By Lonny Queripel
I’ve been with Nova Scotia Legal Aid (NSLA) now for 22 years – I really stumbled into my career when a friend called about a job at legal aid. I was interviewed and hired, and it turned out to be a perfect fit.
I started my visit with Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) hoping to gain some insight into how such a large organization maintains records of the work that it does. My first day at head office answered many of those questions and gave me information regarding client tracking, case management, and certificate management, which I’ve already shared with my Executive.
My visits to the courts in Oshawa and Barrie gave me a view of two very different but effective methods of providing duty counsel service to individuals in conflict with the law. I had an opportunity to see the new courthouse in Oshawa, which provides space to organizations so essential services and supports can be accessed by individuals on site.
My visit was a whirlwind, and I’m still processing everything I heard and saw. It was a wonderful opportunity, and I hope LAO found those few days as useful as I did. I came back to my work with a renewed sense of purpose and many ideas to make what I do work better for the people I serve.
Legal Aid in Nova Scotia
NSLA provides services through a ‘staff lawyer’ model, which means that as long as the case has merit, the client meets the financial guidelines, and the service is on the menu, the case will be assigned to a lawyer employed full-time by NSLA. The core services provided involve criminal matters that may result in incarceration, and family matters touching custody and access or the apprehension of children.
NSLA serves many rural areas, and our challenges here arise out of the difficulties faced by the clients themselves: employment, education and training, mobility, access to services – in one word: poverty. Rural areas are not always provided with the required services locally, and so clients often go without. Our successes over the past few years have come from our focus on changing how we provide services. Through initiatives designed to get our lawyers back into the communities, especially in rural and aboriginal areas, we have been raising the profile of NSLA.
Over the next year or so, we plan to expand our services to include tenancy law, CPP, and Social Assistance appeals in order to help those in need with issues beyond the basic services we had been reduce to in recent years.
For more information, visit the Nova Scotia Legal Aid website.
Lonny Queripel is the Managing Lawyer, Duty Counsel at Nova Scotia Legal Aid.