Advice from Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyers on how to build your way to a successful career.
Around seventy students-at-law are connected to Legal Aid Alberta as members of the roster. Students are the future of legal aid and the legal profession. As a part of our organization, they contribute to our work in areas from criminal law and child protection to providing support to victims of family violence.
Being a member of the roster as an articling student under the supervision of your principal is an excellent opportunity to enrich your education and kick-start your career. But how do you ensure that you’re making the most of your LAA experience? We checked in with several of our staff lawyers to ask for their advice during this formative stage of your career.
For more information on what legal services you can provide as a student-at-law, and the responsibilities of principals, visit the Law Society of Alberta website.
Go and watch court as much as you can. Legal Aid Alberta lawyers are involved in a wide variety of legal matters. “Watching experienced counsel in court is a great way to get tips and ideas on how to practice,” said Danny Lynn, senior advisory counsel with Legal Aid Alberta. “It’s a good way to learn how to become a barrister and how to conduct yourself in court – you learn the procedures, you learn how the docket courts work.”
Engage with the system. Starting small and working your way up is an excellent strategy for building confidence and comfort working within the courts. Former articling student Dheeraj Janjua found tremendous value in making virtual appearances for Legal Aid Alberta. “I’m an anxious speaker, especially in public, so making submissions before a Justice of the Peace was easier this way. It helped me. I realized that if I can do it over the phone, I can do it in person.”
Manage your time. Legal Aid Alberta certificates are issued to articling students with identical expectations to those issued to more experienced lawyers, so make sure that you’re leveraging all the supports around you to efficiently complete tasks, such as drafting affidavits and court orders. Working with LAA can also develop your expertise in client management. Navigating within the structure of a specific timeframe makes it necessary to learn how to set expectations and manage client hours effectively.
Broaden your horizons. Being a member of the Legal Aid Alberta roster connects you with opportunities that you wouldn’t encounter anywhere else. “Experience as much as possible in your articles,” suggested Lynn. “Try to get experiences in Masters’ Chambers, in family court, in youth court, in adult criminal court. You may think that you’re going into an article because you want to practice one specific area of law, but you don’t really have a good idea of what’s important to you unless you try everything.”
To hear more about Legal Aid Alberta’s student programs and to read stories about the difference our students are making in the community, visit our student resources page.