The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 2, April 2010

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Strategic Priorities Identified for Pro Bono Law Alberta

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

Much of the work to be undertaken by Pro Bono Law Alberta in 2010 will fall under three priorities identified by the Board:

1. Raise the awareness of Alberta lawyers about the need for pro bono services and of the resources available to lawyers who are prepared to provide pro bono services;

2. Create opportunities for Alberta lawyers to discharge their professional responsibilities to provide pro bono legal services; and

3. Enhance the growth of pro bono culture within the Alberta Bar.

New Lawyer Recruitment Initiatives

Recruitment events in Lethbridge (April 15), Grande Prairie (April 22) and Central Alberta (May 20) are planned, following the success of the two “Raising the Pro Bono Bar” events during National Pro Bono Week in Edmonton and Calgary last fall.

These recruitment efforts are intended to increase the number of lawyers involved in pro bono service by providing information about the pro bono volunteer opportunities available in each community, and to recognize the lawyers currently volunteering their time in a pro bono capacity at the clinics.

These events are a collaborative effort between PBLA staff and the clinic staff at Lethbridge Legal Guidance, Grande Prairie Legal Guidance, and Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic.

Managing Partners Meetings

Receptions and information sessions with Managing Partners in each of Edmonton and Calgary were conducted in January and March. These meetings showcased a variety of initiatives and programs that are available to law firms, and addressed the benefits to law firms in having pro bono policies and programs.

Throughout North America, pro bono programs are increasingly viewed as an effective tool in recruiting and retaining top legal talent, galvanizing a firm’s identity, connecting with clients’ charitable causes and their sense of social responsibility, and demonstrating the best ideals of ethical practice.

National Pro Bono Conference

Committees are currently planning workshops, selecting speakers and setting the overall program for the 3rd National Pro Bono Conference to be held in Calgary, September 17-19, 2010.

The Conference will bring together legal practitioners, the judiciary, the voluntary sector, and academia from Canada, the United States and abroad to share ideas and best practices, and to forge new pro bono partnerships. The Conference provides an opportunity to focus the legal profession’s attention on access to justice issues and offers a forum for the exchange of ideas about programs, volunteer recruitment, service delivery, funding support and efficient administration.

Feasibility Study Underway for Roster Program:

A feasibility study is underway by PBLA to identify alternate approaches for a lawyer roster model.

This study arises from a need expressed by pro bono clinics for a roster program that would allow them to access lawyers who otherwise might not volunteer directly through the clinics. Under such a program, roster lawyers would be identified to handle overload or specific needs cases identified by Alberta’s regional pro bono clinics, or to undertake large cases or projects that are outside the mandates of the clinics.

are outside the mandates of the clinics. The feasibility study and its findings would enable PBLA and Alberta Justice to:

  • Maximize benefits to stakeholders,
  • Avoid duplication of efforts by other organizations and existing services, and
  • Leverage existing resources and maximize value of new resources to develop, maintain and sustain a lawyer roster program in Alberta.

The PBLA Board has identified a roster program as crucial in creating opportunities for Alberta lawyers to discharge their professional responsibilities through pro bono legal services, while providing support for the regional pro bono clinics.

The results of the feasibility study, to be completed March 31, 2010, will provide recommendations and next steps in the delivery of this program.

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