LAO’s mentorship, support and work-life balance is “as good as it gets” for Jayne Mallin

Legal Aid Ontario is committed to creating an environment that lessens barriers for women in law. Jayne Mallin thinks we have it as good as it gets.

by Jayne Mallin, Manager of Legal Services, Criminal, Hamilton

Just one of the reasons I’m proud to work for Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is that this organization has encouraged me, supported me, and been willing to take risks on my behalf, every step of the way.

Several years ago, for instance, while I was Director of Legal Services at Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, I returned to school and obtained my social innovation graduate diploma. Rather than stifle my passion for change, LAO recognized the potential benefits of this knowledge to LAO and clinics and gave me the time to pursue this diploma.

Since then, my superiors have continued to encourage me to develop models of social innovation that deliver more client-centred support. In my district, for instance, I have been involved in the development of outreach services for clients with mental health issues and the development of enhanced inmate services for vulnerable clients. We are also going to hold a hackathon in Hamilton that will use design methodology to challenge the current system and explore new ways of delivering services.

My road to get here

When I started my career in law, I was a single mother of an eight-year-old. My first job was at a small Ontario law firm, and long hours, into the evening, were just part of the job. I realized that I needed to find work that would let me be there for my son.

I had enjoyed working for the Toronto Workers’ Health & Safety Legal Clinic before I was admitted to the bar, so I decided to return to social justice work.

Downsview Community Legal Services offered me a four-week intake job. That led to a six-month stint that exposed me to tribunal work at the Landlord and Tenant Board. Knowing I had found my niche, I spent the next six years as a staff lawyer at various community clinics— Waterloo, Brampton and Guelph.

Steady career advancement at LAO

I was then lucky enough to get a position at LAO, as a Clinic and Program Advisor (CAPA) in Toronto. In that job, I was able to add the perspective of the funder to the expertise I’d gained from my many years working on the frontlines in community legal clinics.

I took all that I’d learned to my next job—Director of Legal Services at the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic. I was there for five years, before returning to lead LAO’s clinic transformation initiative for two years.

By this time, I had been working at or with clinics for 15 years, and wanted to broaden my horizons and learn more about other LAO services.

Both the former CEO and the current CEO, David Field, who at the time was my boss, supported my move to my current position— Manager, Legal Services, Criminal, at LAO’s Hamilton-Kitchener district office, working out of Milton and Hamilton.

Putting my knowledge to work

As I alluded at the beginning, I obtained a social innovation graduate diploma while I was Director at Rexdale.
Vicki Moretti, who was the clinic’s Regional Vice-President at the time, agreed that my social innovation expertise could make a difference to Ontario’s legal clinics. She encouraged me to use that knowledge to implement innovative initiatives at the clinic with confidence and success.

As a result, I was able to transform the clinic into a social service hub, start a youth justice initiative, and pilot a paralegal project for refugees.

Then, with Vicki’s encouragement, when I returned to LAO’s provincial office as head of LAO’s clinic transformation initiative, I put all that I had learned to work to spur innovation across the province.

LAO encourages me and feeds my passion

I love where I have landed. My Director, Carm Runco, my manager colleagues, my teams (in Hamilton and Milton) and the private bar have made this a very interesting opportunity and challenge.

I’m also very grateful to have been mentored by many successful women at LAO, including Janet Budgell, the VP to whom I report now, as well as Vicki Moretti. LAO continues to support and encourage my passion for transformation.