Innovative Alberta QB Amicus Program for SRLs Now ExpandingNSRLP
The Alberta “QB Amicus” program is an excellent example of the collaboration and innovation that is emerging as a result of increased attention being paid to access to justice issues for self-represented litigants.
This initiative – a collaboration among Pro Bono Law Alberta (PBLA), Pro Bono Students Canada, private law firms, Student Legal Assistance, the Children’s Legal and Educational Resource Centre and the Court of Queen’s Bench,- began as a Calgary-based pilot in October 2013. From January 2014, the program expanded to three days a week, offering self-represented litigants appearing in Masters Chambers “storefront” summary legal advice, assistance with document preparation, assistance in chambers and education on court procedures, as well as appropriate onward referrals.
The program is aimed at those who cannot afford legal advice, which means that it can be accessed by a substantial number of those attending chambers without counsel. There are plans to extend the program to Edmonton in 2015.
Gillian Marriot, Executive Director of PBLA, comments: “The QB Amicus is a win-win for lawyers and the unrepresented individual. The lawyer has an opportunity to learn valuable court -based skills while helping the public and assisting the court in the administration of justice, and the unrepresented individual obtains legal assistance and referrals to help them through the process.”
NSRLP contacted some of the current QB Amicus student volunteers to learn more about the impact of this experience on them as prospective lawyers. In their responses we heard the same theme – that this type of programming is a win-win for SRLs and law students, as well as the courts.
“QB Amicus gives students real world experience in dealing with fluid situations, allowing them to assist self-represented litigants navigate the complex system of the courts, and assisting the courts in using their limited resources in an efficient manner. Having the assistance of someone who will tell the self-represented litigant what they should do, when to speak etc. provides a valuable de-stress for the litigant who may be overwhelmed with the issues they are facing.” (Allan deBok).
“QB Amicus has given me a chance to better understand the difficulties that self-represented litigants face. It’s also given me experience identifying what facts and legal issues the judge needs to know to make a decision.” (Colin Koerselman).
Congratulations to the QB Amicus team in the development and now expansion of this excellent initiative and we look forward to future updates. For further information, please contact Josh Lam, Program Manager at PBLA at firstname.lastname@example.org