Volunteer in Profile (VIP)
Pro Bono Law Alberta recognizes the value of the pro bono legal services Alberta lawyers are delivering to low income Albertans. The Pro Bono Volunteer in Profile (VIP) features the pro bono volunteer service of Alberta lawyers. If you know of a lawyer who should be recognized for their pro bono service to low income Albertans, please contact PBLA.
Bud Melnyk, Red Deer
PBLA is pleased to welcome our newest VIP, Bud Melnyk of Red Deer. Bud was born and raised in Edmonton and holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of Alberta (U of A). He completed his law degree in 1990 at the U of A and articled in Red Deer. Bud has a long distinguished career in Red Deer including 20 years with Gerig Hamilton Neeland LLP and covering a full spectrum of practice. In 2017, the firm merged with Warren Sinclair LLP to become the largest law firm in Central Alberta.
Bud also distinguishes himself with his lifelong commitment to teaching others and serving the legal community. Since 2011 he has served on the Law Society of Alberta Family Law Advisory Committee. Bud has volunteered with the Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic since it began operations and served as their Lawyer Mentor from 2008-2010. He is the recipient of the Prism Award for outstanding commitment to pro bono legal services in Central Alberta and the 2017 Distinguished Service Awards for Pro Bono Legal Service, jointly presented by the Canadian Bar Association and the Law Society of Alberta.
Red Deer College has benefited from Bud’s commitment to teaching as an instructor for the Faculty of Extension from 1998 to 2010, the instructor for Business Law in 1999 and a long time instructor for the Legal Assistant Program.
During his leisure time Bud enjoys running (having participated in five marathons, two half-marathons and a number of triathlons and adventure races) and was a member of the 2010 relay team that won the Sinister 7 Adventure Race. Bud still continues to play Oldtimer hockey and has in the past been actively involved in the local theatre scene, where he has been an actor or director of twelve dinner theatre and stage productions. He is a former board member and volunteer with Central Alberta Theatre (1994-2000) and a former board member and volunteer with the Red Deer Oldtimers Hockey Association (2004-2010). Posted April 26, 2017
Nancy Randhawa, Calgary
PBLA is pleased to present our newest VIP (Volunteer in Profile), Nancy Randhawa. Nancy was called to the bar in November 2013 and since then she has been practicing as a sole practitioner. Nancy's firm handles various areas of law and her main areas of practice are family and real estate.
She enjoys volunteering for the 1000 Voices Legal Clinic as it allows her to give back to the community. One of the pillars of our legal system is access to justice and Nancy believes the 1000 Voices Legal Clinic reinforces that concept. There are many people who cannot afford to obtain advice and end up getting lost in the legal system. Nancy believes the legal clinic allows those individuals to gain some insight no matter how brief their visit to the clinic may be.
Debra Meakins and Clara Cerminara, Edmonton
PBLA is pleased to acknowledge two long time volunteers with Edmonton Community Legal Centre: Debra Meakins and Clara Cerminara.
Debra Meakins has been a committed and reliable ECLC volunteer lawyer since 2012, taking a summary legal advice clinic shift at least monthly. In 2014, in addition to continuing with her civil law clinic shifts, Debra began providing Family Law clinic advice, volunteering as many as three times each month. She volunteered for clinic a total of 22 times during the course of the year, contributing a staggering 66 hours of summary legal advice to ECLC clients. We appreciate Debra’s flexibility in volunteering where she is needed and we are grateful for the time and expertise she so generously gives. We are very fortunate to have her as an ECLC volunteer.
Clara Cerminara is a lawyer with Alberta Justice and has been volunteering with the ECLC for over five years, since 2010. Clara provides public legal education sessions on behalf of the ECLC, and in 2014 presented a total of 11 sessions, contributing 22 hours of service. She generally presents a session once a month, although in May 2014, Clara presented three sessions. She provides public legal education sessions on the topic of Wills and Estates, and as a result of client demand and feedback about the benefit of the information, some agencies request her sessions regularly each year, which Clara accommodates with grace and professionalism. We sincerely appreciate Clara’s commitment to the ECLC. (photo not available) Posted December 2015
Renee Gilead, Calgary
PBLA is pleased to introduce Renee Gilead of Calgary. After graduating from the University of Calgary Faculty of Law in 2013, Renee completed her articles with Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP. She was called to the bar in August 2014 and was hired as an associate in Norton Rose's Securities practice group. Renee enjoys being involved with many of PBLA's programs including the Legal Grounds Clinic, Law Day, and VLS. She assists whenever possible on pro bono files through Norton Rose's pro bono platform and sits on her firm's Partners in Education committee which provides both volunteer hours and financial support to Dr. Gordon Higgins Junior High School here in Calgary. Renee firmly believes that being able to practice law is a privilege not a right, and that all lawyers have an obligation to give back to their communities. Being born and raised in Calgary, she sees that while many in this city thrive, there are plenty who are left behind. It is the duty of those who have been blessed with good fortune to assist those who have not so that all in this city can live their lives to the fullest.
Outside of work, Renee loves to read, golf, cheer on the Calgary Stampeders, and spend time with her friends and family. Posted August 2015
Alexander Mosaico, Edmonton
Pro Bono Law Alberta is pleased to introduce Alexander Mosaico as our newest VIP. The VIP (Volunteer in Profile) page shines the spotlight on lawyers who make a difference through pro bono legal service delivery. Alexander was admitted to the Alberta Bar in July 2009. He is an active volunteer and believes he has an important role to play in access to justice. He currently volunteers with Edmonton Community Legal Centre (ECLC) and J Reuben Clarke Law Society.
Through his own law firm Mosaico Law, established in 2014, he is able to take on pro bono work as he wishes. He keeps his eyes open for cases where he believes that an injustice has been done, or where a person is being taken advantage of because they are in a vulnerable position.
Alexander works to help these folks out, by providing them with legal services for free or working out an arrangement that works for the client. Part of his personal policy is that he takes the time, no matter how swamped he is with his practice and even if it’s just a 15 minute consultation, to provide meaningful assistance to people who really do need legal help, and cannot afford it.
On the personal side, Alexander loves the North Saskatchewan River valley and recently joined the North Saskatchewan River Keeper Alliance, an organization dedicated to improving the river’s water quality. To the surprise (and possibly horror) of many, he routinely swims in the North Saskatchewan during the summer, and has built a couple of rafts with friends to enjoy the river, which is one of the main reasons he decided to stay in Edmonton instead of returning to his hometown of Calgary. Alexander enjoys biking, squash and reading, and plays guitar and piano. Posted April 2015
Russ Weninger, Calgary
Russ Weninger lives in Calgary, practices primarily in the areas of immigration law and wills and estate planning, and is a graduate of Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law. Russ has long been attracted to immigration law because of the interesting and varied people he encounters as clients. As a wills practitioner, he enjoys meeting with people at all stages in life who are taking steps to look out for the welfare of their family members. Russ volunteers with several legal clinics, including those offered through Calgary Legal Guidance at Immigrant Services Calgary, the Centre for Newcomers, and the Genesis Centre. He also volunteers at the Kerby Centre and has participated as a volunteer lawyer in Law Day activities with Pro Bono Law Alberta, both in Calgary and Fort McMurray. Literally willing to shed his own blood for a good cause, Russ is a frequent blood donor.
Having received support from others along the path to becoming a lawyer, Russ works with foreign-trained lawyers through the Immigrant Services Calgary mentorship program. He has also recently started volunteering with Prospect, an organization that provides community and employment support services to clients. Always eager to speak on legal issues, Russ has given talks on will and estate planning topics through Momentum and has spoken on immigration law topics at events hosted by the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society and Calgary Legal Guidance. He is currently a member-at-large of the executive of the Canadian Bar Association immigration section for Southern Alberta.
When not being a lawyer, Russ loves travelling to nearby mountain destinations such as Canmore, Banff, Radium, and Waterton. He is attempting in vain to learn Japanese, and is looking forward to an upcoming trip to Japan. Though rusty, he enjoys playing the piano, as well as taking in Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Honens Piano Competition events. Russ also spends way too much time binging on Netflix.
Brendan Miller, Calgary
PBLA is honoured to recognize Brendan Miller for his dedicated volunteer work. Brendan regularly litigates in the area of constitutional, criminal, administrative, civil, child protection and family law. His criminal practice is broad, ranging from summary conviction matters to homicide, but commonly involves issues surrounding his client's civil rights under the constitution and other civil and human rights laws. Brendan's civil litigation practice is also broad, but commonly revolves around contract disputes. He takes pro bono matters both through Pro Bono Law Alberta and on his own accord through his law firm, Walsh LLP. He has acted as counsel and successfully argued cases before all levels of Court in Alberta including the Provincial Court, Court of Queen's Bench and Court of Appeal.
Brendan has conducted matters before administrative tribunals including the Chartered Accountants of Alberta Disciplinary Tribunal, Alberta College of Social Work Disciplinary Tribunal, Parole Board of Canada Appeal Division, Municipal Councils, Service Canada Board of Referees (E.I. fraud) and the Transportation and Safety Board of Alberta (driving suspensions). Further, he also takes cases for the appeal and judicial review of decisions made by administrative and government bodies.
In his spare time, Brendan is a guest lecturer at Mount Royal University in constitutional rights, runs a legal clinic for Pro Bono Law Alberta at Calgary's downtown probation office, is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Calgary Varsity Progressive Conservative Constituency Associations, and is a past member of the Board of Directors of Bridges Social Development, a non-profit organization focused on training professionals and leaders in have-not communities in both Canada and abroad. Following the Southern Alberta Flood in June 2013, Brendan and his firm Walsh LLP were a part of legal clinics and discussion panels in various areas of law assisting those affected by the disaster in and around Southern Alberta.
Jean Munn, Calgary
PBLA is honoured to recognize Jean Munn for her dedicated volunteer work. Jean's extensive commitment to pro bono is remarkable - she has volunteered with Calgary Legal Guidance (CLG) for almost 20 years and has given hundreds of hours of pro bono service. She is a tireless advocate for the pro bono cause, and has mentored many pro bono volunteers. Jean was instrumental in establishing CLG's Canadian Immigrant Women's Association (CIWA) outreach clinic, as one of two initial volunteers providing free legal advice. Her knowledge and understanding of the challenges that immigrants face, especially unrepresented in the courts, were key to launching CLG's new Immigration Law Project. This program provides public legal education, evening clinics, and direct service to vulnerable immigrant clients, who may face deportation or separation from their families and who would otherwise have no access to legal help. Jean continues to dedicate her volunteer time to these projects, and actively recruits new lawyers. She also provides personal pro bono follow-up to clients who need continuing legal support beyond what a clinic can provide.
After earning her LL.B. from the University of Calgary in 1988, Jean clerked with Madam Justice Conrad at the Alberta Court of Appeal and completed her articles with Kutz, Hotzel & Gainer. She began volunteering with CLG in 1993 and has been a board member since 2010. Jean has served on the boards of the Calgary Sexual Health Centre and the Calgary YMCA, and as President of the Marlborough Community Association and Chair of the Canadian Bar Association Southern Alberta Immigration Section. She has also volunteered at the Kerby Centre. Jean was an Immigration Practitioner Instructor at Bow Valley College, and is currently a sessional instructor at the University of Calgary Faculty Of Law.
In 2012, Jean was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of her commitment to public service. Jean is a partner at Caron & Partners LLP, where she practices immigration and employment law. She acts as counsel for several municipalities, non-profits, boards, and community organizations. Jean is fluent in Spanish, which allows her to provide a broad range of services and referrals to her Spanish-speaking clients.
Gabriel Chen, Calgary
PBLA is pleased to recognize Gabriel Chen for his dedicated community work and his passion for social justice. As Calgary Legal Guidance (CLG)'s Homeless Outreach Lawyer, Gabriel is the only lawyer in Canada who exclusively represents homeless people. Gabriel provides free legal information, advice, and representation to his clients, and liaises with shelters, government agencies, and charitable organizations. Beyond his position at CLG, Gabriel has volunteered many hours of his time within the legal profession and the larger community, and he continues to do so as much as his busy schedule will allow. As law school classmate John McKinley said of Gabriel: "Many of us promote social justices when we think someone else is looking. Gabe promotes social justice when no one cares to look."
After earning his B.Sc. in 2005 with an Advanced Major in Microbiology and Immunology, Gabriel went on to study law at the University of New Brunswick. While at law school, Gabriel chaired the Poverty Law Society: volunteering at a soup kitchen and at the Legal Advice Clinic, spearheading fundraisers for causes such as the Year of the Tsunami, and organizing a conference on careers in legal aid. After being called to the Alberta Bar in 2006, Gabriel started volunteering at Calgary Legal Guidance and Inn from the Cold. He began his present position as CLG's Homeless Outreach Lawyer in 2007.
Gabriel volunteers with Student Legal Assistance as an advising lawyer and mentor to U of C law students, and he mentors through the CBA Mentor Program. He volunteers with the Action Coalition on Human Trafficking (ACT), and sits on the Calgary John Howard Society's board of directors. Gabriel also dedicates his time as a CPLED facilitator-evaluator and learning group facilitator.
Gabriel has recently been recognized as one of Avenue Magazine's Top 40 Under 40, and as a Canadian Bar Association Unsung Hero.
In his free time, Gabriel enjoys running and cooking, and is an active member of the Calgary Chinese Alliance Church.
Yvonne Chenier, Q.C., Calgary
Yvonne has been an outstanding contributor to PBLA and other community organizations throughout her career. She started volunteering with Volunteer Lawyer Services (VLS) in 2009 and has been an actively involved with the program ever since. Between September 2011 and March 2012, as part of the VLS 'Just Take 2' campaign, Yvonne provided pro bono legal assistance to four charitable organizations. Yvonne's dedication and participation in the campaign earned her its grand prize. Even with the campaign's end, Yvonne continues to generously donate her time by offering pro bono services through VLS.
Not only does Yvonne devote her expertise to helping others through VLS, she currently volunteers her time to eight organizations. She sits on both the Alberta and National Canadian Bar Association Executives for the Charities Section. Yvonne performs four different roles with Girl Guides of Canada. She is also a trustee for the Father Lacombe Care Centre Foundation, as well as for the American Friends of the University of Calgary. A truly prolific volunteer, over the course of her career, Yvonne has dedicated herself to nearly thirty non-profit organizations as a trustee, director, founder or board member.
Yvonne currently works as a lawyer with Drache Aptowitzer LLP's Calgary office, providing counsel on charity law and tax law as it relates to philanthropy. As part of her practice, she has advised high net worth, aboriginal, and not-for-profit clients, as well as a large Canadian financial institution. Yvonne holds a B.A from Carleton University (1978), an LL.B. from the University of Ottawa (1981), and an MBA from Dalhousie University (2003). Among her other professional achievements, she earned the Trust and Estate Practitioner designation from the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and the Specialist, Trust Institute designation from the former Institute of Canadian Bankers; she is also a Certified Financial Planner. Yvonne was appointed Queen's Counsel in 2012.
Jennifer Wilkie, Grande Prairie
Jennifer Wilkie is one of Grande Prairie's many dedicated Legal Clinic Volunteers. She has provided many hours of pro bono advice to clients, has spent personal time researching cases out of her area of practice and has provided pro bono services for clients that had no other options and really needed the help.She is wonderful for returning impromptu calls from GPLG clients over the phone, coming into to clinic on short notice, and volunteering to help out as often as she can.As a law student Jennifer had the opportunity to work with Community Legal Assistance Services for Saskatoon City Inc. It is a nonprofit and charitable organization geared towards providing legal services to low income members of the community. Law Students work under the supervision of a practicing lawyer to provide clients with legal advice and representation and to assist in drafting legal documents.
Jennifer graduated from the University of Saskatchewan, College of Law in 2008 and was called to the Alberta Bar in 2009. She started volunteering with Grande Prairie Legal Guidance in 2008 as an articling student and received the Volunteer of the Year Award 2010 at the Raising the Pro Bono Bar event in Grande Prairie. Jennifer also volunteers with the Grande Prairie Counsel for Lifelong Learning and alongside a mortgage broker and a real estate agent, instructed a workshop on real estate transactions last year. She also recently gave a presentation alongside Daron Naffin of Bennett Jones LLP in Calgary on Regulatory/ Surface Rights Legal Representation. The presentation was before members of the International Right of Way Association.
Jennifer articled with Darryl Carter and Company and recently moved from Darryl Carter and Company to Kay McVey Smith & Carlstrom. Her practice includes surface rights, corporate and commercial transactions, real estate and wills and estates. On a more personal level, she plays on a rec volleyball league and enjoy quadding, river boating and camping.
Christine Pratt, Edmonton
PBLA is honoured to recognize someone who has made a difference to the Edmonton community. Ms. Christine Pratt has served Edmonton Community Legal Centre (ECLC) for the past eight years as a volunteer lawyer, pro bono file lawyer, board member, and financial supporter. Christine attended her first ECLC board meeting as a guest on June 10, 2005, and was elected to the board on June 27, 2005. At that meeting Christine also agreed to be the Secretary of the ECLC Board, as position she has held ever since. Christine is currently serving her fourth term on the ECLC Board, and continues to be the Secretary of the ECLC Board.
In addition to her long service as an ECLC board member, Christine has been an active ECLC volunteer lawyer since 2003. She has 8 years of service and has contributed more than 300 hours providing summary legal advice to low income Edmontonians.
Christine has also taken numerous pro bono files over the years, in addition to encouraging other lawyers in her firm to take pro bono files from time to time. She is currently working with ECLC to establishing a free lunch-time notary clinic at her firm for low-income clients.
In addition to her volunteer commitment, Christine has also supported ECLC with personal financial contributions. As well, she has been instrumental in advocating for her law firm's financial support of ECLC for the past several years.
ECLC sincerely appreciates Christine's many contributions to ECLC over the past eight years and Pro Bono Law Alberta is pleased to acknowledge her support to the pro bono movement in Alberta. PBLA presented Christine Pratt with the Pro Bono Leader in Community Award at its Annual Meeting on June 20, 2011.
Luke Kurata, Red Deer
PBLA is pleased to feature Mr. Luke Kurata as our newest Volunteer in Profile (VIP). Mr. Kurata was called to the bar in Ontario in 1977. He relocated to Alberta and was called to the bar here in 1978, in order to take up a position as Crown Prosecutor in Peace River. His work in the north of the province gave him the opportunity to become familiar with aboriginal justice issues, and he gained the respect and friendship of many communities. He has been an active proponent of inclusive justice measures, and has participated in victims' rights issues.
His work as a Crown Prosecutor brought him to Central Alberta, where he worked until his retirement from the Crown offices in 2006. At that time, Mr. Kurata was keen to explore other facets of law, and act for the kind of clients, that his work at the Crown prevented him from experiencing. Luke opened a private practice, where he takes civil litigation and criminal cases from both paying and pro bono clients. Since 2006, Luke has been a dedicated volunteer with the Central Alberta Legal Clinic. Luke often will accept client referrals from the Clinic at his own practice, which is an invaluable resource when a client's difficulties require more resources than the Clinic can offer.
PBLA congratulates Luke Kurata for his contributions to the Red Deer community. If you know of a lawyer who should be recognized for pro bono service to low income Albertans, please contact PBLA and visit the VIP page at www.pbla.ca.
Jesse Wilde, Lethbridge
PBLA is pleased to feature Mr Jesse Wilde as our newest Volunteer in Profile (VIP). Mr Wilde is a partner in the Lethbridge firm of Huckvale Wilde Harvie MacLennan LLP and was recently awarded Volunteer of the Year at the Raising the Pro Bono Bar event on April 15, 2010, in Lethbridge. Mr Wilde obtained his law degree from the University of Alberta and has been practicing law since 1985. Jesse has always had a soft spot in his heart for athletic pursuits and his interest in sport led him to take some time out of his practice to obtain a Masters Degree in Sport Management from the University of Massachusetts, following which he taught Sport Law and Sport Management at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
After teaching and residing in Houston for five years, Jesse returned to his roots in Lethbridge in 1996 where he has practiced law ever since. Jesse's practice has been varied, including significant work in corporate and commercial transactions and litigation.
In his community life, he has served as a little league baseball coach and has also coached bantam and high school football. He enjoys watching and playing all sports, particularly golf. Jesse is currently Vice-President of the Lethbridge Symphony Association. He is very devoted to his family and is an involved member of his local church.
Pro Bono Law Alberta congratulates Jesse Wilde for his contributions to the Lethbridge community. If you know of a lawyer who should be recognized for pro bono service to low income Albertans, please contact PBLA.
Howard (Sam) Samoil, Edmonton
Mr. Samoil B.Sc., M.Sc.,LL.B., worked as a wildlife biologist for Parks Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Service and Syncrude before attending law school in Calgary. Prior to joining Alberta Justice he worked as corporate counsel for a federal crown corporation (the Northern Canada Power Commission), a public interest environmental law organization (the Environmental Law Centre), the Regulatory Assurance Branch of Alberta Environment. He is currently with the Alberta Justice seconded Environmental Law Section. His practice with ELS focuses on regulatory compliance and enforcement actions, contracts, aboriginal consultation and FOIP for Alberta Environment and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.
Howard and his wife Joanne Archibald (U of C Law, 1985) have volunteered with the Edmonton Community Legal Centre for the last five years. Howard and Joanne also do volunteer work with the Hope Mission.
Christopher D. Holmes, Edmonton
Admitted to the Law Society of Alberta, 1979, Mr. Christopher D. Holmes started volunteering in the early 1980's with the Youth Emergency Shelter Society, eventually becoming the President in 1987.Through the late 1980's and early 1990's Mr. Holmes sat on several City of St. Albert boards, Development Appeal Board, Court of Revision (later called the Assessment Review Board). In addition to giving courses through the Edmonton Public Schools extension service, and later through the Protestant School Division in St. Albert, Mr. Holmes also provided free legal consultations to clients of the Edmonton Women's Shelter and the SAIF Society in St. Albert and co-ordinated the Jack Rabbit cross country ski program for several years.
He was also actively involved in Edmonton Presbytery of the United Church of Canada.
More recently, Mr. Holmes has been involved for more than 10 years with the St. Albert Breakfast Lions Club, St. Stephens College, the development and construction of senior's housing, a little bit of local politics and importantly, seven years with Edmonton Community Legal Centre as a legal volunteer.
Douglas H. McCallum, Lethbridge
What began as a career in litigation after earning his law degree from the University of Alberta in 1977, stretched into a diverse career of more than 30 years with an emphasis on insurance defence work and marked by a dedication to pro bono legal service. Doug is a founding board member and is currently on the board of directors of Pro Bono Law Alberta. He was involved with the Pro Bono Stakeholder Working Group that led to its creation in 2007. Since 2005, Doug has been a founding board member and current chair of Lethbridge Legal Guidance and has served as president of the Lethbridge Bar Association. He has also played various roles with the Alberta Arbitration and Mediation Society, Defence Research Institute, Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association and is a member of the Canadian Bar Association.
He has practised law in Alberta and British Columbia as a trial lawyer at all levels of court in Alberta, specializing in personal injury insurance defence and general civil litigation. Mr. McCallum has also worked extensively as a sessional lecturer at Lethbridge Community College, the Legal Education Society of Alberta, and worked with intensive trial and appellate advocacy groups. Doug has contributed many hours of pro bono legal service over the years. In recognition for his contributions, The Law Society of Alberta and the Canadian Bar Association - Alberta presented the Distinguished Service in Pro Bono Legal Service to Doug in January 2009.
Jennifer Lepp, Calgary
Jennifer Lepp is an associate at Borden Ladner Gervais in Calgary, practicing in the areas of Insurance and commercial litigation. Jennifer volunteers her time extensively to a number of legal and non-legal related causes, a dedication that has made her a rising star in the pro bono community. She is one of the board members of the Children's Legal and Educational Resource Centre (CLERC) and has been actively involved since October 2007. Jennifer was involved in the Child Advocacy Pro Bono Project, which is a PBLA brokered partnership between BLG and CLERC that provides pro bono legal services to at-risk children. Jennifer has been very involved in the project and actually handled the first file under this new program.
However, Jennifer's contributions to the community do not stop there. She is also actively involved with the Volunteer Lawyers Service, an organization that serves to provide non-profit and charitable organizations with legal services and advice.
A former President of the University of Alberta Law Student's Association, Jennifer is a volunteer reader for Calgary Reads and has done legislative review for the CBA's Insurance Law Section. This past winter, Jennifer chaired BLG's 2007 United Way Campaign.
Of her pro bono work, Jennifer has stated that "it is a tremendously rewarding experience. There are so many deserving agencies and people in Calgary who need our help and I feel that as lawyers we have a duty to help the people around us."
Lonny Balbi, QC, Calgary
Lonny Balbi, QC was admitted to the Alberta Bar in 1984 and operates Balbi & Company Legal Centre in Calgary, mainly practicing in the area of family law. Lonny is a pro bono leader in the Calgary community and volunteers his time and talents to many community and legal organizations. Lonny is one of the founding members of the Dispute Resolution Officer Project in Calgary, along with fellow family law practitioners Blair Laven, Victor Tousignant, QC (as he then was) and Doug Moe, QC. Founded in 2001, this program helps parties to resolve their family law disputes before they go before the court. The Project encourages family law litigants applying for or varying a child support order to mediate their dispute with a Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) before going to court. Senior members of the family law bar volunteer to act as DROs to help parties reach a mediated agreement on the issues without having to appear in front of a Justice in Chambers. There is no cost to the litigants to participate in the program and this has made it easier for clients going through a divorce to resolve their disputes. For those litigants who have participated in the program, it has meant a significant savings in terms of stress, time and money. This Project, which was originally created as a collaboration between the courts and volunteers from the family law bar has now been permanently adopted by the Court of Queen's Bench as a valuable legal program to resolve family law disputes.
Lonny has also loaned his legal talents to a number of other voluntary projects. He is past Chairman of the CBA's National Family Law Section and a member of the Canadian Federal Advisory Working Group on Family Law in Ottawa. Previously, Lonny has also acted as legal counsel to the Make a Wish Foundation of Canada.
He has also taught courses with the Legal Education Society of Alberta, different universities and at many conferences throughout the world. In September 2008, Lonny spoke about his experiences with Pro Bono Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution Projects at the National Pro Bono Conference in Vancouver.
Lonny also volunteers his time to other pursuits outside of his profession. He volunteers weekly to serve dinner to Calgary's homeless population through the Mustard Seed as well as being involved with a number of other community endeavours.
According to Lonny, "pro bono work is important to our community. Lawyers should be encouraged to have a specific policy in this area. There are many contributions that lawyers can make to the community as a whole and an equally large number of ways in which they can do it."
Richard Assinger, Red Deer
Richard Assinger was admitted to the Alberta bar in 1995 and operates Assinger Law Office in Red Deer. Rick is a pro bono leader in the Red Deer community and volunteers his time and talents to many community and pro bono organizations. Rick is one of the founding members of the Loaves and Fishes Legal Consultation Project. Founded in 1999, Loaves and Fishes serves a busy drop-in shelter for the transient population in Central Alberta. As part of the Loaves and Fishes Consultation program, local lawyers help to serve dinner to the residents and then, after dinner, provide summary legal advice to those who are in need of legal guidance. For the past eight years, Rick has greatly contributed to the success of the program by recruiting, coordinating and scheduling the volunteer lawyers, as well as serving as a volunteer himself.
Richard is also a volunteer with the Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic, where he has served as a volunteer lawyer for the past year. The Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic is a pro bono legal clinic in Red Deer that offers free legal advice to those that do not qualify for legal aid and cannot afford the services of a lawyer.
However, Richard's volunteer experiences do not stop there. He has served on many boards for other community organizations including the Canadian Mental Health Association, Community Housing Advisory Committee, and the Sunnybrook Farm Museum Society. He was honored by the Province of Alberta in 2005 with the Alberta Centennial Medal.
In June 2008, Richard received the first ever Prism Award awarded by the Central Alberta Bar Association and the Central Alberta Legal Clinic Foundation for his pro bono legal service and service to the community. This annual award recognizes a member of the Central Alberta bar who has devoted time and energies to the promotion or delivery of pro bono legal services in Central Alberta. Upon being recognized by CABA and CALCF for his pro bono work, Richard stated that "it is very rewarding to be recognized by my peers for this work. It is most gratifying, more so than monetary awards."