The Advisory: Volume 10, Issue 1, January 2012

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Family Law Pilot Assists Clients in Court


By Douglas R. Mah, QC, President, and Chair, Alternate Delivery of Legal Services Committee, Law Society of Alberta

A pilot project of Student Legal Services now enables University of Alberta law students to assist clients by appearing before the Court of Queen’s Bench in certain family law applications. The services in question are of limited scope and may be provided in only two circumstances: where low complexity child support orders and variation orders are sought, and where substitutional service orders are requested.

Justice Beverly Browne, co-chair of the Court of Queen’s Bench Family Law Committee, approved the pilot project which was developed in consultation with the Law Society of Alberta and Legal Aid Alberta. It started on January 1, 2012 and will be evaluated after a six month period.

Student Legal Services of Edmonton through its Family Law Project has been providing limited services to clients appearing in the Provincial Court of Alberta (Family Law Division). Law students providing legal services in court are members of Student Legal Services, and are under the supervision of a lawyer from the Legal Aid Alberta Family Law Office.

The extension of services to Court of Queen’s Bench is one of the many steps that can be taken towards enabling alternate delivery of legal services or the delivery of legal services by non-lawyers.

It is important for all parties involved, including the client, the law student, the supervising lawyer and particularly the Court to understand the limited nature of the services provided by the law students in this pilot project. The law students will not be permitted to undertake matters beyond the stated scope unless the supervising lawyer is in attendance and agrees.

Law Society staff completed a regulatory review of the project plan to ensure that the students have standing under the Legal Profession Act and the Rules of the Law Society of Alberta to make these court appearances and that appropriate supervisory and insurance requirements are in place.

For more information on this project, contact Jeff Keller, Legal Aid Alberta Family Law Office at 780-415-9871; Benjamin Lotery, Student Legal Services Society of Edmonton at 780-492-7612; or Susan Billington, QC, Law Society of Alberta at 403-229-4705.

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