Volunteer Lawyer Services (VLS) Program
Volunteer Lawyer Services (VLS) is a program that matches charitable organizations and low income individuals with volunteer lawyers who provide pro bono legal services which they would otherwise not receive due to a lack of financial resources.
You choose your case, you define the scope of your involvement and you decide whether taking that case meets with your time constraints and comfort level.
There are a number of ways to get involved, including opportunities for private practitioners, in-house counsel, government lawyers, students-at-law and retired lawyers and judges. Read more about the program below.
VLS Program Manager: 403-541-4803
VLS Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The history of VLS
Volunteer Lawyer Services is a pro bono legal services program that was initiated in 1995 as a joint initiative of the Canadian Bar Association, Alberta Branch, the Law Society of Alberta, the United Way of Calgary and Area and the Association of General Counsel of Alberta to assist registered charities and not-for-profit organizations who would otherwise not be able to receive these services due to a lack of financial resources.
VLS is currently funded by the United Way of Calgary and Area and the Law Society of Alberta.
How does VLS work?
The VLS program has a roster of volunteer lawyers who are advised of requests for pro bono services on a no-obligation to respond basis, according to location and area of practice. VLS then provides the applicant with the volunteer's contact information and they subsequently contact the volunteer directly. The volunteer decides whether to retain the applicant as a client and the scope of that retainer.
Who can volunteer with VLS?
VLS volunteers come from every type of legal background. They range from recent law school graduates to the most seasoned lawyers, and include lawyers from large downtown firms to sole practitioners in rural Alberta. Diversity aside, they all have one thing in common: the desire to use their unique skills and talents to address the critical legal needs of low-income Albertans and non-profit organizations. If you belong to one of these Law Society of Alberta membership categories, then you can engage in delivery of pro bono legal services through the Volunteer Lawyer Services program:
- Active Member
- Active Exempt Lawyer
- Active for Pro Bono Only Member
How much time will volunteering require?
There is no set time commitment-you determine how much time you want to volunteer. You also decide how many files to volunteer for, which ones, and best of all, you define the scope of your involvement, whether it be a full or limited scope retainer. It is our hope you will at least respond to one request for help each year.
Volunteering as a Mentor
Answering questions in your area of expertise is a way to help other volunteer lawyers with their VLS cases and does not require a large time commitment. Mentors are invaluable sources of information to volunteers and help the experience be successful - which increases the willingness to volunteer again and ultimately, the number of people who receive help. Contact us if you are interested in mentoring another volunteer lawyer.
"Pro Bono Law Alberta (PBLA) was the first organization to formally support Women Lawyers Joining Hands (WLJH), a start-up group of volunteers with a good idea but no assets or resources. By connecting the founders of Women Lawyers Joining Hands (WLJH) with a lawyer expert in the area of charities and not for profits, PBLA provided WLJH with the ability to create the legal entity and apply for the tax status required to turn its aspirations into actions. We cannot thank PBLA, its funders and our volunteer lawyer, Yvonne Chenier, Q.C., enough for their role in providing WLJH with a strong foundation to launch its legal education programs which will, in the spirit modeled by PBLA, be developed and delivered by lawyers on a pro bono basis." --Sheri Meyerhoffer, Co-Founder, Women Lawyers Joining Hands