October 27, 2020
This week marks the annual Alberta Access to Justice Week, running October 26 - 31, where members of the pro bono community throughout the province highlight the importance of justice, the barriers to accessing it and the ways we can work together to break down those barriers.

As part of this important initiative, we are launching a quarterly Access to Justice edition of our regular eBulletins. The Law Society of Alberta values the pro bono legal community and recognizes the key role that it provides in making legal services available for all Albertans, regardless of their financial situation. Access to justice is also one of the central tenets of our 2020-2024 Strategic Plan, and we hope to continue to promote the affordability and availability of legal services and remove regulatory barriers to access where reasonable and appropriate.

In the midst of a global pandemic, highlighting access to justice issues is even more critical. The pro bono legal community in Alberta is struggling to find volunteers for their programming, and already underserved Albertans are at risk of losing access to the legal support they need. While recruiting enough volunteers has always been a challenge in the pro bono sector, the current economic situation and pandemic has compounded the issue. 

If you are able, consider volunteering with an Approved Legal Services Provider (ALSP) to alleviate some of the stress the pro bono legal community is currently facing and to further promote access to justice in Alberta.
Approved Legal Services Providers
Several legal services providers are recognized under our Approved Legal Services Provider (ALSP) program. These providers offer pro bono legal advice on various topics, allowing underserved individuals to receive the advice and support they need. For more information on ALSPs and eligibility requirements, view our ALSP webinar.

The following list provides a brief overview to introduce the ALSPs currently active in Alberta and the specific volunteer positions they are in need of.
Alberta Prison Justice Society

The Alberta Prison Justice Society (APJS) is an organization devoted to addressing injustices in correctional institutions.
  • Volunteers Needed: Administrative law or civil litigation backgrounds.
  • 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.

Calgary Legal Guidance

Calgary Legal Guidance 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: Biggest need is for family and immigration lawyers; however, also recruiting lawyers who can advise on employment, landlord & tenant, civil law and debt related matters.
  • Volunteer Role: Advise, inform and direct people through the legal system through phone and online meetings. 
  • Time Commitment: Average shift is two hours and most volunteers are giving one to four shifts per month. Very flexible with scheduling dates and start times.
  • Contact: Email 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 law or criminal law lawyers, particularly family law.
  • 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) provides effective advocacy and access to justice in a supportive environment to persons living with low income. It is unique in its holistic approach to legal problems, situating the individual and family within the broader picture of their personal, financial and social circumstances.
  • Volunteers Needed: Family and civil law lawyers, including those with expertise in Landlord-Tenant, Debt, Employment or Civil Litigation.
  • Volunteer Role: Meet with clients and provide summary legal information and advice on a variety of legal matters.
  • Time Commitment: Once or twice a month for one to three hours per shift. Flexible times available for in-person and remote appointments.
  • Contact: Giselle General, Volunteer and Communications Coordinator, at GGeneral@eclc.ca or visit their website.

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; asked to commit to a handful of sessions a year (twice a year, quarterly, bi-monthly), but highly flexible.
  • Contact: Visit their website.

Public Interest Law Clinic 

The Public Interest Law Clinic’s (PILC) mission is to advocate effectively for systemic change that values and advances the well-being of the public and the environment. They engage in legislative reform and strategic litigation to help public interest clients influence the direction of public law and policy.
  • Volunteers Needed: Constitutional litigation and public law lawyers.
  • Volunteer Role: Provide senior litigation consultation and assist with test case development.
  • Time Commitment: Five hours per week over the next few months.
  • Contact: Visit their website.

More acutely, in keeping with its participation in the Alberta Debtor Support Project, PILC has an immediate need for at least 10 lawyers to provide summary advice and optional limited negotiation representation for debt and foreclosure matters, as well as provide mentorship and lawyer shadowing opportunities for law students assisting in the clinic. Read more about the Alberta Debtor Support Project below.

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 Lawyers Services Roster, 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 can volunteer.
  • Volunteer Role: Varies depending on program
  • Volunteer Lawyer Services Roster: Assist non-profits and charities with discrete legal need on full-scope or limited retainer basis.
  • Civil Claims Duty Counsel (CCDC) Project: Provide brief legal assistance to self-represented litigants with civil matters in the Provincial Court in Calgary and Edmonton.
  • Queen’s Bench Court Assistance Program (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 wish to take for the VLS Roster Program.
  • Contact: Email vls@pbla.ca.

Women’s Centre of Calgary

The Women’s Centre provides a safe and supportive space accessed by thousands of women in Calgary. As part of their services, they host free legal advice clinics for women, working to create a safe, empathetic and non-judgmental space where women are able to gain information and support.
  • Volunteers Needed: Family law lawyers who identify as a woman.
  • Volunteer Role: Provide one-time, 30-minute sessions of legal advice to those who identify as women.
  • Time Commitment: One two-hour shift per month on an ongoing basis.
  • Contact: Visit their website.

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 are paired with local entrepreneurs in need of legal services or information. They collaborate with volunteer lawyers to complete the work, who provide guidance and feedback to ensure the work provided is complete and accurate.

The BLG Business Venture Clinic has a full slate of volunteer lawyers for the upcoming school year.
Alberta Debtor Support Project Launched
With the twin impacts of COVID-19 and an ongoing recession pushing many Albertans to the financial precipice, many industry watchers are predicting a spike in consumer debt defaults and foreclosures in the coming months. Stakeholders across the legal community have worked together to expand legal services and increase the number of trained lawyers available to help.

The Alberta Debtor Support Project (ADSP) is a volunteer-led initiative comprised of lawyers and staff from the University of Calgary’s Public Interest Law Clinic, Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta, Calgary Legal Guidance and Pro Bono Law Alberta. Together, these organizations are working to provide legal information, summary advice clinics, debt negotiations services and help for court hearings entirely online and at no cost.