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The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 1, January 2010


Click here to view the PDF version of The Advisory

National Pro Bono Law 2010 Conference Coming to Calgary

By Kevin Feth, QC, Director, Pro Bono Law Alberta and Bencher, Law Society of Alberta

Pro bono activities in Alberta and beyond will take centre stage when Pro Bono Law Alberta co-hosts the third National Pro Bono Conference in Calgary on September 15-17, 2010.

The conference will bring stakeholders from across Canada to discuss issues around access to justice and the role that pro bono organizations play in addressing these issues. As well, the conference will create a forum for organizations to share program information, project ideas and initiatives.

Within the national spotlight, Alberta pro bono activities and projects may receive a higher profile with the media and within the legal profession. By drawing attention to the pro bono movement and to the clinics and organizations involved in pro bono service delivery, the conference is viewed as a means to promote volunteerism, and to engage managing partners and other law firm and professional leaders in pro bono programs and partnerships.

Raising the Pro Bono Bar

National Pro Bono Week ran from October 25 through 31, 2009 and Pro Bono Law Alberta (PBLA) and the Canadian Bar Association - Alberta Branch collaborated to co-host volunteer lawyer recruitment events in both Calgary and Edmonton. Receptions were held at the Canadian Bar Association offices and invitations were extended to newly admitted and young lawyers. Both events were aimed at providing information and encouragement for new lawyers to engage in the delivery of pro bono legal services at legal clinics and organizations across the province. Ms. Gillian D. Marriott, QC, President, CBA – Alberta and the Executive Director of PBLA attended both events, welcoming attendees and leading the introductions.

The Edmonton event was held on October 27, 2009 and featured keynote speakers: the Honourable Mr. Justice Allan H. Wachowich, former Chief Justice of the Court of Queens Bench and Ms. Sarah Eadie, Staff Lawyer with Edmonton Community Legal Centre (ECLC). Representatives from ECLC, Pro Bono Students Canada (University of Alberta) and Student Legal Services of Edmonton had the opportunity to network with new lawyers and articling students and speak to them about the benefits of volunteering within the legal community.

The Calgary event, held on October 28, 2009, featured keynote speakers Mr. Bruce Churchill-Smith, President, PBLA , and Ms. Lawna Hurl, Calgary Legal Guidance (CLG) Board Member and 2007 Volunteer of the Year Recipient. Mr. Rod Jerke, QC, President-Elect, Law Society of Alberta and past President of PBLA and the Honourable A. Gail Vickery, Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta also spoke about their passion for pro bono.

The Calgary event highlighted the organizations and legal clinics that offer volunteer opportunities in Calgary for lawyers. Representatives from Calgary Legal Guidance, the Children’s Legal and Educational Resource Centre, the Women’s Centre – Legal Advice Clinic, Student Legal Assistance and Pro Bono Student’s Canada (University of Calgary) were in attendance. Lawyers had the opportunity to hear first-hand how providing pro bono volunteer services in the legal community assists in increasing access to justice for Albertans. New lawyer recruitment events will be taking place in Lethbridge, Red Deer and Grande Prairie in the spring of 2010.

New Partnership with Pro Bono Students Canada

Pro Bono Law Alberta partnered with the Career Services Office at the University of Calgary Faculty of Law and Pro Bono Students Canada to host “Pro Bono/Public Interest Career Forum - Remember Your Personal Statements” in September 2009.

The objective of this forum was to provide students with examples of how pro bono work can be incorporated into public interest career paths. Information about Pro Bono Law Alberta was provided and a ‘soup kitchen’ took place at which students were encouraged to give back to the community by providing a donation of soup or other non-perishable goods. Donations were provided to Sonshine Community Services, a local not-for-profit charitable organization. This is the second consecutive year that PBLA has partnered with the U of C Faculty of Law to address law students, and encouraging them to consider pro bono service as part of their legal careers.

Roster Program Model Under Development

Pro Bono Law Alberta received funding from Alberta Justice to complete a feasibility study and develop a model for a roster program for limited scope retainer and pro bono services.

A contractor has created a project plan for completion by Alberta Justice’s March 31, 2010 year end. Pro Bono Law Alberta intends to use the best features from other provinces’ programs in creating a unique Alberta model. The roster program will match not only individual clients to lawyers, but also not-for-profit corporations through the continuation of the Volunteer Lawyers Service Program (VLS).

Volunteer Lawyers Service operated out of the PBLA office

Volunteer Lawyers Service is a pro bono program initiated by the United Way of Calgary and Area, the Canadian Bar Association, the Law Society of Alberta, and the Association of General Counsel of Alberta. The VLS assists eligible non-partisan charitable organizations in obtaining pro bono legal services that would otherwise be unavailable to them due to a lack of financial resources.

Pro Bono Law Alberta assumed responsibility for this program in August 2009 after consultations with stakeholders resulted in a positive affirmation that PBLA was well suited to assume administration for this project. PBLA provides the administrative and staffing resources necessary to maintain the service. Currently the VLS program is funded in part by the United Way. PBLA hopes to expand this service, as there has been significant interest in the program in recent months by both lawyers who want to get involved, and by not-for-profit groups seeking assistance.

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