The Advisory: Volume 10, Issue 3, July 2012
Spring into Pro Bono! Pro Bono Law Alberta Celebrates Five Years
By Gillian Marriott, QC, Executive Director, Pro Bono Law Alberta and Bencher, Law Society of Alberta
This spring, Pro Bono Law Alberta (PBLA) celebrates five years of creating and promoting pro bono opportunities for Alberta lawyers. In 2007, the Law Society of Alberta established PBLA as its centennial legacy project. In five years, PBLA has come a long way and it continues to be an exhilarating journey thanks to the commitment of our staff and Board of Directors, most of who have been with PBLA right from the very beginning.
The mandate of PBLA is to promote the development of organized pro bono service delivery in Alberta. We engage lawyers in innovative projects and partnerships that make it easy and rewarding for them to become involved. Since 2007, PBLA has brokered several partnerships between law firms and organizations, and the volunteer work done by law firms through these partnerships has improved the lives of countless Albertans in their legal journeys.
Legal Grounds Advice Clinic Extended to Lethbridge
Some of our projects include the “Legal Grounds Advice Clinic” in partnership with the Calgary Public Library in October 2011 at which volunteer lawyers from Norton Rose Canada LLP (formerly Macleod Dixon LLP) provided one-onone summary legal advice to 103 people. The event was so successful that Lethbridge Legal Guidance hosted a similar event on Law Day, April 28, in partnership with PBLA. Over a hundred people from the community received free legal advice and information provided by volunteer lawyers from Davidson & Williams LLP, Shapiro & Company, and North & Company LLP. Pro Bono Law Alberta has confirmed that Norton Rose Canada LLP will once again provide volunteer lawyers for the upcoming Legal Grounds Advice Clinic at the Calgary Public Library on October 17, 2012.
Highlights include Establishing Grande Prairie Legal Guidance
One of our highlights was co-hosting of the Third National Pro Bono Conference in September 2010, in partnership with other provincial pro bono organizations. Delegates with an interest in pro bono attended from Canada, the United States and Australia. We are looking forward to the Fourth National Pro Bono Conference to be held in Montreal on October 31 to November 2, 2012.
Another successful project was the establishment of Grande Prairie Legal Guidance in 2008, which is now operated by Edmonton Community Legal Centre (ECLC). In 2009, PBLA began managing of the Volunteer Lawyer Services Program (VLS) which since 1995 has provided a matching service between volunteer lawyers who provide pro bono legal services and charitable organizations who otherwise would not be able to afford such services. In April 2011, the VLS program expanded to include services to individuals who are referred by pro bono clinics and Legal Aid. It is through this process that PBLA is helping to provide another avenue for people to obtain pro bono services thereby increasing capacity for access to justice for those in need.
Partnership Provides Legal Supports to Slave Lake
In May 2011, PBLA, Legal Aid Alberta, and Canadian Bar Association – Alberta responded to a natural disaster by partnering to provide direct legal relief services to those affected by the Slave Lake wildfire. The partnership was supported by the Law Society of Alberta, Alberta Lawyers Assistance Society and Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association. This unique partnership was the first of its kind to respond in this way to provide legal supports and information to the community.
A toll-free hotline was launched in June 2011 and legal information sessions were held in July 2011 in Slave Lake. In addition, a web presence was created and ‘frequently asked questions’ sheets and other public legal education materials were developed as additional resources for those trying to put the pieces back together.
Volunteer lawyers from across the province provided assistance for this initiative in many ways. These included taking on individual referrals from Legal Aid through the VLS program, presenting in Slave Lake at the Legal Information Sessions, reviewing and creating resource materials and providing general support to the initiative.
The community expressed interest in having volunteer lawyers return to Slave Lake in March 2012 as many residents still had outstanding issues as a result of the fire. In March 2012, PBLA and Legal Aid Alberta responded once again and sent volunteer lawyers to Slave Lake to provide information sessions and answer legal questions related to the fire. Pro Bono Law Alberta was able to secure the donation of a plane and hotel accommodation for three volunteer lawyers to visit the community. As well, the PBLA staff also organized radio and newspaper ads and poster distribution to inform the community about the information sessions and booked appointments for people to meet oneon- one with the lawyers. Over 25 residents met with the volunteer lawyers and were extremely grateful for the legal advice.
Civil Claims Duty Counsel Project Launched with Pro Bono Students Canada
In the fall of 2011, PBLA launched the Civil Claims Duty Counsel (CCDC) project in partnership with Pro Bono Students Canada. The CCDC project is offered at both the Calgary and Edmonton courts centres and is an innovative way to engage lawyers in a valuable pro bono project that assists many people with various legal issues. In Calgary, the project expanded as of January 2012 to include eight firms and the provision of duty counsel services three full days a week. The Edmonton CCDC project began in January with a half-day of service per week and expanded to add another half day in May. A total of eight firms in Calgary and six firms in Edmonton are committed to this project which provides 117 lawyers and students-at-law and 15 law students the opportunity for hands-on experience working one-on-one with clients. Pro Bono Law Alberta is continually receiving requests for information from interested law firms and is excited about the growth of this project in such a short time.
Videos Created to Inform Unrepresented Claimants
In May 2012, PBLA, the Canadian Bar Association – Alberta Branch and members of the judiciary from the Alberta Courts worked with a production company to create and film three educational videos for the public. The videos will provide unrepresented claimants with short, easy to understand instructions about basic courtroom procedures, processes, etiquette and other useful information. The videos will be in the areas of Landlord and Tenant, Foreclosure and Civil Claims and were made available for the courts and for other users including the pro bono clinics in June 2012.
A Snapshot of Many Activities Underway at PBLA
This spring PBLA worked in partnership with the pro bono clinics to host Raising the Pro Bono Bar, a celebration for the legal profession. The events are held to recruit lawyers to volunteer at the clinics or other programs and to recognize those volunteers who are making a difference in their communities. The events took place in Grande Prairie May 3, Lethbridge May 10 and Edmonton May 31. Raising the Pro Bono Bar is a valuable networking and recruitment opportunity, as well as a celebration of the dedication of pro bono volunteers.
To provide an update to managing partners of firms in Calgary and Edmonton, PBLA hosts an annual meeting to keep the legal community apprised of PBLA’s current and future projects. We hosted a meeting for managing partners in Edmonton in November 2011, and in Calgary in March 2012. In Calgary, guest speaker Mr. David Tavender, QC, Partner Emeritus at Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP, presented “A Roadmap to Adequate, Effective Access to Justice”. Visit “What’s New” on the PBLA web site home page at www. pbla.ca to download the paper.
This is just a snapshot of the many activities PBLA has engaged in since we were formed in March 2007 as a legacy project marking the 100th anniversary of the Law Society of Alberta.
Pro Bono Law Alberta’s activities are driven by a vision of access to justice for all regardless of ability to pay for legal services. Its work is made possible by the incredible commitment of the legal community who have travelled with us on this road. We celebrated our fifth anniversary on June 21, 2012 and we were joined by our colleagues as we toasted the legal community. We look forward to many more years of building on the already strong culture of pro bono service in the legal profession in Alberta. Thank you for your support!
Looking Back at the Pro Bono Law Alberta Launch
Pro Bono Law Alberta was launched to Alberta’s legal profession as the legacy project celebrating the Law Society’s centennial in 2007. The not-for-profit network was launched in two cities – in Calgary on May 23 and in Edmonton on May 24. Jim Peacock, QC, then President of the Law Society announced a $200,000 contribution to implement the legacy project. A contribution by Alberta Justice to the overall anniversary celebrations was directed to PBLA and matched by the Law Society. A s well, the Alberta Law Foundation provided a grant of $200,000 towards the establishment of PBLA.
Attendees of the Edmonton launch in 2007 included (from left): Jim Peacock (then President of the Law Society of Alberta); the Honourable. Judge A.H. Lefever; Suzanne Alexander-Smith (Director, PBLA); the Honourable Judge T.J. Matchett (then Alberta Deputy Minister of Justice); the Honourable Judge J.T. Henderson (then Vice-President, PBLA); Susan Billington (Founding Executive Director, PBLA); and the Honourable Justice R. Jerke (then PBLA President and Law Society Bencher).
At the Pro Bono Law Alberta Annual General Meeting in 2010, the Law Society was acknowledged for demonstrating leadership and working to improve access to justice by establishing PBLA.
Bruce Churchill-Smith, QC, President of the PBLA Board of Directors (second from right) and Gillian Marriott, QC, Executive Director of PBLA (right) presented a certificate to Rod Jerke, QC, then President of the Law Society (second from left) and Don Thompson, QC, Executive Director of the Law Society (left).
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