accountants’ associations, to mention a few, these contacts have meant that the LCO isn’t just a website or an email, a consultation paper, or even a disembodied voice on the telephone.
So while we’re spending resources of money, time and energy in advancing our technological presence, we’re also planning to continue our in-person contacts to enrich our understanding of people’s legal needs and experiences. (And yes, for those who looked at it, I was touched by the ending to John Hochfelder’s Blawg Review, but only because I could imagine the reality of the actions and emotions he was conveying through his and Vandross’s lovely and soulful words.)