Practice Profile – Family Law with Marla Miller QC

 Practice Profile  Comments Off on Practice Profile – Family Law with Marla Miller QC
Jul 302015

Marla MillerIn this latest instalment of our practice profile series, we continue to explore the different directions your legal education can take you by speaking with Marla Miller QC of the Miller Boileau Family Law Group. Marla shares with us her experiences and insight on becoming a sole practitioner, the family law practice, and the family law bar as a community.

At Miller Boileau, Marla and her colleagues have each taken on a unique role – be it a mediator, litigator, or collaborative family lawyer – to offer their clients a full range of services. Marla focuses on using mediation and collaborative family law to seek out a suitable arrangement for her clients and the parties involved.

At first glance, Miller Boileau may look and act like a small firm; however, it enjoys the structure of an association of lawyers. As Marla explained, “It is the best of both worlds in that there is support from … a group of family lawyers but you also have all the good things that come with being a sole practitioner.

Before starting her own practice in 1990, Marla worked at both a small and a mid-size firm. Her motivation to go solo came from her surroundings as well as her interest in the business side of a law practice. The idea of becoming a sole practitioner may be a daunting one, but Marla shares with us some advice that she kept in her pocket when starting out.

If you have the choice to work with a lawyer for five years and if you are doing good work and your clients are happy and sending you referrals, after five years you’ve done enough and seen enough that you have a good chance of surviving on your own.

In terms of a typical day, Marla is usually able to meet with two sets of clients, as most meetings take up a full morning or afternoon. The freedom and flexibility to set her own schedule is certainly important to her, but one of the things that Marla values the most as a family lawyer is also what sets the practice apart from others.

In family law, you can only make a bad situation better. When people come to you and are having a terrible time, you can help them get to a better place.

This ability to aid and guide people through a difficult situation is a driving force for many in their pursuit of a family law career. How to set off upon the path to reach that position, however, can be unclear. When students interested in family law ask her about articling, Marla’s answer may seem counterintuitive at first, but it is not without reason.

Don’t article at a family law firm. Instead, try articling at a general practice firm. You need to learn all the other skills in order to be a good family lawyer. Talk to the firm and tell them that, while you want to learn everything, you think you might want to end up in family law. They might already be sending the work off, and you could end up being an asset to the firm.

Students can also find comfort in knowing that the family law bar is supportive and that there are opportunities for mentorship and guidance. Marla reassured us that “if people have questions, they can probably call any family lawyer. It’s a very generous and collegial bar. We like to help people get to where they need to be in their lives. It’s what we do.

We appreciate Marla’s willingness to share her insight and expertise as well as her valuable advice for pursuing family law. We bring this chapter of our series to a close with something that has stuck with us and most certainly will stick with you. When asked about the impact her work has on her clients, Marla answered that, at the end of the day, being a family lawyer is not all about winning.

You close your file and go on to your next client, but whatever has happened is the story that these people have to live with. If you’re not helping the whole person and looking only at the legal problem, you’re doing a disservice. You do a disservice to the client, you do a disservice to their children, and, in the long run, you do a disservice to yourself.

Kristine Gu
LESA Summer Student

Supreme Court of Canada Appointment – Russell S. Brown

 Legal News: Alberta, Legal News: National, News  Comments Off on Supreme Court of Canada Appointment – Russell S. Brown
Jul 292015

LESA congratulates the Honourable Justice R.S. Brown on his elevation to the Supreme Court of Canada. His appointment is effective as of August 31, 2015, and the complete Supreme Court of Canada news release can be accessed here.

Learn to Negotiate Effectively – Gain the Edge!®

 Calgary, Edmonton, LESA Update, Upcoming Seminars  Comments Off on Learn to Negotiate Effectively – Gain the Edge!®
Jul 282015

Everyone negotiates. If you are a lawyer – regardless of your practice area – your ability to negotiate effectively may be one of the most critical skills you possess.

Like any skill we possess, our negotiation techniques will grow and develop as we feed them. LESA’s upcoming Gain the Edge!® Negotiation Strategies for Lawyers seminar with Marty Latz will help lawyers hone their skills and become more effective negotiators. The video clip above shows you just one of Marty’s tips for handling negotiations successfully.

As Marty explained to us “There’s basically a right way to negotiate, and there’s a wrong way to negotiate.” While most of us tend to wing it while negotiating, Marty will share decades of proven expert research to help you sharpen your negotiating skills by navigating away from an instinctive or intuitive mindset towards a more strategic method.

This program has something for everyone. “Everybody benefits. Negotiation is truly a life skill,” as Marty says. Whether you are a litigator, family lawyer, or real estate practitioner, negotiations come into your practice. Perhaps you are trying to close a business deal, encountering discovery disputes, trying to solve a taxation issue, or negotiating your office lease. Whatever it is that you do, this program will provide you tips for negotiating in any professional legal environment. By attending, you’ll gain tools to negotiate more successfully with all of the people you encounter: your bosses, co-workers, employees, clients, and other lawyers.

We hope you’ll join us and Marty for Gain the Edge! ® Negotiation Strategies for Lawyers. You can learn more about the topics Marty will cover by viewing the program brochure. To reserve your spot now, register online for Calgary (September 17) or Edmonton (September 18).

Then mark your calendar and come prepared to improve your skills and have fun at the same time. Marty’s other seminar attendees have told him that they “not only find [the information] useful, practical, and interesting but they also really enjoy themselves.”

We hope you’ll enjoy it too!

2015/2016 CPLED Alberta Student Guide

 CPLED, LESA Update, News  Comments Off on 2015/2016 CPLED Alberta Student Guide
Jul 222015


If you’re starting your articles and the CPLED Program this year, you’re probably wondering what the CPLED Program is all about and what to expect when the program’s modules start in the next month or so.

LESA’s blog is a great place to come for information. (You can subscribe to follow it on the right side bar at the top of this page!) Last month, one of LESA’s summer students – Allison Boutillier – wrote a blog explaining the Law Society of Alberta’s recent changes to the Articling Student Education Plan. In today’s blog, LESA’s Student CoordinatorAshley Iachetta – shares some information about the CPLED Program.

You can also check out the 2015/2016 CPLED Alberta Student Guide to find answer all your CPLED Program questions.

Program Overview

Students seeking admission to the Alberta Bar must successfully complete the CPLED Program. Along with the experience of articling, the CPLED Program is intended to help students develop the competencies required of an entry-level lawyer and to ensure that students can demonstrate these competencies before being admitted to the practice of law.

The CPLED Program requires the successful completion of 3 face-to-face sessions, 7 online modules, and a Trust Accounting Fundamentals online self-study course.

All face-to-face sessions are 3 days long, except for Negotiations & Practice Fundamentals, which is 4 days.

All online modules, except Ethics & Professionalism, run over the course of 3 weeks. Students submit weekly assignments (which are voluntary but highly recommended!) and then learning group facilitators (LGFs) provide feedback on student submissions. These weekly assignments, along with background readings and learning exercises, help students prepare for their competency evaluations.

Online competency evaluations may consist of written submissions or may be invigilated (supervised) examinations. Face-to-face competency evaluations are – you guessed it – in-person, hands-on activities completed to demonstrate competency in the particular module’s skills, such as interviewing a client (played by an actor).

Applying to the CPLED Program

Before you can be admitted to the CPLED Program, LESA must receive 4 things:

  1. A completed Application for Admission to the CPLED Program. If you haven’t already submitted your application, email Ashley ( as soon as possible and be prepared to pay the non-refundable late fee ($150 + GST).
  2.  A signed CPLED Program Agreement, found here.
  3. Payment of tuition. (You should have received an email with an invoice and payment details. Note that the Law Society of Alberta sets the tuition for the CPLED program, typically in April.)
  4. Confirmation of student-at-law status (or conditional student status), which LESA receives from the Law Society of Alberta.
Student-at-Law Status

The Law Society of Alberta administers the rules, regulations, and procedures for students-at-law and principals. To article in Alberta, you must seek admission to the Law Society of Alberta as a student-at-law. This is a separate requirement from the requirement to register for the CPLED Program. Questions regarding admission as a student-at-law should be directed to the Membership Services department at the Law Society of Alberta.

Applicants can apply to the CPLED Program before being admitted as a student-at-law. Before commencing the CPLED Program, however, an applicant must have student-at-law (or comparable) status with either the Law Society of Alberta or the Law Society of the Northwest Territories.

Program Requirements

Successful completion of the CPLED Program requires the following:

  1. Attendance, participation, and professional behaviour.
  2. Completion of all mandatory assignments, competency evaluations, and examinations with professional and academic integrity.
  3. A grade of “competency demonstrated” (CD) in all mandatory assignments, competency evaluations, and examinations.

Over the course of the CPLED Program, a student completes 10 competency evaluations. Students must achieve a grade of CD in all 10.

Grading scale

A grade of CD means that the student successfully completed that module of the CPLED Program. A grade of “competency not yet demonstrated” (CNYD) means that the student was not successful in completing that module. If a student receives a grade of CNYD in up to three modules, those modules may be repeated during the Reserve Period.

Reserve Period

Supplemental competency evaluations are scheduled during the Reserve Period, which runs March 31, 2016 to June 23, 2016. At this time, students who received a grade of CNYD (in up to three modules) complete a supplemental competency evaluation for each module, in order to complete the CPLED Program requirement of earning a grade of CD in all 10 modules. Applicants whose entry into the CPLED Program was delayed also complete missed modules during this period.

Special circumstances

In some cases, students may have individual needs that necessitate an accommodation, an excused absence, a deferral, a scheduling change, or a withdrawal from the CPLED Program. More information about these options can be found here on our website.
If you have any other questions about the CPLED Program, check out the 2015/2016 CPLED Alberta Student Guide. The Student Guide covers the key information you need to know; however, if you still have questions, please email Ashley for clarification.

Best of luck to everyone during their articling and CPLED year!

Do You Know Bronwyn Connolly?

 CPLED, Staff Feature  Comments Off on Do You Know Bronwyn Connolly?
Jul 202015

BronwynBronwyn Connolly is one of LESA’s valued Education Coordinators. Her bubbly laugh came out a lot when we sat down to talk last week, and her laugh, hard work ethic, and willingness to chip in wherever she’s needed are much appreciated around the LESA office.

If you’re a part of the CPLED Program – whether as a student, facilitator, or evaluator – you’ve probably been on the receiving end of all her hard work. Since we know students appreciate receiving their grades and online LGFs/LGEs appreciate being paid, we thought you might like to learn a bit more about who’s behind making those things happen.

Bronwyn is one of those instrumental people here at LESA. But did you know that she color coordinates her closet based on season? Because, as she puts it, “Why would I want to look through my long sleeved shirts when it’s summer?” Or did you know that that she is freaked out by centipedes? Keep reading to find out more about what Bronwyn does here at LESA and what she spends her time doing outside of the office.

What do you do at LESA?
I deal primarily with CPLED: I look after the facilitators and evaluators for the online portion as well as materials for the upcoming year. … [I also] deal with grades processing and those kinds of things.

And what do you do with the LGFs/LGEs?
I recruit them, make their contracts, and make their schedules. I’m their support and contact throughout the year. … I do their invoicing, I follow up with them and make sure they are following deadlines, and I do their conference calls. … [I] support them in all areas, basically.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
I really like interacting with the LGFs and LGEs. They are all really amazing people and are really supportive and encouraging. They work really hard and take what they do very seriously, so it is very nice to work with them and have those interactions.

Tell us about you background before you came to LESA.
I have a Bachelor of Arts in English. I worked for an insurance company for a year in customer support, and then I worked at Concordia University Edmonton for a year doing transcripts and then as a Student Advisor. Then I worked for a couple months as a show home hostess.

What makes LESA an interesting place to work?
Well no day is ever the same. Between students and LGFs and all that comes with CPLED – no day is ever dull!

What do you do for fun?
I play soccer, I like cycling, I like baking – although it’s too hot for that right now. And I like going camping and skiing (in the winter). I just like being outside. It’s just nice.

What is your favorite book/author and what are you reading right now?
My favorite book is Jane Eyre. My favorite authors are Jane Austen and Charles Dickens – which is ironic because they [didn’t write] my favourite book. Right now I’m reading the Rosie Effect.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The atmosphere in our office is pretty great. It’s a really good group of people all working together towards the same goal. And we all get along really well, which is nice.

So for those inquiring minds who wonder about the people working at LESA, you now know a little more about LESA’s own Bronwyn Connolly. And as long as no centipedes get onto her desk, she’ll be working hard to help make your interactions with LESA and your experience with CPLED as enjoyable as possible!

Practice Profile – Regulatory Board with Donna Tingley

 Practice Profile  Comments Off on Practice Profile – Regulatory Board with Donna Tingley
Jul 152015

Donna TingleyThis year LESA’s summer students (Kristine Gu and myself – Allison Boutillier) are interviewing practitioners to gain insight into the broad range of careers that a legal education can lead to. The first interview features Donna Tingley, a board member at the National Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) since 2006.

At the outset, we asked Donna to tell us about the NRCB and her position as a board member. She explained that the NRCB is an independent government agency responsible for reviewing non-energy natural resource projects, such as water, forestry, mining, and recreation projects. It also regulates confined feeding operations in Alberta. NRCB board members conduct hearings on these matters and participate in the overall management of the organization, including approving the NRCB’s budget and business plan.

As Donna explained, most of the board members are not lawyers. Instead, the majority come from technical backgrounds related to the matters that they hear, which is to say, natural resource projects and confined feeding operations. “One of my colleagues is an engineer, another one is a rancher – which makes sense, given what we regulate – and the chairman comes out of a municipal background. He was the mayor of Sherwood Park. That kind of range is typical.

When lawyers do sit as board members, they usually come from private practice, often having worked in fields that required them to appear before the boards they eventually sit on. Donna, however, took a more unconventional path to becoming an NRCB board member.

There is no question my legal career has been atypical. My background has never been in private practice. Right off the bat I started articling with – it was called the Attorney General’s Department – now, Alberta Justice. For a little while, I worked for the province in the area of Native Affairs on aboriginal land claims, but then I moved right into the environmental field, which is where I worked until I came here. I worked for 15 years with a non-profit called the Environmental Law Centre, mostly as Executive Director, and another 7 years at another non-profit called the Clean Air Strategic Alliance, where I was Executive Director as well.

Although atypical, Donna has found that her previous work in the environmental sector has allowed her to bring an important perspective to the NRCB. She worked extensively with public policy questions and now uses this experience to inform decisions about whether natural resource projects are in the public interest.

It was taking my experiences working in environmental law to a decision-making role where I can actually impact the outcome of some of these challenging environmental questions that I have worked on my whole career.

What’s more, working at the NRCB has allowed Donna to expand her understanding of the technical issues that the NRCB hears. As she puts it, “A lot of my time is spent reviewing material. It is not spent sitting in a court room situation, which is what everyone imagines. It is really studying these environmental assessments and trying to figure them out.

As difficult as that may sometimes be, Donna explains that the time spent going through lengthy and technical hearing materials is more than worth it.

It is really satisfying at this point to have an opportunity to be involved in decision-making. It is really difficult to think about what is in the public interest, but, at the end of the day, it is very satisfying.

We appreciated hearing Donna share her experiences, and we hope that you will too. Whether you are a practicing lawyer considering new opportunities or a law student looking at possible career trajectories, stay tuned for more practice profiles coming to the LESA blog.

Allison Boutillier
LESA Summer Student

Help LESA Plan the 49th Annual Refresher: Real Estate

 LESA Update, News, Upcoming Seminars  Comments Off on Help LESA Plan the 49th Annual Refresher: Real Estate
Jul 132015


If you’re a LESA E-Letter subscriber, you’ve already heard that we want your help planning for our upcoming 49th Annual Refresher: Real Estate program.

For those of you who haven’t heard, if you practice in real estate, we want your feedback to help us shape our program content, seminar format, and choice of presenters. To share your thoughts, please complete the 5 Question Planning Survey by July 20.

If you’re interested in joining us in Lake Louise, you can register online for the 49th Annual Refresher: Real Estate (April 24–26, 2016) and the Real Estate Boot Camp (April 23, 2016).

If you’d like to become an E-Letter subscriber so that you’re always in the know about the latest LESA news, you can subscribe here. E-Letter subscribers receive periodic updates on LESA programs and resources, as well as special subscriber-only offers.

All That Touches Family Law: Practical & Specialized Content

 LESA Update, News, Upcoming Seminars  Comments Off on All That Touches Family Law: Practical & Specialized Content
Jul 082015

All That Touches Family Law

Are you a family law practitioner interested in how other areas of law intersect with your practice?

Do you want to gain some specialized knowledge and takeaway useful resources to reference when you have questions back in the office?

If so, All That Touches Family Law is an upcoming LESA seminar geared to meet your professional development needs.

This week, LESA spoke with seminar chair Hugh Willis to get the details on this highly anticipated program. Hugh describes himself as a “small practice kind of guy” who thinks that effective seminars should provide participants with the opportunity to hear practical information from leading practitioners. And that’s the guiding philosophy behind All That Touches Family Law.

Faculty and Topics

As Hugh explained, “The idea when putting the panel together was to identify some issues in other … very specialized areas of law that touch family law matters. This [program] will provide an opportunity … to touch on some of those issues that may not come up on a day-to-day basis, but when they do come up you want to know where you can find the answers.

We asked Hugh what he was most looking forward to about the program, and his excitement stems from the opportunity afforded to practitioners to consider new perspectives and discover new information about specialized and complex issues, such as how foreclosure or valuing farm income affect matrimonial property divisions.

Everybody’s different, but one thing I like in a LESA panel is hearing from people whom I may know of but don’t necessarily hear from or deal with on a regular basis. If it’s a lawyer that I see across the file every other week, I’m pretty sure I know what his or her opinion is going to be. So I like the idea of bringing in a cross-section of lawyers from across the province, which is what we’ve done here. … You know, I’ve done a number of these [LESA seminars], and this one has me particularly excited. I’m excited because I think this is going to work really well, by bringing in people from across the province … who know their area and know it well.”


Takeaway Resources

Practical Advice. Bringing in practitioners who work in a variety of practice areas across the province allows you to both gain a broad range of knowledge and consider issues from disparate perspectives – both of which will help develop and strengthen your own practice. Not only are the All That Touches Family Law seminar faculty at the top of their fields but they are also well poised to communicate their knowledge to others. Here’s what Hugh had to say about the panelists:

I think the team we’ve put together for the panel will be able to give very good, practical advice. They all know their stuff technically, but I think all of them are able to communicate on a practical level that we can understand.”

Checklists. The intention of the program is for seminar attendees to take away knowledge on specific legal issues as well as practical resources for future reference. As part of their seminar materials, panelists are preparing checklists or other practice-based, practical resources.

Register Now!

All That Touches Family Law runs in Red Deer on September 18. You can register online now to secure your spot in this incredible program.

ASLIA Mock Trials – Lawyers Needed

 Legal News: Alberta, News  Comments Off on ASLIA Mock Trials – Lawyers Needed
Jul 062015


The Association of Sign Language Interpreters of Alberta (ASLIA) needs your help! And by helping ASLIA, you could gain some valuable experience yourself.

ASLIA is a registered non-profit society whose members are professional sign language interpreters. This August, ASLIA is hosting the Summer Institute on Courtroom and Legal Interpreting, a professional development workshop to help interpreters develop their skills in legal settings. The workshop concludes with mock trials held at the Calgary Court Centre on August 12 & 13.

That’s where you come in: ASLIA needs lawyers to play the roles of defense lawyers and Crown prosecutors.

If you’ve never worked with interpreters, deaf defendants, and deaf witnesses in court before, this unique opportunity could provide you with valuable experience.

The mock trials run in morning and afternoon sessions, with various scenarios being enacted, including assault, sexual assault, impaired driving, and child custody cases.

The time commitment is just one half-day session. Perhaps you would like to participate? Or maybe you have an articling student who would be interested in this unique experience?

For more information or to volunteer, please contact ASLIA:

Debra Russell

Sue Tompkins

You can also view ASLIA’s request letter for details, including biographies of the two workshop instructors – Nigel Howard and Deb Russell.

2015 Assist Walk for Wellness

 Legal News: Alberta, News  Comments Off on 2015 Assist Walk for Wellness
Jun 292015

assist-logo-lrg word

You’ve probably heard about the Alberta Lawyers’ Assistance Society (Assist). But have you heard about the annual Assist Walk for Wellness?

Assist is an independent charitable society whose goal is to keep lawyers in Alberta happy and healthy. The annual Assist Walk for Wellness is one way that they encourage those in the profession to nurture their physical and mental health.

The walk is free! Participants are only asked to pledge one of the following: family, active, quiet, reflective, or fun time.

Why not mark your calendar now to set aside a little time for your health and wellness in September? You can join Assist for the walk in one of these 3 locations:


September 17
September 23
September 24

Visit for more information.