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Pro Bono Stories
To celebrate Access to Justice Week, each day of the week Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan (PBLS) is sharing stories from our volunteers. All the volunteers featured this week are in-house counsel or work for the government. PBLS volunteers directly support low-income people in Saskatchewan who would otherwise not be able to access a lawyer.
Legal Counsel, Information Services Corporation
As in-house counsel, family law files no longer cross my desk, and in my last few years in private practice, I only handled a handful of family law files. As a volunteer lawyer with PBLS, family law is the sole focus of nearly every client appointment.
I began volunteering at the Regina Free Legal Clinic shortly after I was called to the bar in 2014. I also volunteer at the Regina Family Law Free Clinic since it was first established. Why? The demand for family law advice is high – and growing – and I have the knowledge that many PBLS clients need.
Most of the family law clients I see need initial, basic advice: they want to understand their rights and how courts can assist. During appointments, I spend most of my time explaining general family law principles and how to commence a family law proceeding. With that said, some clients already have a matter before the courts and need assistance with next steps.
Some of the most difficult conversations I’ve had with clients occurred during the first few months of the pandemic. I advised several single parents who saw support payments diminish or stop altogether as the economic repercussions of the pandemic took effect. These parents often had concerns about their own jobs, which compounded their fears. But for every tough appointment, I can think of at least two or three where clients expressed how grateful and relieved they were to have answers to their basic questions.
The most rewarding pro bono file I’ve had so far involved a woman who needed a separation agreement drawn up. The terms had been largely negotiated, but as her spouse had retained his own lawyer, she wanted to ensure that what was being offered to her was fair and reasonable. As I thought the offer could be better for a number of reasons, I agreed to represent the client beyond her initial appointment and helped negotiate a fairer settlement. I went on to assist the client through the drafting and execution of the separation agreement as well as the divorce process. The amount of confidence the client gained between our initial meeting and the last where I provided her with the divorce certificate was staggering. To witness that transformation was worth every minute of my time.
The opinions and content contained in this article represent my own, and do not represent and are not affiliated with any organization.
Nicole Hamm volunteers at the Regina Free Legal Clinic and the Regina Family Law Free Legal Clinic.
Interested in volunteering? The Saskatchewan Lawyers’ Insurance Association (SLIA) provides coverage for volunteering with PBLS, even if you are exempt from paying. Learn more about pro bono and insurance coverage here. Learn more about PBLS by visiting pblsask.ca, email email@example.com or follow us here.