The driving forces behind Legal Aid Alberta

Legal Aid Alberta celebrates its 50th anniversary and 52 employees with a combined total of 530 years of service

Legal Aid AB
December 14, 2023

As Legal Aid Alberta celebrates its 50th anniversary, 52 team members commemorate their long service milestones, amassing 530 years of combined dedicated service.

LAA’s critical work over the past 50 years could not have been achieved without the unwavering dedication and commitment of lawyers and administrative professionals who share a common mission and purpose: delivering access to justice.

A voice for Albertans

Ian McNish, Associate Managing Director is marking 30 years at LAA. Reflecting on his tenure, he says,  “When I look back in my 30 years, it’s all about the clients and people I’ve worked with…we were able to affect change and apply resources where we could, and that’s what makes it rewarding.”

McNish began his LAA journey as a lawyer working on the Youth Court Staff Lawyer pilot project in the early 90s. For McNish, this was an opportunity to advocate for clients who were particularly vulnerable as young people without a voice in the justice system. “We provide clients with that voice – that explanation for their behaviours – and it’s not an excuse or justification, but an explanation and an opportunity to change.”

25 years on the frontlines

Staff Lawyer Nancy Cush, serving as duty counsel in youth court, is celebrating her 25-year milestone at LAA. She credits her passion for justice to her father, who served as a judge in circuit courts across the province. “I witnessed my father’s sense of justice,” says Cush, “and I aspired to a career that blended aspects of social work and the law.”

Each day, Cush assists youth who are stepping into court for the first time. It can be an intimidating process, especially for teens with challenging backgrounds. “There are different issues that can seep into their legal issues. These are systemic issues that bring them before the courts,” says Cush. As a duty counsel lawyer, Cush views her frontline assistance to alleviate worries and assure her clients that help is available.

“Clients are putting their full trust in you, and as lawyers, demonstrating care is crucial – those who genuinely care, come to work for LAA.”

Remembering the success stories

Witnessing clients turn their circumstances around is part of the motivation for McNish and Cush, even decades later. Cush says it’s important to remind yourself of the success stories, while McNish says the reward comes when you don’t see your clients again: “You know you have affected change when you don’t see them again – and when you see a client 20 years later in better circumstances, they thank you for that. It’s the gratitude that’s expressed that makes you continue,” says McNish.

“I think you’ll find that a common theme at LAA is that there is always an opportunity to satisfy your desire to use your legal skills, particularly to help people who desperately need it.”

McNish, Cush, and the 50 other recipients of the Long Service Awards each contribute to LAA’s mission in their own way. Whether it’s helping foster fairness in the legal process, supporting families navigating separation or assisting disadvantaged individuals in the criminal justice system, the people of LAA play a vital role in helping Albertans in the justice system, shaping our collective commitment to access to justice.

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