June 3, 2021
Class of 2021: What an education – oversee the online transition of a student clinic during COVID
One of the reasons Louanne Moriarty chose to pursue and complete her Juris Doctor at the University of Calgary is because of the unique experience provided to students by the on-campus law clinic, Student Legal Assistance (SLA).
Moriarty joined SLA in her first year and has just finished her term as its student director. After overcoming many challenges brought by COVID-19, she convocates on June 10 with much to celebrate.
“The highlight of my experience has definitely been the work that I’ve done with Student Legal Assistance,” says Moriarty.
SLA is staffed primarily by UCalgary Law students who are given the opportunity to provide free representation and assistance to fellow students and low-income Calgarians. SLA fills a space between Legal Aid and other access-to-justice initiatives, providing accessible services to those in need. Students who volunteer with SLA gain valuable experience working with files, clients and attending court.
As an individual who prefers hands-on learning and struggles with purely theoretical application, Moriarty found SLA to be an incredible fit. She began volunteering in her first semester, worked there in the summer after her first year, was a clinical student in her second year, and was a mentor in her third. Moriarty started as student director on May 1, 2020, soon after the COVID-19 pandemic hit Alberta.
“I was really heavily involved from March  onwards with trying to figure out how we could run the clinic remotely … it was a very hectic, overwhelming time,” she says.
Unprepared for what was to come, but determined to ensure that SLA could continue to serve all of its clients and that students who wanted to volunteer or work with SLA would have the opportunity, Moriarty transitioned the clinic online. This was done alongside SLA staff members and its executive director, Susan Billington, BA’82, LLB’85, who worked with Moriarty to do everything from create an online training clinic for volunteers, to ensuring that client files were accessible digitally.
“Louanne’s leadership as SLA student director has been outstanding, and her maturity in dealing with solution-based approaches to problems presented by COVID has been remarkable,” says Billington. “It is so fortunate that Louanne was the student director during this most challenging time and transition of SLA to remote operations. Her ‘can-do’ attitude and leadership during the summer and into the fall and winter terms has truly been remarkable.”
Moriarty plans to move to rural Alberta to begin articling after graduation, adding she would like to pursue her future career in the area of criminal law and is looking forward to applying the skills she gained through her experience with SLA.