Women's Centre Legal Advice Clinic
The Women's Centre Legal Advice Clinic Volunteer Lawyer Project works to enhance access to justice, by providing legal services to women in need.
By using the skills and knowledge of lawyers who are members of the Association of Woman Lawyers (AWL), the Volunteer Lawyer Project provides a unique opportunity for women lawyers to give back to the community by providing legal services to women in need.
Pro Bono Law Alberta (PBLA) brokered the relationship between the Women's Centre of Calgary and AWL in 2008.
About the Women's Centre Legal Advice Clinic
The Women's Centre Legal Advice Clinic is an established program of the Women's Centre of Calgary having run for almost 40 years. Volunteer female lawyers provide free legal advice to women on a one-to-one basis in various areas of law.
The program is open to all women without restrictions due to issue or individual circumstances. Because women may not have access to family money, the Centre does not screen for income.
The clinic is aimed at providing women with the preliminary information, summary legal advice and support they may need to access the legal system. The volunteer lawyers do not provide ongoing legal work or representation at or through the clinic.
How the Legal Advice Clinic Operates
- The Women's Centre hosts Family Law clinics 4 Tuesday evenings and 2 Thursday evenings per month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
- Bi-weekly Non-Family Law Clinics on Thursday evenings.
- Half hour appointments. One volunteer lawyer sees up to four clients per evening clinic.
- Volunteer peer support. Booking and confirming appointments; referring clients to other legal and community services as needed; ensuring smooth operation of the clinic; and if necessary watching children while mom is in her appointment.
- Appointments are booked by the Women's Centre staff. Appointments are booked to a maximum 2 weeks in advance and a waiting list is maintained in the event of cancellations.
- Appointments are confirmed with the volunteer lawyer the day before the clinic.
- A form is faxed to the volunteer lawyer detailing the full name of the woman, the opposing party and whether the opposing party has legal representation. This enables the volunteer lawyer to do a "conflicts check" at their law firm.
- The Women's Centre Legal Advice Clinic Program Co-coordinator ensures the smooth operations of the Legal Advice Clinic including scheduling of volunteer lawyers and back up for non-legal services as needed.
Areas of Law
The Legal Advice Clinic provides legal advice in various areas of law with the highest demand traditionally in the family law area. Because of the increasing need in all areas of law associated with poverty, the program provides advice in:
- accessing social benefits;
- landlord tenant;
- small debts; and
- small claims and wills and estates
Generally, the Legal Advice clinic does not offer services in criminal and immigration law. If the Centre knows the woman has a criminal law matter, a referral is made to Elizabeth Fry Society; or in immigration law, a referral to Calgary Immigrant Women's Association.
Appointments are booked by the Women's Centre staff over the phone at (403) 264-1155. Also, bookings can be made at the Women's Centre located at 39- 4 St NE (new location). Appointments are booked to a maximum 2 weeks in advance and a waiting list is maintained in the event of cancellations.
The Legal Advice Clinic bookings and waiting list are almost always full and women who cannot get an appointment are referred to other services including Calgary Legal Guidance, Student Legal Assistance, the Family Law Resource Centre, Calgary Immigrant Women's Assocation or Legal Aid.
About the Women's Centre of Calgary
The Women's Centre of Calgary is a not-for-profit registered charity providing a variety of services and support to the women of Calgary. It operates on a Community Capacity Building Peer model of women helping women. It has 8.5 FTE staff and more than 420 volunteers. In 2013, the Women's Centre responded to more than 5800 individuals. The Centre most often serves marginalized women (poor women, immigrant and aboriginal women, women with disabilities) and women in transition (new to the city, experiencing family breakdown, looking for work). For more information visit their web site at www.womenscentrecalgary.org..
About the Association of Woman Lawyers
AWL is an organization committed to promoting the advancement, equality, interests and well being of women in the legal profession. By fostering the ongoing relationship with the Women's Centre, AWL provides a steady and reliable source of volunteer female lawyers for the Women's Centre Legal Advice Clinic.
Client Feedback & Testimonials
In 2012, 205 women received free legal advice in over 70 clinics. Of those women, 154 attended a Family Law clinic, and 51 attended a Non-family clinic.
Some Highlights from 2012:
99% of women who attended the clinics felt the lawyer listened to them carefully and seemed to understand their situation
99% of women who attended the clinics know what their next steps will be.
93% of women felt more in control of their situation
63% had never been to the Women's Centre before
Here is what women wrote about the volunteer lawyers:
"[She] gave me the guidance in what is my rights and a glance of what seems a bright future in my real estate situation. There is hope! Thank you."
"[The lawyer] gave me specific direction at what to do next. Explained responsibilities. Clarified situation made my problem manageable made me less anxious. She was great!"
LAWYERS NEEDED to volunteer with the Women's Legal Advice Clinic
Through this project, PBLA has partnered the Association of Women Lawyers with the Women's Centre, however, any female lawyer can volunteer with the Legal Advice Clinic. To volunteer for the Women's Centre Legal Advice Clinic, please contact Carolina at 403-264-1155.