The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 4, October 2010
A Short History of Legal Aid Alberta
Nearly 80 years ago, the Law Society introduced the Needy Litigants Program to exempt needy litigants from payment of court costs and legal fees in civil cases. In 1963, the Law Society and province of Alberta negotiated a Legal Aid Program. It took effect in Edmonton in 1964, and by 1965 was available throughout the province. An Alberta Legal Aid Plan was formally established in 1970 as a joint agreement between the Law Society and the Attorney General. This led to the creation of Legal Aid Alberta on July 1st, 1970.
In 1973, provincial government legislation created the Alberta Law Foundation to receive interest on trust accounts. That year, Legal Aid Alberta was incorporated. Five years later, a revised agreement between the Attorney General and the Law Society was signed in February 1979. This was followed by a subsidiary agreement between the Law Society and Legal Aid, in which the Law Society delegated the administration of the legal aid plan to Legal Aid Alberta.
In 2002, Legal Aid Alberta became an equal party to sign the Legal Aid Governance Agreement.
Legal Aid Alberta is governed by a Board of Directors whose responsibility is to ensure that the strategies, goals, policies, and directions of the organization are delegated to and implemented by LAA management. The current governance agreement, signed in April 2006 and expiring in March 2011, is under review by all three signatories.
Legal Aid Alberta appoints lawyers (both private bar and staff lawyers) to represent financially eligible individuals in a wide variety of cases. In April 2010, it began operating under the new Legal Services Centre model that saw more clients receive unbundled legal services. The centres, currently live in Calgary and Edmonton and poised to roll-out province-wide, provide an assessment of clients’ legal needs then channels them into an appropriate stream of legal service.
For more information on Legal Aid Alberta’s initiatives please visit www.legalaid.ab.ca.
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