Access to Justice All-Star: Victoria FosterNSRLP
The by-line on Victoria Foster’s website (http://www.fosterlegalservices.ca/) reads “Helping self-represented litigants help themselves”.
Victoria is a lawyer in Red Deer, Alberta, who just six months after her call to the Bar three years ago set up her own practice with the goal of addressing what she saw as the “huge need” among family litigants for legal assistance. “I wanted to build a practice that could help people who cannot afford a $2,500 retainer.”
Victoria offers unbundled legal services – including document review and preparing affidavits. “I try to cater what I am doing to what the person wants.” She also offers full representation and finds that sometimes clients who begin with limited services will ask her to take over. Whether offering full or limited services, Victoria bills hourly and does not take a retainer. Asked whether this leads to failure to pay for her services, Victoria is both practical and principled: “I have been burned a few times, but so are lawyers who take retainers. My experience is that people are really good, they stay in touch, and if they are not able to pay right away, we work something out.”
Victoria – who also takes Legal Aid cases – is now working at capacity. Colleagues refer clients to her who cannot afford a retainer, as well as those who do not qualify for Legal Aid but cannot afford full representation. Victoria says that she would love to work with other lawyers who share her approach and values. She sees her work as a small part of addressing a very large issue. “The problems of self-representation are systemic as well as individual. Individual lawyers can do what we can – but there are thousands of others at the courthouse without help.”
Victoria is nominated as our newest Access to Justice All-Star by Ola Malik, co-chair of the Access to Justice Committee of the Alberta Branch of the Canadian Bar Association. Victoria was recently featured as an “Unsung Hero” in “Law Matters” (Fall 2014), a Canadian Bar Association publication. Ola writes: “Victoria has an extraordinary commitment to helping those in most need of legal services. Rather than give in to the reality of seeing people denied Legal Aid Coverage and unable to afford a lawyer, she did something. Something real. She turned her vision of what a new kind of law firm could look like into a reality. She started her own law firm, designed to serve those people who weren’t getting help anywhere else. Because of Victoria and her courage to see a vision into reality, countless people who would otherwise have had no access to legal services are getting the help they need. This is what changing lives and improving your community looks like.”
We are proud to include Victoria on the fabulous Access to Justice All-Stars Team!