Legal Aid Alberta wins 2024 Canadian Law Award

Legal Aid Alberta has won the Lincoln Alexander School of Law Award for Shaping the Future.

Legal Aid Alberta
May 10, 2024

Legal Aid Alberta has won the Lincoln Alexander School of Law Award for Shaping the Future at the 2024 Canadian Law Awards.

In a social media announcement on May 9, event sponsor Canadian Lawyer Magazine posted: “Congratulations to Legal Aid Alberta for their tireless dedication to justice and equity, shaping the future of legal access and advocacy. Their commitment to serving vulnerable communities sets an inspiring example for the legal profession.”

This award recognizes the many dedicated professionals at Legal Aid Alberta who are shaping the future day in and day out, working tirelessly to support Albertans and uphold the tenets of our democratic society.

“Resolving legal problems for Albertans and protecting the rule of law for everyone has guided us for the past 50 years, and it will continue to be the foundation of our work for the next half-century,” said Legal Aid Alberta President and CEO John Panusa. “This is an amazing recognition of all those in the LAA community who live and breathe our mission and bring access to justice to Albertans – every employee, every department, and every partner.

“It confirms that LAA is a national leader in improving access to justice and sharing our knowledge with partners and the public. Well done!”

The award was judged on the concrete steps Legal Aid Alberta took to demonstrate a commitment to strengthening access to justice for underrepresented communities, advancing legal services through innovation, and investing in legal education through mentorship and beyond.

LAA’s nomination was centered on four pivotal achievements in the last year, including specialized lawyer panels, public legal education efforts, the Client Gateway application initiative, and the modernization of LAA’s Tariff of Fees. Each reflects LAA’s commitment to high-quality representation and enhanced access to legal aid services.

Lawyer panels

LAA’s lawyer panels comprise 280 roster lawyers committed to serving Albertans by strengthening their knowledge and experience in five areas of law: child representation, child welfare, youth criminal law, complainant and witness representation, and major crimes.

The creation of lawyer panels impacts access to justice by expanding the pool of experienced lawyers capable of providing clients with effective legal representation. Education, mentorship, and professional development are key components of this initiative. Panel members agree to mentor or be mentored, ensuring clients have qualified and effective counsel.

In 2023, nearly 300 roster lawyers attended legal education sessions led by staff lawyers with years of practice in these specific areas of law.

Legal rights public education

In 2023, Duty Counsel Day, an international award-winning initiative led by LAA, engaged students and teachers nationwide to ensure the next generation of Canadians knows about legal aid duty counsel and their legal rights.

Last year, more than 1,900 students and teachers from 41 schools in nearly every province and territory registered to participate in the national Duty Counsel Day in the Classroom initiative. Duty Counsel Day has been proclaimed in the Senate of Canada and is endorsed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

As part of our 50th-anniversary programs in 2023, LAA produced a public education series of three free webinars. More than 800 Albertans registered to learn about youth crime issues, the role of duty counsel in the justice system, and how LAA helps Albertans facing family violence.

Client Gateway

In addition to legal challenges, many LAA clients face extremely difficult life circumstances, including intergenerational trauma, addiction, mental illness, and homelessness. Many do not have the ability to contact LAA by phone for help.

In 2023, Legal Aid Alberta started the innovative Client Gateway initiative to respond to this challenge. This initiative enables vulnerable individuals to apply for legal aid through duty counsel lawyers at court and selected partners. Client Gateway has transformed access to legal aid services, ensuring clients only have to explain their legal situation once.

Modern tariff and billing structure

For the first time in many years, LAA has improved the compensation structure for roster lawyers paid for legal aid work.

A modern Tariff of Fees introduced in 2023 has increased efficiency by simplifying the billing process and providing roster lawyers with the proper recognition based on the complexity of the legal matter. 

LAA has seen an increase in the number of qualified lawyers applying to the LAA roster. A growing roster means shorter waiting times for clients to be connected with legal services.

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