Develop Your Intensive Trial Advocacy Skills

 Calgary, LESA Update, Upcoming Seminars  Comments Off on Develop Your Intensive Trial Advocacy Skills
May 252015

Intensive Trial Advocacy.

This year’s 33rd Annual Intensive Advocacy course is coming up soon: June 8–13. If you’re attending, we bet you you’d like to learn more about what to expect from the program. And if you’re not signed up for this year’s course, you may want to take Intensive Advocacy in 2016 after hearing all about it.

LESA and the Faculty of Law, University of Calgary work together to offer Intensive Advocacy: the most intensive trial advocacy skills course available to litigators in Western Canada.

In this immersive, hands-on, week-long program, you have many opportunities to hone your skills in every aspect of trial and hearing work:

  • Examining a witness in chief and in cross,
  • Objecting to improper questions,
  • Entering exhibits,
  • Qualifying and examining experts,
  • Impeaching a witness, and
  • Developing techniques for effectively opening and persuasively closing your argument.

To top things off, the course’s final assignment is a trial staged at the Calgary Courts Centre, before Queen’s Bench and Provincial Court judges.

We recently interviewed 3 Intensive Advocacy instructors, who shared their thoughts about the program. Here’s what they had to say about the content and experience of the course.

The content of the course – and, frankly, the experience of the course as well – is really designed to mimic as closely as possible the preparation and conduct of a real trial. … One of the reasons it’s called the intensive trial advocacy course is that preparing for and conducting a trial is an intensive experience. Participants need to be … prepared to work long hours, and they spend time in the evenings preparing the next day’s materials, as is often the case during a real trial. … I think that [the program] benefits the participants because it is a blend of watching – not just listening to lectures but watching live demonstrations of the advocacy skills – followed immediately by opportunities to get up and do it yourself. And there just is no substitute, even for something as simple as objections. You can lecture people about objections, … but there is really nothing that takes the place of physically standing up and saying, ‘Objections’ and then having to articulate what that is.”

Michele Hollins QC, Dunphy Best Blocksom LLP

It is a practice-based course … about observing demonstrations of the skills from the faculty, and then breaking into small groups … [of] participants practicing those skills. … After that, participants immediately receive some feedback from the instructors. A lot of the practice skills … are recorded, and participants … sit one-on-one in video review. … It’s an opportunity for the participant to observe themselves but also then to receive additional feedback from yet another instructor. … Participants stay in the same groups [all week], but each day they get a different set of instructors, so they’re able to get feedback from different practitioners throughout the week. … The huge value of the small group situation is that you not only learn from what you’re doing but you also learn from observing the other participants. The participants themselves offer so much as a learning tool. … Everyone has their own style, and technique, and issues that they want to improve upon, so it’s a very rich environment to [discover] … different techniques and different strategies and the like.”

Jennifer Ruttan, Ruttan Bates

A common theme emerged out of our interviews about the benefit of the Intensive Advocacy program – confidence. Participants walk away from this course with much more confidence in their skill and ability to run a trial.

Walking into a courtroom for the first time, and trying to run your own case for the first time is a pretty scary proposition. … This course, because of how it is set up, gives each individual a chance to stand up in front of his or her peers and actually do a cross-examination, for example. Whether it’s good, bad, or ugly, you do the cross examination. From my perspective, having taught Intensive Advocacy for a number of years, the neatest thing is to see [the participants] on day 1 and then see them on day 7. They’re just not the same people … in terms of ability, and demeanor, and self-confidence. … It’s really an amazing transition.”

John Hope QC, Duncan Craig LLP

We really can’t emphasize enough the benefits of this unique interactive program. If you’re joining us this June, we can’t wait to share this experience with you!

This program sells out each year, so, if you’re interested in attending next year, you should register early. You can even head to our website now to register for Intensive Advocacy in 2016.

Now Available – Drafting Your First Trust Seminar on Demand

 LESA Update, Resource, Seminars On Demand  Comments Off on Now Available – Drafting Your First Trust Seminar on Demand
May 202015

If you need to review trust drafting tips and considerations or if you’re a new practitioner looking for useful pointers to help get you started, you’ll want to check out LESA’s Drafting Your First Trust seminar on demand.

Here’s what one participant who attended the live program had to say about Drafting Your First Trust:

A broad range of issues were discussed, though important details were not glossed over. The presentations and material will be very valuable resources going forward.”

With the seminar on demand, you’ll be able to access both the presentations and the materials, even if you didn’t make it to Lake Louise for the live seminar last month. Now you just have to get online to stream videos of speakers giving their presentations and download seminar papers as PDFs.

This resource addresses many trust drafting topics:
•    Required provisions, definitions, optional terms, and how to build flexibility in a trust,
•    Skills for determining client objectives,
•    Issues of settlement, fees, records, administration, and wind-up,
•    Tax traps and opportunities,
•    Preparing trusts in a corporate setting,
•    Administering trusts with multiple beneficiaries,
•    The powers trustees need to perform their duties, and
•    How to avoid pitfalls causing litigation.

Through this seminar on demand, you’ll gain access to many useful resources, including tips, samples, precedents, a case study, and more. Here’s what some live seminar attendees found most beneficial about the program:

The depth and breadth of the seminar”
“Good precedents and written materials”
“Sample trust deed and other documents”
“Practical focus”

If this sounds like the seminar on demand for you, head to our website to purchase Drafting Your First Trust. You may also want to check out our other seminar on demand titles. There are specialized programs useful for any lawyer, resources focused on specific practice areas, and offerings geared towards legal support staff.

42nd Annual National Criminal Law Program

 Legal News: Alberta, Legal News: Global, News  Comments Off on 42nd Annual National Criminal Law Program
May 152015

Learn more about the 42nd Annual National Criminal Law Program!

Every year the Federation of Law Societies of Canada puts on the National Criminal Law Program, and LESA helps them spread the word about the conference.

Since this year’s program is running in Edmonton, it’s easier than ever for Alberta lawyers to attend.

This criminal law CLE and networking conference features a nationally recognized faculty made up of the country’s finest judges, defense counsel, and Crown prosecutors. A number of the faculty members are from Alberta, many of whom you may also have seen speaking at LESA seminars over the years.

Hon. Judge F. K. MacDonald

Willie deWit QC

Mona T. Duckett QC

Jolaine Antonio

Dane Bullerwell

Karen Hewitt

Suzanne Kendall

2015 program highlights include up to a dozen new faculty members, more advanced-level break-outs, Point/Counterpoint debates, and Roundtable discussions. You can sign up today to enjoy 5 days of plenary, break-out, and small group workshop sessions. You’ll also take home 2 volumes of written material (printed or on USB).

Program Details

When: July 6-10, 2015
Where: Shaw Conference Centre, Edmonton, AB
Cost: $750 + GST (called to Bar before 2010) OR $495 + GST (called to bar in 2010 or later)

For more information, check out the National Criminal Law program website.

2015/2016 CPLED Opportunities

 CPLED, LESA Update  Comments Off on 2015/2016 CPLED Opportunities
May 132015

cpled-logo2010-newEach year, LESA partners with many experienced legal professionals to put on Alberta’s bar admission CPLED Program.

We’re still taking applications for the 2015/2016 CPLED year, and already we’ve had more than 360 students apply. As you can imagine, having this many students means we need a lot of support from the legal community.

One goal of the CPLED Program is to help students develop entry-level lawyer competencies. As such, LESA recruits facilitators, who provide feedback to students in preparation for their competency evaluation, and evaluators, who grade these final submissions.

This desire to help new, aspiring lawyers develop their competencies is one reason why more seasoned lawyers choose to be a part of the program.

I think that it’s important to keep up the high standards that have been set for the profession and for people who are aspiring to go into the profession. … We always say it’s an honourable calling. …  So there’s mentoring involved, and I think there’s a little bit of gatekeeping involved. I just care enough about this profession that this is one of the ways that I choose to give back.”

Diana Mah, Youth Criminal Defense Office

LESA recruits facilitators and evaluators for both the 7 online modules and the 3 face-to-face sessions that comprise the CPLED program (see the 2015/2016 Key Dates).

Online Modules

During each 3 week module, Learning Group Facilitators (LGFs) monitor the progress of their learning group (usually 18–20 students) and interact with students through an online learning management platform. LGFs prepare for each module, facilitate online discussions, respond to student questions, review weekly student submissions, and provide feedback. While the module is open, LGFs commit about 10-20 hours a week to CPLED, including time spent providing feedback on assignments.

Learning Group Evaluators (LGEs) grade approximately 30–40 competency evaluations (final submissions). LGE duties conclude approximately 2 weeks after a module closes.

Both LGFs and LGEs are provided with mandatory training, to explain the duties and expectations of their roles. Additional module-specific LGF training occurs about a week before each module opens.

Here’s what one LGF/LGE had to say about her experience.

I enjoy volunteering with the CPLED program because we only get a student doing a rotation through my office every few years. Volunteering permits me to stay connected to those entering the profession. It’s a great opportunity to share my experience with new lawyers.”

If you’re interested in working with the CPLED Program’s online modules, please contact Bronwyn Connolly ( for an application. Applications are due June 30, 2015.

Face-to-Face Sessions

Each face-to-face session runs over 3 or 4 days in Edmonton and Calgary, with individual volunteers usually committing one day of their time to the CPLED Program. Facilitators help guide discussion and answer questions on teaching and learning exercise days, and evaluators grade final assessments on competency evaluation days.

LESA provides training materials and a pre-session conference call to ensure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities.

As this face-to-face volunteer explains, participating in the CPLED Program benefits everyone involved.

Volunteering at CPLED provides me the opportunity to learn from the students, as well as share with them the experiences I have had. … The process of teaching actually … sharpens [my] skills. … Students often have unique perceptions and their questions cause me to reconsider the theory as it applies to the practical reality of practicing family law.”

Brad Mustard, Moe Hannah LLP

Contact Janette Sztym ( if you’d like more information or to submit your name for consideration as a face-to-face volunteer.

Why Volunteer?

Everyone we spoke to for this blog was motivated to participate in the CPLED Program by a desire to give back to the legal community.

It was important for me to instill to younger members of the bar that they belonged to a membership that was supportive of them and that they had a lot of responsibilities to that group of people. … I think that in the last few years I’ve been able to do that, especially to people who are so scared of what’s going to happen to them in the future. It was important to me to let them know that, ‘Look around you, there’s all these people that are in practice and that have busy, busy lives, and they’re here on a volunteer basis to help you because we think that you’re important.’ … [Volunteering] makes me feel like part of a community of lawyers, and it’s something that gives back. … I think that giving to this community is a big part of what being a lawyer is about.”

Neena Ahluwalia QC, Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta

While these altruistic motivations provide one good reason for working with the CPLED Program, participating also personally benefits those who give up their time and efforts for the good of the community.

The CPLED Program allows you to be in an environment where you can enhance your public speaking and your teaching abilities, as well as access resources to keep you up-to-date with the new developments within the law, both in practice and theory. The networks that you build are great sources of collegiality and future opportunities.”

Arman Chak, ForensicLaw

If you’re interested in joining your colleagues to support CPLED Program this year, please be in touch. We won’t know how many positions we’ll need to fill until student registration numbers are finalized, but we appreciate everyone who is willing to support the Program, and we look forward to working with all of our facilitators and evaluators in 2015/2016.

Cathy Farnell – Another LESA Superstar!

 LESA Update, Volunteer Profile  Comments Off on Cathy Farnell – Another LESA Superstar!
May 112015

Cathy CroppedDid you know that LESA filled approximately 600 volunteer placements this year? That means we rely on a lot of volunteers!

We have so many incredible supporters who give their time, talent, and energy to help us fulfill our mission to serve the spectrum of educational and professional development needs of Alberta’s lawyers, articling students, and their staff. We’re truly grateful for the commitment of all our volunteers. Without you, we couldn’t serve the profession as effectively!

Since we benefit so much from our volunteers, we like to publicaly thank them for all their support, and today we’re pleased to put the spotlight on Cathy Farnell!

Cathy has volunteered for LESA over the past several years. Most recently, she was instrumental in preparing the Real Estate Practice Manual update. LESA’s Karen McDougall was especially grateful for Cathy’s help rallying the Witten troops when we needed additional help with the manual.

Cathy is also speaking at the Commercial Real Estate seminar in Edmonton tomorrow.

For those of you who are attending, here’s a sneak preview of what Cathy is most excited for about the seminar:

Well I’m actually most looking forward to some of the other talks. … [Alexander MacWilliam is] talking about environmental [issues], … [which relates to] a particular lease agreement that I’m working on right now. … To me, having a more advanced seminar to talk about more advanced topics interests me a lot as a participant. Even if I wasn’t speaking, I think I would have attended this seminar, because … it’s nice to have some that are more advanced and … because I really do like the continuing learning aspect of the programs that LESA puts on. … And then Jim Brown, of course, is talking from the industry perspective. … So that’s a nice background and puts things in a very good perspective for people attending the conference. … Your clients are probably asking you those same questions or they’re probably going through those same processes that Jim is going to talk about, so [understanding] a little bit more of the business side can be really helpful as you get more senior in your practice area.”

Despite her busy schedule with her practice and volunteer commitments, Cathy took some time last week to talk to us about why she likes volunteering with LESA.

But first, before we get into that, we’ll fill you in on what peaked Cathy’s interest in the practice of commercial real estate.

It has to do with the opportunities I had when I started at the firm. Right away, I was involved in really interesting and complicated files and was given a fair amount of responsibility, properly supervised, of course. But enough to see the bigger picture … to see that it is complex. I do like that most of the time it’s quite non-adversarial. People have kind of the same end goal in mind. Although you’re on other sides and you’re negotiating things, most of the time people want to get the deal done, and that creates a nice work environment. I think it is challenging, and I think no two deals are ever the same, so you’re always having to modify and think about different things and make sure the agreement covers it properly for your client in that circumstance.”

And what does Cathy like best about her job?

Honestly, I would have to say the people. … You spend so much time at work that it’s important to like and respect your co-workers, and I really do. I think that Witten has a very supportive environment, [with] a lot of people to assist or help or bounce ideas off of, and I like that. When you pair that with a practice area that you really like and clients that you really like, that’s a good way to spend your day.”

Now that you know a bit more about Cathy’s practice, here’s some insight on what motivates her to volunteer.

I value going to those events to learn, and I especially did as a young person, and I think I’m finally starting to get to a point where I can give back a little bit. … It’s helpful to me too, because just putting it together, … just sitting down and having to go through and think of things, … [is] almost like creating a checklist, which is good to do again, because you take for granted the basics sometimes, and it’s good to review them. … When I have an opportunity to do that and give back, then I think I should.”

With her speaking engagement at Commercial Real Estate tomorrow, Cathy’s first piece of advice to other lawyers thinking about volunteering is “Run, run away!” But joking aside, Cathy had some valuable advice to share about making the commitment to volunteer.

It’s important to give yourself internal timelines, so that you keep on top of it, because if you’re going to volunteer you want to make sure that you’re doing a good job. Sometimes it’s like when you’re giving students work and they have billable work and non-billable work: the non-billable work always seems … easier to push off. So you really have to give yourself some diary dates and some follow up to make sure that you’re doing the best job that you can do. And choose something that you’re comfortable with, because it will be easier to do and it’s a good start. … I think if people do get involved in something that they’re comfortable with and interested in, they will really enjoy it and might surprise themselves with what they get back out of it.”

Thanks Cathy for all your hard work and you valuable advice!

To all of our volunteers, you are fabulous! Although we didn’t mention you here today, we’re huge fans of yours. We always struggle when picking a volunteer to highlight, since so many of you deserve to be in the spotlight for your dedication and hard work!

LESA Welcomes our 2015 Summer Students!

 LESA Update, Staff Feature  Comments Off on LESA Welcomes our 2015 Summer Students!
May 082015

LESA is excited to welcome two new summer students into our organization – Kristine Gu and Allison Boutillier!

It’s their first week here, and they’ve jumped right into things, working with LESA’s Karen McDougall to edit the updated Wills & Estates practice manual that we’re putting together.

Before they get too caught up in fixing comma splices and finding citations, we took a few minutes to get to know them better.

Kristine started off her undergrad in the sciences, but, after O Chem labs revealed that wasn’t the life for her, she transferred into the U of A’s School of Business. Kristine credits Douglas Peterson, her BLaw professor, for pointing her onto the path towards a law degree.

The way he presented Business Law to me really changed my perspective. I found I really enjoyed it, so I finally settled on majoring in Business Law. That took me to here. … My interest is in the corporate, commercial kind of side, and hopefully international. That would be the ideal.

After completing her Masters of Philosophy in Belgium, Allison returned to Edmonton unsure of what she wanted to do. She was working at a restaurant, feeling bored and directionless, when a friend encouraged her to write the LSAT. As Allison puts it, “I thought, ‘It can’t be worse than serving.’” Then one thing led to another, and now she’s finished her second year of law at the University of Alberta. While she’s not sure what area of law she’d like to practice in, she’s discovered that “I think I would be a terrible solicitor; I’m much more interested in litigation.

Both Kristine and Allison are looking forward to working at LESA this summer. For Kristine, LESA offers a unique experience, something different than the more typical summer job working in a law firm.

It gives me a chance to still dabble in a lot of things; I’m learning about things I really wouldn’t have even considered before … like wills & estates. … It’s [also] a safe environment to first build your confidence and hone your skills.”

Allison is also looking forward to the chance to learn new things in a low stress environment.

No one’s file is on the line. We get a chance to sit and think through things as we look for the comma placement.

While we’re looking forward to having these two multi-lingual ladies in the office (together they speak Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Korean, and Japanese!), they also have exciting plans for the summer. Allison started playing soccer when she was 5 and is looking forward to catching some FIFA Women’s World Cup games; Kristine loves photography and can’t wait to travel to Hong Kong in August, before starting an exchange term there in September.

But until then, we’re glad they’ve both joined the LESA team!

New Estate Administration Act – Seminar on Demand

 LESA Update, Resource, Seminars On Demand  Comments Off on New Estate Administration Act – Seminar on Demand
May 072015

Have you seen LESA’s seminars on demand? This past year we’ve begun recording select live seminars, so that you can see the speakers give their presentations, even if you couldn’t make it out to the live event.

If you didn’t make it to the New Estate Administration Act seminar last month, you’ll want to check out the seminar on demand before the new Act comes into force June 1, 2015. (If you did attend, you’ll receive an email with instructions for getting complimentary access!)

This seminar on demand reviews the impact of the upcoming legislation:
•    Compare the EAA to former legislation and identify significant changes.
•    Examine practical examples with an interactive Q & A panel and audience discussion.
•    Gain insight into the duties, tasks, and responsibilities of personal representatives.
•    Discuss substantive and non-substantive Surrogate Rules changes.
•    Cover notice provisions under the EAA and practice pointers for working with them.

This “immediately practical” program, as it was described by one attendee, offers a wide range of useful information. Here are a few things that attendees identified as the most beneficial aspects of this program:

Focus on substantive changes and their effect on practice”
“Deep overview of the new legislation”
“There were a lot of practical tips discussed”
“Written materials”
“Substantive knowledge taught in a straightforward manner”

And all you need to access this information is an internet connection. Seminars on demand allow you to stream video recordings of presenters and download course materials as PDFs. That’s the convenience of a seminar on demand; you can access it anywhere, anytime.

You can purchase New Estate Administration Act or explore other seminar on demand titles online at

May 2015: Upcoming Legal Events

 CPLED, Legal News: Alberta, LESA Update, News  Comments Off on May 2015: Upcoming Legal Events
May 042015

Wall Calendar

Mark your calendars. Today’s blog lets you know what’s happening this month at LESA and in the wider legal community.

LESA Dates

May is a busy month at LESA, with 6 continuing legal education seminars:

31The CPLED registration deadline is May 31. Late applications are subject to a non-refundable late filing fee. Students can apply online.


Legal Community Events

8The Beaux’ Stratagem by Players de Novo
Surrogate Practice and Procedure Meeting (Edmonton)


11Surrogate Practice and Procedure Meeting (Calgary)
Application deadline for Field Law’s Community Fund Program

If you want LESA’s help to raise awareness about an upcoming legal event relevant to the Alberta legal community, contact Renee Vander Meulen, Communications Coordinator.
780.969.0553 or

Tragic Earthquake: Support Nepal and Uphill Both Ways

 Legal News: Alberta  Comments Off on Tragic Earthquake: Support Nepal and Uphill Both Ways
May 012015

Nepal4The recent 7.8 magnitude earthquake has left Nepal, a country that already struggles to meet the basic food and health care needs of its citizens, in a state of chaos and devastation. The death toll has surpassed 6,000 lives lost, and almost 14,000 people are reported injured (BBC News). Tragically these numbers are likely to rise, since contact has not yet been made with many remote areas.

The people of Nepal are in desperate need of support, and the Alberta legal community has a grassroots avenue through which to offer aid: Uphill Both Ways is an organization led by southern Alberta lawyer Murray Pritchard and his family.


Uphill Both Ways supports a number of local schools and the Siddhi Memorial Hospital in Bhaktapur. Janelle Pritchard, operating-room nurse and Murray Pritchard’s daughter, describes the hospital’s needs in a recent Metro news article. This hospital is in one of the hardest hit areas; they urgently require medical supplies, food, blankets, and temporary shelters.

Given the current transportation issues getting aid into Nepal, online donations will likely be the most effective, quickest way to provide aid (cheques add a delay in processing time). Local medical supplies are also being sought, to be transported to Nepal as soon as possible. If you have supplies to share, please contact Murray Pritchard at 403.329.1133.



This tragedy hits close to home for LESA’s Dawn Ofner, who visited Nepal with Uphill Both Ways last year. Dawn has received some photos from the Siddi Memorial Hospital that we share with you in today’s blog.

Please consider donating online to support those in critical need of our compassion, responsiveness, and practical help.


Have You Heard About the Field Law Community Fund Program?

 Legal News: Alberta, News  Comments Off on Have You Heard About the Field Law Community Fund Program?
Apr 292015


Field Law is excited to launch their 2015 Field Law Community Fund Program, and LESA is glad to help them spread the word. This is the program’s third year, and there are two ways for you to get involved.

Know of a Worthy Cause?

The program supports local pay-it-forward ideas and causes within the communities that Field Law serves. In celebration of the firm’s 100th anniversary, $100,000 will be donated across Alberta and the Northwest Territories in 2015.

2015 marks our 100th anniversary, and we couldn’t be more excited to use this opportunity to give back to our communities,” says Jim Casey QC, a Field Law Managing Partner. “After seeing the success of the program during its first two years we feel like we have strengthened connections with our communities that will take the third year of the program to new heights.”

Are you involved with, or do you know of, any deserving ideas in need of funding? Local individuals, initiatives, and causes must apply for funding before May 11, 2015.

Field Law’s preferred (but not exclusive) causes are those that support education, healthcare, at-risk youth, the homeless, women’s organizations, community and sports, or arts and culture.

Help Choose the Finalist!

Finalists are chosen through a combination of community (public) online voting and deliberation by a Community Market Judging Panel. Field Law is looking for interested individuals to serve on the Judging Panel. If you’d like to be involved, contact Stephanie Quaife at

If you’re involved with an initiative that gives back to the community and you’d like LESA’s help promoting your cause, please contact Renee Vander Meulen, Communications Coordinator.
780.969.0553 or