June 18, 2021
Clinic wins national award
Student Legal Assistance is a co-winner of the 2021 Ferguson Award from the Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education (ACCLE). The award, named in honour of Doug Ferguson, founder and long-time ACCLE Board member and Director of Community Legal Services at Western Law, is given to one or more members of a clinical project or program that promotes access to justice and clinical law within a law school setting.
With the declaration of the COVID pandemic in late March 2020, SLA adopted new strategies and technology to respond to the access to justice needs of its clients. Within 12 weeks, the clinic was able to transition to remote and digital operations and resume representation of all 325 of its existing clients; and with the resumption of the Provincial Courts on July 6, undertake 84 court appearances for clients in the first 3 weeks of July. This was done while learning the digital platform CLIO and by meeting with the clients with the new remote protocols and meeting with the SLA advising lawyers.
"It is fitting that this an award that recognizes not just one person but the whole SLA team," says clinic executive director Susan Billington, QC. "The transformation of SLA operations to a digital/remote model took the amazing dedication and hard work of the entire SLA team including the administrative team, the student leaders, the 15 summer student caseworkers, the articling students, the Group Leaders, the caseworkers, the 3L mentors and the SLA advising lawyers. Thanks goes to our funders in particular the Alberta Law Foundation, and to Dean Holloway and the Faculty for their ongoing support and trusting that we would work something out! Finally, SLA services would not be possible without our law student caseworkers who step up to the challenge to provide legal services to SLA clients. They demonstrate a passion for access to justice and at SLA we are so pleased to be able to provide the organizational structure and experiential learning opportunities for our student to be able to make a real difference in the access to justice community. It is an honour that our efforts have been recognized by ACCLE."