When Chelsea Boucher graduated from the University of Victoria’s law school in 2020, she faced obstacles to finding an articling position.
She is Indigenous — her mother is from the Alexander First Nation, near Morinville. It was the height of the pandemic. And she wanted to work in Edmonton, her hometown, but Alberta’s cycle for hiring articling students is different from British Columbia’s.
Fortunately, the Edmonton Community Legal Centre (ECLC) had an opening for an articling student to backfill a maternity leave.
The 32-year old started her articles in January 2021 and a year later when it ended…
“I had five job offers,” Boucher says. ”It wasn’t difficult to find a job. The hardest part was figuring out where I wanted to go and what was the right fit.”
Boucher knows it is cliche to label her experience at ECLC as “life changing.” Nonetheless she says it set her on her career path and gave her the experience and skills to achieve it.
Now the clinic wants to increase the number of articling positions it offers‚ for not entirely selfless reasons, admits Executive Director Debbie Klein.
“Articling students tend to come back and volunteer with us,” Klein says. In fact, Boucher volunteers at least once a month and plans to increase that to twice a month.
The non-profit charity provides free legal information, advice and representation to low-income people — generally those who earn less than minimum wage — from Edmonton and northern Alberta.
While Legal Aid helps people mostly with criminal matters, the ECLC, focuses on a broad range of civil, family and immigration legal matters. About 30,000 people asked the clinic for help in 2022, a 53 per cent increase over pre-COVID numbers in 2019. Its 2023 budget is $3 million.