Legal Aid Alberta prepares for escalating job action by criminal defence lawyers

What Albertans need to know about accessing legal aid.

Communications and Public Relations
August 19, 2022

EDMONTON – Yesterday, Legal Aid Alberta learned through media reports that criminal defence lawyers participating in job action are planning to escalate withdrawal of legal aid services starting on September 1, and will begin refusing certain types of criminal cases. 

Job action by private practice defence lawyers in Alberta started on August 8 with some lawyers withdrawing from duty counsel in provincial courts to make their case to the government for an increase to the hourly rate they are paid. 

So far, LAA has been able to fill the gaps by providing duty counsel services in person or virtually across the province with little or no disruption. However, if job action escalates as planned, we can reasonably anticipate a significant impact on the justice system and disadvantaged Albertans.

Potential impact to legal aid services after Sept. 1 

  • Duty counsel advice in provincial court, especially rural courts.
  • Justice of the Peace bail representation.
  • Albertans facing new criminal charges who are not existing clients of Legal Aid Alberta may experience delays getting a lawyer.

Uninterrupted legal aid services 

  • Applying for legal aid over the phone. 
  • Emergency protection orders in family violence cases. 
  • Current files and trials, even if your lawyer is a roster lawyer. 
  • New criminal charges for existing clients who already have a legal aid lawyer. 
  • Immigration and refugee matters. 

Legal aid services in Alberta are provided by a mix of staff lawyers who are employed by Legal Aid Alberta and roster lawyers, private sector lawyers who do legal aid work in addition to their private practice law. Criminal defence lawyers who are participating in job action are not employees of LAA and do not represent all private sector roster lawyers who do legal aid work.  

Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyers are continuing to serve Albertans across the province – representing people at bail hearings, running trials, providing free duty counsel advice in provincial courts, and helping Albertans facing violence get emergency protection orders (EPOs) to keep them safe.  

Albertans are our number one priority 

Roster lawyers are integral to Legal Aid Alberta. Right now we are focused on continuing to serve Albertans and to minimize service disruptions as best we can with limited resources. We know this is a concerning time for our employees, clients and Albertans. We are actively planning to prioritize those who are in the most disadvantaged situations. Demand for legal help never stops and we are taking it one day at a time. 

We’re here for you. 

New applicants and clients
1.866.845.3425  
 

Roster lawyers
[email protected]  

Partners and media
[email protected]   

Legal Aid Alberta Fast Facts 

  • 35,000 clients
  • 61,000 active files
  • 1,200 roster lawyers
  • 300 staff
  • 75 communities served
  • 50 years helping Albertans

Definitions

  • Roster lawyers who do legal aid are not employees of LAA but are contracted by LAA to provide legal advice and representation services. Roster lawyers come from the private bar, which means they have their own practice and/or work for a private law firm. Learn more.  
  • Staff lawyers work as employees at Legal Aid Alberta. They bring special knowledge and skills to serve people facing significant legal and life challenges. Staff lawyers practice criminal, family and immigration law and provide duty counsel services in docket and therapeutic courts across the province. 
  • Duty counsel are staff and roster lawyers who help people understand the court process and who give free legal advice to people representing themselves at their first court appearance. Duty counsel is found at the courthouse and most often speak to clients before their court appearance. They do not become involved in trials. Learn more. 
  • Tariff of fees (tariff): The Legal Aid Alberta Tariff of Fees dictates how lawyers accounts should be paid/how much they may bill their clients. Learn more. 

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