Junior lawyers had the opportunity to learn from some of the best and brightest in Edmonton’s legal community at the Junior Counsel Criminal Law Conference last week.
Over 50 lawyers from the Edmonton area participated in two days of panel discussions on a range of topics that helped them build on the knowledge they learned in law school with practical skills to help them build a solid foundation to step into the courtroom with confidence.
Organized by Legal Aid Alberta roster lawyers Bob Aloneissi and Deborah Hatch, with the support of the Criminal Defence Lawyers’ Association and Legal Aid Alberta, the conference was an opportunity to connect young lawyers with senior members of the legal community to provide them with the chance to network and hone their skills in the courtroom.
With the changing nature of practicing criminal law, both Aloneissi and Hatch felt there needed to be an opportunity for mentorship – something Doug Ingersoll, Assistant General Counsel at Legal Aid Alberta, agreed with and was an important reason why Legal Aid Alberta partnered with them to make it happen.
” I believe that providing this is an excellent opportunity to reach out to our roster and provide them with educational training and experience,” he said, adding it was an opportunity to, “show they are appreciated for what they do (and) to give them the tools to represent clients the best they can.”
Attendees sat through a series of panel discussions that touched on different aspects of proceedings, from conflicts and independent legal advice, to preliminary conduct of case and taking instructions, to how to prepare for and conduct a bail hearing, to courtroom etiquette and conduct.
“It’s really important to maintain public confidence in the justice system and part of that is showing you have an ethical and effective defense counsel,” said Aloneissi. “Defense counsel have a very important role in our society, really defending the rule of law, and so that they be comfortable with that, even though it may be difficult in terms of the clientele and that we have a role greater than that.
Hatch said one of the main takeaways they hoped attendees left with was that the legal community and senior lawyers are always available to provide insight and support when they may need help.
“They’re not alone,” said Hatch. “For some younger lawyers they don’t have a firm they are practicing with, and they may not be aware of the resource. There is no senior lawyer that wouldn’t return any junior or other lawyer call when they need advice or need help. It’s important to let them know that we are there.”