Articling in Action: Q&As with LAA students-at-law

Meet the newest faces of access to justice. Read more on what brought them to LAA and their experiences so far.

Legal Aid Alberta
February 09, 2023

At Legal Aid Alberta (LAA), we work hard to create an Alberta where everyone is able to understand and protect their legal rights. Students who share our values and passion will help us protect and carry out our mission for years to come. We sat down with the LAA’s articling students to ask them a few questions about their experience and what brought them to LAA.

Lorena Villoria Guerra

Lorena is an articling student with Legal Aid Alberta and began her articling career last July upon receiving her JD from the University of Alberta in 2022. Just six months in, Lorena is getting the experience of a lifetime getting to work in the world of family and criminal law.

Q: What area of law are you most interested in?

A: I would like to practice family law.

Q: Why did you want to become a lawyer? 

A: During undergrad, I volunteered with the Elizabeth Fry Society as a courtworker in Family and Youth Courts. I often saw Duty Counsel helping self-represented individuals and I was really inspired by their role. I wanted to be someone who could help others during difficult moments in their lives. 

Q: Why choose LAA?

A: LAA’s duty counsel lawyers inspired me to attend law school and I was eager to join the team. During law school, I worked with Student Legal Services in the Civil and Family division, and worked with a number of LAA lawyers. I knew that LAA must be a great place to work if such amazing lawyers worked there! 

Q: What are the biggest highlights of your experience so far? 

A: I appeared in the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta and did a bail review hearing. This was my first advocating for a client in K.B., and it was very exciting. It really drove home that litigation is what I want to do. 

Q: What are some of the lessons learned?

A: I have gained a lot of practical knowledge. This program provides you with plenty of court opportunities to develop your advocacy skills and lose the first-time appearance jitters! I have also learned a lot about court processes and forms.

Q: Do you have any advice for future articling students joining the program?

A: Talk to all the lawyers you see at the office and ask lots of questions! You never know who has an interesting assignment or court opportunity that you can learn from. This is a great opportunity to learn about the practice of law.

Justin Hjelsvold

Justin began his journey with Legal Aid Alberta as part of the Indigenous Summer Student Program in 2020. Two years later, Justin has made his way back to LAA, joining the ranks of other articling students on the frontlines of justice.

Q: Where did you attend law school? 

A: University of Alberta.

Q: What area of law are you most interested in? 

A: I am interested in criminal law. Eventually, I want to be a trial lawyer. 

Q: Why did you become a lawyer? 

A: Things were not working out for me in my previous career. I took an inventory of my strengths and interests and aimed for the best thing I could think of that took advantage of them. I feel pretty fortunate to have accomplished that goal.

Q: What brought you back to LAA after completing the Indigenous Summer Student Program?

A: LAA is sincere about reconciliation and Indigenous equity in the justice system and these issues are close to my heart. This is a place where I can pursue a legal career doing what I think is right.

Q: What were the biggest highlights of your articling career at LAA?

A: My first appearance in Court of King’s Bench doing EPO Reviews, performing direct examination of an expert witness during a child welfare trial and negotiating release so an accused could make it home for Christmas.

Q: What are some of the lessons learned?

A: I have learned all about the court process, practicing courtroom appearances, how to apply practical legal principles, trauma-informed approaches to lawyering, and how to network with other lawyers in the community.

Q: If you had to share advice for a student (summer or articling) joining this program, what advice would you give them?

A: Say yes to every opportunity you are offered. There is a lot of space to grow and develop yourself professionally at LAA if you are willing to put yourself out there!

Cailey Severson

Cailey previously worked with Calgary Legal Guidance prior to law school. She gained insight to the legal challenges disadvantaged Albertans face each day and found passion in her work, which ultimately fueled her interest to pursue an articling position with LAA’s Calgary team.

Q: Where did you attend law school?

A: I attended law school at the University of Alberta.

Q: What area of law are you most interested in?

A: I thought I wanted to do criminal law, but my opportunities at LAA have led me to learn new areas of family law that I am really enjoying. I am open to the opportunities that come.

Q: Why choose LAA?

A: I worked for Calgary Legal Guidance before law school and I learned that working with low income and disadvantaged Albertans was really impactful and fulfilling work. This became a goal for my career and LAA was the perfect place for me to be.

Q: What are the biggest highlights of your experience so far? 

A: I am about to go on a road trip to Medicine Hat for a criminal trial with one of our Criminal Trial Group lawyers. That is a huge highlight for me!

Q: What are some of the new skills/knowledges you gained throughout the program?

A: I have spent a lot of time in court so far during my rotation, so my confidence and my oral advocacy has really improved!

Q: Do you have any advice for future articling students joining the program?

A: My advice would be to put yourself out there to all opportunities and don’t make assumptions about what you might be qualified for! I am a big believer in things falling into place, and the right fit will come to you if you are open to the many opportunities out there.

LAA’s articling student program 

Over a 12-month term, LAA articling students gain hands-on experience within the various practice areas such as family, adult and youth criminal law. Rotating between these areas allows them to work on a wide range of legal issues and gain hands-on experience in and out of the courtroom.  

Are you a law student or student-at-law? Do you share our values and passion for helping people? We offer a wide range of opportunities for you to complete your education in Edmonton and Calgary. 

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