Volunteer Lawyers Service

Volunteer Lawyers Service

June 08, 2006 10:00 ET

Canadian Bar Association Alberta Encourages Charities and Not-For-Profit Groups to Enrol in Free Legal Services Program

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(CCNMatthews - June 8, 2006) - The Canadian Bar Association Alberta is pleased to announce the enhancement of the Volunteer Lawyers Service (VLS) with the placement of a full-time coordinator to match not-for-profit organizations and Alberta lawyers to provide free legal services and advice.

"We encourage all registered Alberta charities and not-for-profit groups to enrol in this free legal advice program," says Walter Pavlic, Q.C., Past President of the Canadian Bar Association Alberta. "Lawyers are available to assist in matters involving charities law, business law, administrative law, civil litigation, labour, and employment, human rights and tax law."

VLS assists registered charities and organizations defined under the Income Tax Act who show a demonstrable need for free legal advice. Interested charities - from anywhere in Alberta - should apply by filling out a form available through the United Way of Calgary and Area, which is forwarded to the Canadian Bar Association Alberta for coordination, matching and follow-up.

Since November 2004, the outreach of the VLS has expanded substantially through various program awareness and volunteer recruitment initiatives. The result of these initiatives has allowed the VLS service to offer assistance throughout all of Alberta, reaching smaller communities as well as the larger centres.

According to Pavlic, "the VLS increased the outreach of its services by an amazing 358 percent in the last year and a half."

In addition to meeting increased awareness and efficiency goals, the program has also initiated workshops that are facilitated by lawyers for not-for-profit organizations with similar legal matters in order to maximize resources and again, increase the efficiency of the match process.

The lawyers of Alberta are dedicated to increasing their commitment to pro bono and VLS is just one of the ways that lawyers are giving back to the community. A recent Canadian Bar Association Alberta Task Force on Community Responsibility showed that individual lawyers devote an average of 120 volunteer hours annually, or over three weeks a year, toward volunteering their time, skills and expertise as lawyers to individuals and community organizations. This is a significant contribution and does not take into account the financial support that most firms give their communities. VLS in particular formalizes the Bar's pro bono efforts and it is especially important to groups who would normally not be able to afford a lawyer.

The Volunteer Lawyers Service (VLS) is a joint initiative of the Canadian Bar Association Alberta, the Law Society of Alberta, United Way of Calgary and Area, and the Association of General Counsel of Alberta, which spearheaded the service in 1995.

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