“About 15 years ago, Mike Theroux, a partner in the Bennett Jones law firm and currently board chair for Catholic Family Service, started providing pro bono legal services for the young women at Louise Dean Centre. Today, members of Bennett Jones’ litigation group, including myself, are continuing that tradition by giving legal advice to the students on civil matters. We usually go to the school once or twice a month. I think lawyers can be generally intimidating to begin with, so that’s why we meet them at the school. I try to be as approachable as possible, letting them know that we are here to help them and that we will keep their matters confidential. I am really happy that I can volunteer in my capacity as a lawyer. I went to school for eight years for this and I have a certain expertise to offer. There is satisfaction in knowing that I can give them something that perhaps others can’t.
The unfortunate thing is the legal system is incredibly difficult to navigate without assistance. A year or so ago, an articling student named Stephanie Ridge and I took on a case where a Louise Dean student, her partner and children were locked out of their apartment and all their possessions were thrown out. We represented her and her partner before the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service, earning a scathing decision in her favour from the Justice of the Peace. She was awarded significant damages and we’ve been able to help her collect most of them from the landlord. She was an amazing person and I was glad to see some justice for her. It involved three appearances and preparing several large volumes of documents, but we had the expertise and credibility to help this young woman. As a volunteer, seeing results like this keeps you going.”