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Reflections on My Articling Year with Legal Aid Saskatchewan

April 8, 2024

Legal Aid Saskatchewan’s articling students are an important component of the work provided by our team. In addition to working closely with our administrative staff, LAS articling students have numerous opportunities to observe staff in various court matters. For our criminal law clients, our articling students review disclosure/files, attend court, meet with clients, have their own files, assist with bail hearings, and run trials and sentencings. For family law clients, students review client files and documents, meet with clients, have their own files, attend court and judicial case conferences, and observe and assist in preparing family and family service trials.

Wendy Corden is an articling student who has been with our Yorkton Area Office since June 2023. Here she shares what her experience has been like working with legal aid clients and growing her skills as a champion for access to justice. We look forward to Wendy’s upcoming transition from articling student to Legal Aid Saskatchewan Staff Lawyer!

Legal Aid Saskatchewan (LAS): What was it like to relocate and dive head-first into the front-line advocacy Legal Aid lawyers provide?

Wendy Corden (WC): I was raised in a rural community, so relocating to Yorkton felt easy. I never cared for the hustle and bustle of the big city while in law school (if you count Saskatoon as big). I was excited to relocate to another rural community and help rural clients facing unique challenges, like fewer resources and support.

Thanks to the guidance from other lawyers and staff in my office, diving into front-line advocacy felt a lot less overwhelming than expected. I was given opportunities to speak in court right away, and I received extra advocacy training by observing, shadowing, and asking questions.

LAS: What were your expectations going into your articling year, and how different/similar is your actual experience?

WC: I was a bit nervous heading into articling as I heard that the articling experience often involved a lot of fetching coffee and carrying briefcases. My articling year with LAS has been much more hands-on and rewarding. I was quickly given responsibility over my own files, exposed to a wide range of legal issues, and received great mentorship from the Yorkton office’s lawyers and staff. Overall, articling with Legal Aid Saskatchewan has exceeded my expectations!

LAS: What are some of the biggest highlights of your experience with LAS?

WC: One of the biggest highlights of my articling has been winning my first criminal trial. Knowing I made a difference in someone else’s life was a very rewarding feeling.

Another highlight from this year was when I presented to a rural grade 12 law class about Legal Aid Saskatchewan, explaining what we do and our professional responsibilities as lawyers and advocates. The students were engaged and asked insightful questions, which showed a genuine interest in understanding the legal system and access to justice.

Another highlight has been the work-life balance I’ve experienced while working with LAS. During my articles, I was able to get hand surgery, get married, and go on a 25-kilometre hiking trip (don’t worry – this was not all on the same day). I have been grateful to work with an organization that prioritizes work-life balance while still promoting quality legal service.

LAS: Has anything surprised you?

WC: Something that surprised me is how much paperwork is involved in family law. King’s Bench really does have a form for everything.

I was also surprised to see how happy my clients were to have an articling student represent them. When I first started, I would walk into client interviews thinking, “I hope they’re okay getting stuck with the student!” But to my surprise, most clients have been thrilled that I’m handling their cases. I noticed that clients appreciate the dedication and fresh perspective that LAS articling students bring.

LAS: What are some of the new skills/knowledge you gained from your articling experience?

WC: Since I have been appearing in Court nearly every day, I’ve had the opportunity to really develop my court skills. I still have lots to learn, but I’m much more prepared to go into litigation thanks to my articling experience with LAS.

Another skill I’ve had the opportunity to develop is being trauma-informed when interacting with clients. Not everyone responds to trauma the same way or recognizes when something traumatic has happened. I hope to develop these skills further and continue creating a safe space for my clients to speak openly.

LAS: If you could share some insight with students pursuing a career in law, what would you tell them?

WC: I would tell students pursuing a career in law to be kind to themselves – and that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s not possible to navigate the legal world without making mistakes. There are a lot of students and lawyers who seek to be perfect (me included). But people learn by messing up. Messing up is how we grow and eventually become good lawyers who, one day, mess up a little less.

LAS: What do you look forward to in your career as a champion for access to justice?

WC: I look forward to making a positive impact in people’s lives. There are a lot of barriers in place that prevent people with a lower income from getting the legal help they need. I’m excited to continue helping my clients, despite these barriers, so they can receive the support and advocacy they deserve.

LAS: Is there anything else you want to share?

WC: I’m excited to share that I will be staying with Legal Aid Saskatchewan as a staff lawyer after the completion of my articles!