DJ the DC: Articling student joins Legal Aid Alberta as new rural duty counsel

UVic grad embarks on dream career in "helping people in need."

Communications and Public Relations
February 11, 2021

There’s a thread running through Dheeraj Janjua’s path to studying law and becoming a Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyer: helping people in need.

“I’m very community-oriented. I always thought I’d like a career where I could help people, in a useful way,” said Janjua, who grew up in Edmonton. “I investigated different career paths, including social work, but law seemed like a natural progression in terms of helping people in a very meaningful way.”

Janjua, also known as DJ, studied law at the University of Victoria and articled with Legal Aid Alberta for the past year.

“My biggest area of interest is in criminal law and child protection, and I’ve gained quite a bit of experience in that area during my article in Calgary. Those are the areas I find most promising in terms of helping people.”

Articling during COVID-19

That passion for helping people during difficult times in their lives is shared across the LAA ranks. What’s uncommon in DJ’s career path is the fact that his articling year was interrupted by a global pandemic. The drastic changes to the way courts operate and the law is practiced, he feels, had some positive impacts.

For starters, when your court appearances are being conducted virtually, you can make calls and take on other tasks while awaiting your next appearance—something that can’t be done while sitting in a courtroom.

Janjua found the virtual appearances actually helped build his confidence.

“I’m an anxious speaker, especially in public, so making submissions before a Justice of the Peace was easier this way,” he said. “It kind of helped me. I realized that if I can do it over the phone, I can do it in person.”

“LAA seemed like a natural fit. This is an organization dedicated toward serving those segments of society. It’s hard to picture myself anywhere else.”

Another positive was the support he received throughout the LAA community and among the lawyers and legal system colleagues.

“It has been a great experience. It really reaffirmed a lot of people are willing to teach and help. There’s no such thing as a stupid question early in your career and I didn’t meet a single person on the LAA staff, or members of the Bar in general, who weren’t able to answer my questions and help me out,” he said.

“Legal Aid always seemed like the logical choice for me, in the type of people I want to help and work for. My decision to go to law school was to improve things for people in my community who are facing issues like poverty, mental health challenges, isolation — LAA seemed like a natural fit. This is an organization dedicated toward serving those segments of society. It’s hard to picture myself anywhere else.”

After being called to the bar in October, Janjua’s next step is a position as a rural staff duty counsel.

“I’m excited to see another side of the province,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to learn about a new region and to develop a deep sense of the community,” he said.

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