Duty counsel: The unsung heroes of the justice system

Oct. 27 is a day to honour staff and roster lawyers who support Albertans on the frontlines of the justice system

Legal Aid AB
October 12, 2023

In busy courthouses around Alberta, dedicated Legal Aid Alberta staff and roster lawyers provide invaluable duty counsel services to Albertans facing criminal or family legal problems.

These passionate lawyers have made it their mission to offer frontline support to Albertans in dire legal straits. Stress levels run high. People are scared. In a courtroom, feeling that their freedom is at stake, an individual might make a mistake that will impact their future for years.

In these crucial moments, having an ally is paramount. Armed with knowledge and compassion, that’s where duty counsel lawyers come into play.

“Duty counsel are the lawyers who are there, with the boots on the ground, in the courthouse from the moment you arrive,” said Sean Smith, Legal Aid Alberta criminal duty counsel lawyer who works in courthouses around the Leduc area. “Everyone in Canada has the right to obtain and instruct counsel. It’s everyone, not just the rich, not just the powerful, every single person in Canada.”

Duty Counsel Day: A celebration of legal rights

Mark your calendars. October 27 is Duty Counsel Day, a day of recognition for our essential legal rights in Canada and a time to celebrate legal aid lawyers who provide this critical service. In Alberta, duty counsel services are provided by a mix of staff and roster lawyers in 75 communities.

In Edmonton, Cameron Mitchell’s work goes beyond legal proceedings. He helps dispel myths and offers clarity about legal rights and processes. “As a criminal duty counsel, I help people charged criminally early on: I do things like bail hearings, and guilty pleas, but I also help people navigate the system, so I answer a ton of questions, and I deal with misconceptions all the time.”

How to get involved

Share a story
We want to hear from you. Whether you are a lawyer, client, colleague, friend, or family, let us know what legal aid duty counsel means to you.
Share your story

Duty Counsel Day in the Classroom
In partnership with other legal aid organizations across Canada, Legal Aid Alberta is offering free classroom kits for teachers to bring duty counsel education into the classroom. If you know an educator, please share the registration link.
Teacher registration

Webinar: The vital role of duty counsel in our justice system
Legal Aid Alberta is hosting a public education webinar on Wednesday, Oct. 25. Please inform your clients and justice partners.
Webinar registration

Stay Informed

The latest news from LAA delivered straight to your inbox.