What do each of the Legal Aid Alberta Long Service Award recipients have in common? The answer: Passion for the law and helping people.
Legal Aid Alberta is honouring 52 employees marking their 20, 25 and 30-year work anniversaries. We asked four team members about their journey and what drives their loyalty to the access to justice mission.
On April 1, 2003, both Galina Flerkevitch and Laura Chung joined Legal Aid Alberta as legal assistants in Calgary.
Twenty years later, Flerkevitch and Chung continue to play an active role in the field of family law at LAA. Flerkevitch immigrated to Canada from Siberia, previously working at an oil company as a mechanical engineer. When she moved to Calgary, she discovered a new interest in public service: “I realized I liked working with people and not numbers – with legal aid, you work with the people who need your help.”
Similarly, Chung came from an accounting background working at a law firm in real estate but was looking for a new opportunity where her day-to-day would present new challenges and ways to learn. Legal Aid Alberta “made me feel like I had more chances to explore new areas of law,” says Chung. “Twenty years doesn’t feel long, because the work keeps you engaged.”
“New ways to learn”
Flerkevitch and Chung agree that over the years, opportunities to develop their skills at LAA have been endless.
Each aspect of family law – from Emergency Protection Orders to child welfare to the Divorce Act – is interconnected, says Chung. “Family is a big area of law. When I work with experienced lawyers, I find new ways to learn, and have a better understanding of how to approach files.”
Flerkevitch says her time with LAA is an opportunity to grow on a personal level and expand her knowledge in different areas of law, including immigration. “You can learn a lot about what is happening around the world . . . you learn about their conditions and their cultures. You can learn something from each person.”
For both Flerkevitch and Chung, each case has a lesson learned for their personal growth. Empathy and patience, according to Flerkevitch is key: “Patience is most important for me . . . with each client, you never know how they come to this life – you have to take the time to understand them and their situations.”
Meaningful work helps the years fly by
Judy Demontigny joined LAA as a receptionist in 1993 and remains one of the longest-serving administrative professionals at the Edmonton office.
“I’ve had a good support system around me through the years that provided me with reassurance and fostered a welcoming environment,” she says.
In addition to that support, Demontigny says reaching 30 years demonstrates her commitment to the mission. “When you like your job, it makes a big difference,” says Demontigny. “It’s not a ‘job’ to me . . . I enjoy dealing with the public in my roles, and I enjoy coming to the office.”
“I love helping people”
Aileen Lovely, Director, Certificate and Assessment Services, has always had a keen interest in law and helping others – an interest and passion that has not changed over her 25 years with LAA. “My initial motivation has not wavered,” says Lovely. “I learn so much every day, and I love helping people.”
Starting out as a Legal Aid Officer (known today as a Contact Centre Intake Officer), Lovely’s interests and skills have grown over the years, and she has carved out a leadership role that supports clients, staff, roster lawyers and members of the court system each day. “My personal journey through LAA is one big, significant milestone…I am proud of the fact that I have had the opportunity to educate and train so many team members.”
Lovely has been part of many new initiatives at LAA that are improving access to justice, including establishing the Contact Centre and legal assessment team. She says LAA “has allowed me to learn so much and push my limits like I never imagined.”