July 27, 2021
Welcome to the fourth issue of the Access to Justice eBulletin. The aim of this eBulletin is to highlight access to justice issues within Alberta and promote awareness of key pro bono initiatives to the greater legal community. Access to justice is one of the central tenets of our 2020-2024 Strategic Plan. We hope to continue to promote the affordability and availability of legal services and remove regulatory barriers to access where reasonable and appropriate.
Pro Bono Law Alberta Looks to the Future
After a challenging 2020 altered the pro bono landscape in Alberta, the past few months have seen the slow return of more traditional practice, with the opening of courts, clinics and some firms returning to the office. It would be tempting to think that this return to “normal” would be a relief for the pro bono community and a chance to return to traditional models, but for Pro Bono Law Alberta (PBLA), this is not the case.

For Nonye Opara, Executive Director of PBLA, the changes wrought by the pandemic brought into sharp focus the mission and mandate of PBLA and its crucial role in facilitating pro bono engagement by members of the legal profession, no matter the circumstance. Armed with key learnings and new momentum, PBLA’s Board developed a new Strategic Plan to guide the organization through the next phase of its development.
Calgary Legal Guidance Launches New Program
Calgary Legal Guidance (CLG) is offering a new program inviting interested local firms to host a clinic night several times during the year. Hosting a clinic night is an easy way to promote your firm’s pro bono involvement and help vulnerable Albertans gain improved access to justice.

In this program, your firm agrees to a set number of clinics for the next year. These can occur monthly, every other month, or bi-annually (twice a year) and run for approximately two hours each. CLG will do all the intake and scheduling of clients, while your firm provides three to four lawyers who will volunteer during the clinic to provide legal advice either in person or by phone, depending on your firm's preference.

CLG can schedule clients with legal needs specific to what your firm does or can offer clients with a range of legal concerns. This range could include areas such as:

  • Family Law,
  • Elder Law (i.e., wills, estates, etc.),
  • Criminal Defence,
  • Civil Law (i.e., employment, landlord/tenant, etc.),
  • Identification needs,
  • Human Rights Law (LGBTQ2SI, Discrimination, Mental Health Act, etc.),
  • Immigration Law,
  • Child Welfare (pre-apprehension), and
  • Indigenous Law. 

If your firm participates, CLG will promote your firm as a “Friend of Pro Bono” on their website and other publications, as well as provide all the necessary training and orientation.

If your firm is interested in participating or if you have any further questions about the program, please contact Kim Feodoroff and cc Marina Giacomin.
Volunteers Needed
The Law Society offers a status known as active, pro bono. This status allows you to exclusively volunteer at an Approved Legal Services Provider (ALSP) and is the same annual cost as holding inactive status. You do not need to purchase indemnity coverage with an active, pro bono status. If you are considering making a status change or plan to retire, consider electing a pro bono status instead of an inactive status.

Read the volunteer needs below from ALSPs in Alberta. Under the Law Society’s ALSP program, these providers offer pro bono legal advice on various topics, allowing underserved individuals to receive the advice and support they need. If you are able, consider volunteering with an ALSP to promote access to justice and to alleviate some of the stress the pro bono legal community is facing due to the economic situation and pandemic.

Alberta Prison Justice Society

The Alberta Prison Justice Society (APJS) is an organization devoted to addressing injustices in correctional institutions.
  • Volunteers Needed: Any lawyers interested in prison justice issues.
  • Volunteer Role: Assist in conducting research and forwarding legal applications of importance to incarcerated individuals.
  • Time Commitment: Flexible depending on your availability and the specific issues the Society is working on.
  • Contact: Email albertaprisonjusticesociety@gmail.com for more information.

BLG Business Venture Clinic

The BLG Business Venture Clinic is a student-run, pro bono legal clinic at the University of Calgary, Faculty of Law. Law students assist entrepreneurs in creating new businesses. Over the past five years, the clinic has worked with over 400 entrepreneurs.
  • Volunteers Needed: Lawyers in any area of the law that have been practising for three years or more. 
  • Volunteer Role: Act as a mentor to students, reviewing and providing feedback on written agreements or memos generated by the students over the course of the academic year.
  • Time Commitment: Approximately one to two hours per month.
  • Contact: Email businesscliniccoordinator@gmail.com for more information.

Calgary Legal Guidance

Calgary Legal Guidance (CLG) provides legal assistance, information and support to people who would not otherwise have access to such services. Their free public legal advice and education, ID clinics and specialized legal programs help people navigate the legal system and understand their rights.
  • Volunteers Needed: Family and civil lawyers.
  • Volunteer Role: Advise, inform and direct people through the legal system in meetings by phone (hoping to move to in-person meetings later in the year).
  • Time Commitment: One to two two-hour shifts per month.
  • Contact: Kim at feodoroffk@clg.ab.ca

Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic

The Community Legal Clinic offers free legal advice to people who qualify for the service. Their head office is located in Red Deer, however they also provide legal services throughout Central Alberta, as well as in Medicine Hat, Fort McMurray and Lloydminster.
  • Volunteers Needed: Family or criminal law lawyers urgently needed.
  • Volunteer Role: Provide summary legal advice to people in pre-booked appointments of 30 to 45 minutes over a two-hour period.
  • Time Commitment: Monthly, but flexible depending on the needs of volunteers. Daytime or evening shifts available.
  • Contact: Visit their website or email info@communitylegalclinic.net for more information.

Edmonton Community Legal Centre

The Edmonton Community Legal Centre (ECLC) has been providing free legal advice to low-income individuals for 20 years, with the assistance of volunteer lawyers and articling students. It is supported by a multidisciplinary team including staff lawyers, articling students, legal assistants, social workers, students and professionals with a range of backgrounds and education.
  • Volunteers Needed: Urgent need for family and immigration lawyers, as well as lawyers to provide civil litigation advice in a broad range of practice areas. Training can be provided on common topics encountered by low-income individuals. Articling students can volunteer to provide advice with the permission of their principal. ECLC provides shadowing and training opportunities.
  • Volunteer Role: Meet with clients in-person or by telephone and provide summary legal advice on family, civil or immigration matters.
  • Time Commitment: Weekly, biweekly or monthly for one to three hours per shift, meeting with three to four clients per month. Flexible day and evening times available for in-person and remote appointments.
  • Contact: Visit their website or email Giselle General, Volunteer and Communications Coordinator, at GGeneral@eclc.ca.

Grande Prairie Legal Guidance

Grande Prairie Legal Guidance (GPLG) has been providing free legal advice to low-income individuals in the Grande Prairie region for over 13 years. Many lawyers in the Grande Prairie area serve as volunteers, providing advice to clients in all practice areas.
  • Volunteers Needed: All practice areas are welcome, but there is a particular need for family law lawyers.
  • Volunteer Role: Meet with clients in-person or by telephone and provide summary legal advice.
  • Time Commitment: One one-hour shift per month, meeting with one or two clients per shift.
  • Contact: Tanya Ruigrok, Program Coordinator, at gplg@thecommunityvillage.ca.

Lethbridge Legal Guidance

Lethbridge Legal Guidance provides clinical legal services to vulnerable persons who cannot afford legal services and provides public legal information on a variety of law topics. They work to bridge the access to justice gap so individuals who are living in poverty are not further discriminated against and marginalized.
  • Volunteers Needed: Family and criminal law lawyers.
  • Volunteer Role: Provide clients with legal advice, guidance and direction, currently over the phone.
  • Time Commitment: Thirty minutes per client, with up to five clients per session. Preference to commit to a handful of sessions a year (twice a year, quarterly, bi-monthly), but highly flexible.
  • Contact: Visit their website.

Volunteer Lawyer Services Program, Pro Bono Law Alberta (PBLA)

The Volunteer Lawyer Services Program is the umbrella program for PBLA’s pro bono programs and initiatives. It is comprised of three main sub-programs: the Volunteer Lawyer Services Roster (VLS Roster) Program, the Civil Claims Duty Counsel (CCDC) Project and the Queen’s Bench Court Assistance Program (QB Amicus). Read more about each program on their website.
  • Volunteers Needed: No specific area needed. Any active member of the Law Society, including articling students, can volunteer.
  • Volunteer Role: Varies depending on program:
  • VLS Roster Program: Assist non-profits and charities with discrete legal needs on full-scope or limited retainer basis.
  • CCDC Project: Provide brief legal assistance to self-represented litigants with civil matters in the Provincial Court.
  • QB Amicus: Provide brief legal assistance, including assistance in morning chambers, to self-represented litigants with civil matters at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary and Edmonton.
  • Time Commitment: No fixed time commitment – scheduling is flexible for the CCDC and QB Amicus Programs and lawyers determine scope and type of files they want to take for the VLS Roster Program.
  • Contact: For more information, email either vls@pbla.ca for the VLS Roster Program, civilclaims@pbla.ca for the CCDC Project or courtassistance@pbla.ca for the QB Amicus program.

Please note that the CCDC Project and QB Amicus Program are now running virtually, with services delivered using phone and videoconferencing platforms. Training and ongoing support is provided for volunteers.