Dalhousie Legal Aid Service A Community Service of Dalhousie

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					              Dalhousie Legal Aid Service                               2209 Gottingen Street
              A Community Service of Dalhousie University                Halifax, NS B3K 3B5
                                                                       Phone: (902) 423-8105
                                                                         Fax: (902) 422-8067

Dalhousie Legal Aid - History and Mandate

Dalhousie Legal Aid has a long and distinguished career. It was established in 1970 and was
the first government funded legal aid program in Nova Scotia. It was the first of four
University based clinical legal education programmes established in Canada by means of a
demonstration grant from the Federal Department of Health and Welfare. There are now
over 1000 graduates of Dalhousie Legal Aid Service. Dalhousie Legal Aid is known both
locally and nationally.

Dal Legal Aid predates the establishment of Nova Scotia Legal Aid in 1972. Nova Scotia Legal
Aid delivers legal services in adult criminal, young offender and family law matters out of
three offices in the Metro area: in Halifax on Spring Garden Road and Agricola Street and in
Dartmouth on Wyse Road. The Clinic has provided services in both "traditional" legal areas,
like family and criminal law, and "non-traditional" areas such as welfare, landlord and
tenant, public housing, and pension law. We have a reputation for concern for our clients,
quality work, and social action. Our reputation has been built on the dedication of staff and
students over the past thirty years.

Since 1970 Dalhousie Legal Aid Service has received external financial support from The Law
Foundation of Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission, Halifax Youth Foundation,
alumni and group fundraising from Dalhousie Law Students.

In 1991 there was a possibility that the Clinic might have to close, this largely because of
funding difficulties faced by the Law School and Dalhousie University. The Clinic received
support from many different quarters, not the least of which was the student body. After a
major review of all law school programs sponsored by the Senate of Dalhousie University,
the Clinic received high praise for its educational program and client service work.

Our programme is an ambitious one. It has both educational and service components,
because the clients and cases we use as our learning medium are real clients with real
problems. They are all poor. Many are women or children. In many ways they are not well
served by our legal, political or economic system and you will find, very quickly, that we can
have a real impact on many of their lives. They need good legal service and they deserve
just as good legal services as do other segments of the community. This makes it possible
for you to experience something special and perhaps unique in our curriculum, a good
feeling of having used one term of your law school career not only to further your education,
but also to provide good legal service to people who need and deserve it and might
otherwise not get it. We also make a systematic effort to explore not only the plight of our
clients as individuals but also to examine community development and/or law reform
initiatives which might work to the benefit of our client group on a broader basis.

The Start and Finish
Dalhousie Legal Aid Service
Clinic Students                                                                           Page 2.

Learning is a life long process. At Dalhousie Legal Aid we want you to leave with an ability to
teach yourself, to learn on your own. As well, we want to combine theory and practice. We
want you to see how what you read in cases and texts translates into results for people with
problems. We also want you to leave with a good grounding and some practice in lawyering
skills such as interviewing, counselling, negotiating, drafting, and trial advocacy.

The Educational Process at the Clinic

The premise of the Clinic is that you will learn by doing. You will not simply be thrown into
this without preparation. For roughly the first eight weeks, there will be an intensive series
of seminars and simulations. The reason for "front end loading" the programme is that there
is a lot you will need to know very early in the term in order to begin your work with your

Attendance at seminars is essential; you will learn and practice essential skills at these
sessions to be applied to your day-to-day work. Undoubtedly, you may find your first few
weeks at the Clinic somewhat trying, but the seminars are intended to avoid your making

What You'll Need

There are a number of resource materials you should purchase or have access to. You will
need to purchase a copy of Legal Interviewing and Counselling: A Client Centered Approach,
by Binder and Price. (please read this book before you come to the Clinic). You will be
interviewing clients soon after you arrive. You should find the book an easy read. We
suggest that you buy or obtain a book on negotiating skills we recommend Fisher & Ury
Getting to Yes. These books are available at the Dal Bookstore.

You will need to have an appointment book/daytimer to keep track of court dates, meetings,
seminars, and appointments. You will find it helpful to have one large enough to permit you
to make several entries on the same day. We have produced several handouts which you will
be able to review on your arrival at the Clinic. They contain useful procedural and
substantive information about each of our areas of practice.

Attached you will find a list of frequently used statutes which we also suggest you purchase.
Although there are a few copies around the office, we have found it is much better if
students have their own. Your Family Law Statute Supplement also contains copies of most
of these statutes. If you have it, you should also bring a copy of the Nova Scotia Handbook
on Legal Ethics, from the Professional Responsibility course.


Working at the Clinic will take up a lot of time. Soon after you arrive, you will likely receive
client files for which you will be responsible, under the supervision of the staff. These will be
your first clients.

Each student will also be assigned "intake" where you will conduct your interviews with new
clients. You will also have responsibilities in helping to cover any emergencies that might
Dalhousie Legal Aid Service
Clinic Students                                                                            Page 3.

The seminar/simulation program is a very important part of the Clinic. Attendance at ALL
scheduled sessions is COMPULSORY. Skills sessions are held Monday afternoons from 2-5 at
the law school, seminars are held at the clinic on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 2-

During your term at the Clinic, you will have your own key and security pass to the building
to permit you to come and go as you wish. You will want to set aside regular blocks of time
to spend at the office during the regular working day to allow you to make necessary
contacts with your clients and other professionals.

You can anticipate that the Clinic will occupy, on average, 35 to 50 hours a week of your
time. You are likely to be busiest during the first month when the seminar schedule is
heaviest, and you are becoming familiar with your clients and other professionals.

Throughout your term at the Clinic, you will be expected to be in attendance during regular
office hours, however your attendance need not be and most likely will not be restricted to
these hours. If you cannot be present during these times, because of other courses, you
must advise your mentor (to be assigned at the beginning of term) and reception so this can
be noted.

In the event you must take time away from the Clinic, you are required to provide the
Director and your mentor with advance notice of the length and reason for your intended
absence. If for any reason you are unable to attend at the Clinic for more than a 1-week
period, be that individually or consecutively missed days during a term, you may be required
to make up the time missed in order to satisfy the Clinic requirements.

It is not acceptable for you to take time out from the Clinic to complete papers which are
due or study for upcoming exams. You will be expected to have worked time into your
schedule to attend to other course requirements. However, if you need particular help in
coordinating your time, or feel you may be in academic difficulty, you should speak with the
Director or your mentor.

While there is no official "dress code" at the Clinic, it is a Professional Office and you should
be neatly dressed. It is important to project an image of professionalism at all times. When
you have a Court or tribunal appearance, if male, you must wear a shirt and tie with a suit
or sports jacket and trousers; if female, skirts, tailored slacks, a blouse or sweater, and
jacket/blazer, etc.

Smoking is not allowed at the Clinic. Facilities available in our kitchen include a refrigerator,
microwave, coffee machine, kettle and toaster.

We are a scent free environment. Some of our clients and staff suffer allergies related to
scented products.

Case Types

You will have a range of cases designed to give you broad exposure to poverty law clients
plus opportunities to develop your lawyering skills. Your cases will cover the areas of Family
and Divorce and other areas such as Child Protection, Young Offender case work, Social
Assistance, Landlord/Tenant, Mental Health, Police Complaint work and you will be assigned
Dalhousie Legal Aid Service
Clinic Students                                                                             Page 4.

a community file. As a matter of policy, we do not do the following types of cases: adult
criminal cases, motor vehicle offenses, provincial offenses, property matters, or civil matters
including divorces in which an individual might recover sufficient funds to compensate a
private lawyer. You will receive a more detailed list of what we do and what we don't do
after you start at the clinic.

Most of our clients receive Social Assistance or Unemployment Insurance or earn wages from
low-paying jobs. In order to receive our services, clients must meet our financial eligibility
rules as well as the case category types referred to above. Financial eligibility criteria will
also be reviewed with you after you start.

Dalhousie Legal Aid also acts for a number of community groups and is actively involved in
organizing and assisting groups within the community. Ongoing concerns are in the area of
housing, the practice of the Nova Scotia Power Company in credit and collections, provincial
and municipal rates of and eligibility for Social Assistance. A separate set of eligibility criteria
apply for community groups. You will be involved with one or more of these groups. We
want you to have a perspective on the practice of poverty law not only at the level of
concern for individual clients but also through the sense of exploring the efficacy of collective

We do our best to give each student a mixture of files and roughly equivalent workloads.
Over the term, as each of you do intake, that balance will shift. Any significant imbalances
between students will be adjusted after discussion with supervisors.

Staff and Supervision

Claire McNeil, Heather McNeill, Shawna Hoyte, Susanne Litke and Susan Young are our Staff
Lawyers. Claire joined the Clinic in 1991, Heather in 1997, Shawna in 1995, Susanne in
1999 and Susan Young in the summer of 2002. Megan Leslie and Scott Hicks are our
Community Legal Workers. Scott joined Dalhousie Legal Aid Service in July 2006, and
Megan in the summer of 2004. The Executive Director is Donna Franey. Donna joined the
Clinic in 1990 as Staff Lawyer and has been Executive Director since May of 1995.

Catherine Currell is the Office Manager. The Legal Assistants are Cathy Leiper, Susan Jones,
Lynette Colley and Melinda Shaw. Support staff have a combined 70+ years of experience
at the clinic.

Every file is assigned to one of our lawyers or community legal workers. Under the system
presently in place, you should receive supervision from each of the professional staff at the
Clinic. Generally, correspondence, documents, discussion, and review of files will go through
the supervisor on the file so that they remain informed about the status of each of their files
at all times.

As "back-up", all the lawyers take turns as "supervisor of the day" (SOD) on a rotating
schedule. Thus, if the file supervisor is not available when you have questions which cannot
wait, or emergency correspondence or documents to be approved, you will take them to the
Dalhousie Legal Aid Service
Clinic Students                                                                           Page 5.

Students with permanent or temporary disabilities who would like to discuss class
accommodations are asked to come and see the Director or Office Manager as soon as

Getting Started

Every term, one of the things which causes anxiety for the students is the prospect of being
confronted with 10 or more files they've never seen before and having to figure out what to
do. We have some ways to help you get started. During the first few days at the Clinic, you
should read through the notes in each file, in order to get a grasp of its history. You will also
do a file review with the file supervisor.

You will not be permitted to go to Court on your own until you have been to Court with a
supervisor. Most important of all, we encourage you to ask questions of the supervisors.

Status Before the Courts as a Student Counsellor

While you are at Dalhousie Legal Aid you have the status (but not the credit) of an ordinary
Articled Clerk. There are amendments to the Barristers and Solicitors Act that explain which
Courts and tribunals you can appear in. You can, and will, appear in Supreme Court (Family
Division), Youth Court, before the Residential Tenancies Board, the Family Benefits Appeal
Board, and other assorted Courts and tribunals. On more serious cases, such as child
custody or child protection, you must have a lawyer with you.

In the office and in the Courts, you will be expected to act like a lawyer, seeing clients on
your own, drafting documents, preparing cases, and making Court appearances. This
includes, of course, treating all of your clients' files with the utmost confidentiality and
conducting yourself in accordance with a high standard of professional responsibility and
ethical conduct.


The Clinical Law programme is graded on an Honours/Pass/Fail basis. All students will
receive feedback in written form at midterm. This is intended to give you feedback on your
performance at the Clinic. It will (1) highlight the good work you are doing, to reinforce and
encourage you; and (2) point out areas of weakness on where we want you to work during
the remainder of the term. Students are encouraged to discuss this feedback with
supervisors, and to evaluate themselves.

At the end of the term, you will receive feedback based upon your work throughout the
term. This feedback involves qualitative judgments, but these judgments are based upon the
experience of several supervisors with you over a four-month period.

This feedback will be arrived at by all the supervisors, after meeting with you to discuss your
work at the Clinic. It will also be based upon your attendance and performance at seminars,
your work with supervisors, your handling of cases, your written material, your performance
in skills sessions, your performance in court and interviews by the end of the term, your
attention to other duties, such as intake and your paper.

Paper Requirements
Dalhousie Legal Aid Service
Clinic Students                                                                         Page 6.

All students at the Clinic must submit a paper as part of the academic program. Your paper
should relate to something you are working on in your files. The supervisors have topics you
can choose from. Many Clinic papers contain a descriptive part and then some research and
analysis. You may wish to take a broad perspective and analyze a statute or the
administrative practice in a particular area as it relates to our client groups, e.g., poor and

The paper should be about 10-15 pages long although our criterion for evaluation will be
quality. You are to submit the topic of your paper to your mentor by midterm and follow that
with a brief outline. All papers must be in by the final day of term.

Is There Anything I Can Do?

Of the courses you have taken at Law School, the ones you will likely encounter most often
at the Clinic are: Family, Criminal, Evidence, Criminal Procedure, Civil Procedure,
Administrative Law, and Poverty Law. Since you will be immediately involved in at least 10
files, you might find it useful to review some or all of these areas ahead of time. Other areas
which might be useful to do some light reading are those involving legal skills. As indicated
above you should try to read the Binder and Price book, Legal Interviewing and Counselling
before coming to the Clinic.

The End

This memo is intended to be just a brief set of answers to the most obvious questions you
may have. More, much more, is yet to come. By the time that you have been in the Clinic for
just one day, all sorts of questions will spring to mind and we will be dealing with these in
the initial seminars.

We look forward to working with you over the term. I am sure the Clinic will be an intensive,
but immensely rewarding, experience for you both as an individual and as a future lawyer.
Dalhousie Legal Aid Service
Clinic Students                                                                           Page 7.


Criminal Code - use only most recent as important amendments make older codes very

Civil Procedure Rules (including Judicature Act)

Evidence Acts (Federal and Provincial) Family Court

Family Court Rules and Forms, Children and Family Services Act and Regulations, Family
Maintenance Act, Divorce Act, Matrimonial Property Act, Nova Scotia Evidence Act

Residential Tenancies Act (if you are a tenant you should have already been given a copy of
this by your landlord)

Young Offender's Act (found in back of recent Criminal Codes)

Your Family Law Statute Supplement also contains copies of most of these statutes.
You should also bring a copy of the Nova Scotia Handbook on Legal Ethics from the
Professional Responsibility course.

NOTE: there are a few copies of each of these at the office for use in the office. You will find
that you will need your own copies for taking to Court and for easier access at the office.

Statutes may be found at the government web site www.gov.ns.ca/legi/legc.htm

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