Legal Aid in Alberta was officially established on July 1, 1970 by an agreement between the Law Society of Alberta and the provincial Attorney General to deal with both criminal and civil matters. The Legal Aid Society of Alberta was incorporated on May 24, 1973. A revised Agreement between the Attorney General and the Law Society was signed on February 13, 1979 and a subsidiary agreement between the Law Society and the Legal Aid Society on May 13, 1979. By virtue of that agreement, the Law Society delegated the administration of the legal aid plan to the Legal Aid Society. A new governance agreement was signed by all three parties in January 2002.
A more detailed history of legal aid in Alberta is available on the Society’s website at www.legalaid.ab.ca.
The bulk of funding is provided by the Government of Alberta through the Minister of Justice. The Government of Canada reimburses Alberta for part of its legal aid expenditures. The Society also receives an annual grant from the Alberta Law Foundation in the amount of 25% of the money contributed each year from the interest earned on lawyers’ trust accounts. Other sources of revenue for the Society are contributions and cost recoveries from clients which are applied to the costs of providing services to them and investment revenue from the funds on hand.
A Board of Directors is responsible for the governance of the Legal Aid Society. The membership of the Board
comprises service on Board, is
six lawyers and five public members. All members are volunteer, receiving no remuneration for their
Board. The Executive chief operating officer
Director, who reports to the and responsible for overall
Board and holds the Office of Secretary to the
Committees link Legal Aid services governance provisions for the Youth
to the community. The Criminal Defence Office
independence of counsel is recognized and the Family Law Office project.
The Provincial Office of the Society is located in Edmonton, sharing space with the regional office there. The province is divided into Northern and Southern districts and within these, into eleven regions, each with a regional office. The staff from these offices travel on circuits to many surrounding communities. Further information is provided under Legal Aid Regions on page 8.
SERVICE DELIVERY MODEL
Alberta Legal Aid uses a mixed model of service delivery. The bulk of Legal Aid services are provided by the private bar in what is termed the “judicare” model. Lawyers willing to act for Legal Aid recipients are listed on a roster and are issued certificates for individual cases. Their accounts are paid pursuant to the Legal Aid Tariff, which is based on a combination of block fees and hourly payment, both less than generally charged by lawyers to
privately paying clients. Participation by lawyers is voluntary.
Services are also provided by salaried lawyers in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and Siksika
. Some of the staff
lawyers work as full-time Duty Counsel and some are assigned certificates for clients in which case they render shadow accounts based on the Tariff.
Once a lawyer has been appointed by the Society, whether private bar or staff lawyers, the solicitor-client relationship is, for the most part, as if the lawyer had been retained privately. The Society does not participate in the conduct of the client’s case but may authorize certain procedures and disbursements as outlined in the Legal Aid Tariff.