Welcome to SLS!
Jordan Lefaivre (3L), Heidi Besuijen (3L)
So you attended the Wine and Cheese and signed up for Student Legal Services (SLS). Good stuff! SLS is an awesome way to gain some practical experience. It will provide some much needed context to your class studies. Remember though, that SLS is not just a way for you to build experience. It is an opportunity to give back to the low income community. SLS is a non-profit organization committed to improving access to justice for the low income community in Edmonton and its surroundings. The people SLS serves often have nowhere else to turn with their legal problems. The help you are about to provide these individuals is absolutely necessary. Free legal service is what keeps this profession relevant to an ever growing proportion of the community, so give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for the commitment you have made.
There are four Projects operating under the SLS banner: the Criminal Law Project, the Civil/Family Law Project, Pro Bono Students Canada, and Legal Education and Reform. Each of these Projects provide students with different opportunities and there is something for everyone.
The Criminal Law Project assists people accused of summary conviction offences and select regulatory offences. In this Project, students volunteer once every two weeks for an hour and a half under the guidance of a dayleader. There is ample opportunity to handle files that include appearances in Provincial Court. You will handle the file from the time the person is charged until the matter is resolved.
The Civil and Family Law Project involves a similar volunteer commitment as the Criminal Law Project but with a focus on civil and family law. Students will have the opportunity to provide legal information over the phone on a variety of topics as well as handling files of their own. Files can involve such matters as breach of contract, landlord/tenant claims, child support issues, employment disputes, student appeals and more. You can also participate in the Family Law Series public information seminars, as well as the Do Your Own Divorce Clinic.
Volunteering with Pro Bono Students Canada can involve working with a small group of three to four students and an advising lawyer to produce legal research for a non-profit organization. Students can also volunteer as Civil Claims Duty Counsel in Provincial Court by managing intake for lawyers from local firms who provide free summary legal advice.
The Legal Education and Reform Project provides a number of opportunities to work with the low income community. There are regular outreaches where students travel to shelters, provide general legal information and dispense materials on legal subjects. Legal Education also makes presentations to local schools and community groups.
Student Legal Services is well-recognized and well-thought of in the legal community. SLS volunteers take the first steps in developing skills that they will use throughout their careers. More importantly, the volunteers of Student Legal Services help members of the Edmonton community that would not otherwise have access to legal assistance of any kind.