Pro Bono Presentation Night: Call for Presenters

 Edmonton, News  Comments Off on Pro Bono Presentation Night: Call for Presenters
Jul 252016


University of Alberta Faculty of Law


On September 15, 2016, the University of Alberta Faculty of Law is hosting a Pro Bono Presentation night. Dr. Anna Lund is spearheading the event and is looking for presenters to share their experiences about engaging in pro bono service.

Presentation Subjects

Presenters are encouraged to present on any aspect of pro bono law of interest.

  • What types of pro bono, low bono, or other law-related public interest work do you do? What drives you to do it?
  • How do you think lawyers could be encouraged to do more pro bono law?
  • How do you think pro bono law programs could be delivered more effectively?
  • To what extent do you think pro bono law improves access to justice? Does it enhance or detract from other important initiatives?
  • How do you think pro bono initiatives could engage a more diverse group of practitioners, including those practicing in-house, at small firms, as solo practitioners or in rural areas? Is pro bono the right fit in these different contexts?


Interested individuals are encouraged to submit a short proposal (100-250 words) to Anna Lund by August 1, 2016. The proposal should include the following components.

  • The presentation topic;
  • A short biography; and
  • The presenter’s contact information.

Click here for more information on Pro Bono Presentation night.

If you want LESA’s help to raise awareness about an upcoming event relevant to the Alberta legal community, contact Andrea Maltais, Communications Coordinator.
780.969.0555 or

LESA Welcomes Matt Sommerfeldt to the Team

 LESA Update, News, Staff Feature  Comments Off on LESA Welcomes Matt Sommerfeldt to the Team
Jul 222016

We’re pleased to introduce the newest member of our team, Matt Sommerfeldt, Director of Education.

Matt-picMatt received his Bachelor of Education with Distinction from the University of Alberta in 2001. He then went on to achieve his Bachelor of Laws from the University of New Brunswick in 2007.

Matt has also gained experience as a high school Spanish and English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher. In addition, he had a general practice of law at Richard A. Low & Company, LLP in Lethbridge from 2008 – 2014. In 2014, Matt switched gears, gaining experience as Legal Counsel at the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in Edmonton.

Outside of the office, Matt devotes his time not only to his loving family of 4, but also to his volunteer position with the J. Reuben Clark Law Society.

Matt has been settling in nicely here at LESA, getting to know the staff and delving straight in to projects for the 2016/2017 educational year.

In a recent interview, we chatted with Matt to get to know him a bit more. Here’s what he had to say.

What is your background and how did you end up at LESA?

I came out of high school completely unsure of what I wanted to do, but I liked being outside so I went into forestry. I then went on a mission for my church, working with people in the Latino community in Montreal, where I fell in love with the Spanish language and culture. I came back to university and received my B.Ed. degree in 2001, before I became a high school Spanish and ESL teacher. I taught for a couple of years before I decided to go to law school. During the application process, I came across the University of New Brunswick, and decided to apply out there. I got an immediate yes, and moved across the country to go to school from 2004 – 2007. The goal when I left for New Brunswick was to come back to Edmonton or Calgary, but during law school I converted to a small city lifestyle. So when I came back, I went to Lethbridge. I had a general practice of law down there for about 6.5 years, but the draw to Edmonton kept pulling me back, so I took my job at the Court of Queen’s Bench as Legal Counsel in 2014. This was a contract position for 2 years, and as the contract neared, I started looking for a new adventure. Then I stumbled upon LESA.

What is your role at LESA?

As Director of Education, I oversee all of the educational programming and resources as well as help oversee CPLED. One of the things I’m doing right now is creating project charters. It’s the why behind all of the programs that we do – figuring out what the rationale is and what we are hoping to achieve. Another big part of my role is building relationships – helping people achieve their best and reach their full potential.

What are you looking forward to this calendar year?

I’m really looking forward to working with great people and learning a whole bunch of new things. I’m also looking forward to helping out with some of the heavy lifting – like carrying binders from vehicles. I’m particularly interested in figuring out how programs really run – being on the other side of LESA programming and getting to know how all of it works.

What do you enjoy doing outside the office?

I love doing things with my kids. I’ve got a 7-year-old and 3-year-old twins, so tea parties, wrestling matches, soccer, pushing on swings – I seem to do a lot of that these days – and we also do a lot of bike riding as a family. My wife loves vegetable gardening, so I help her with that, and I personally love nature walks and bird watching – just being outside.

What attracted you to LESA?

I had some vague notions as to the back office side of LESA, as I’ve been to seminars, but I really didn’t know that someone in my position could work here. When I started my job search, I was exploring everything. I met with crown prosecutors to see if I wanted to get into that, I looked into all sorts of law jobs – in-house counsel, small firms, larger firms, returning to Lethbridge, and maybe even going back for a Master’s Degree. However, during my search, it became very clear that I wanted to work for an organization like this, though I assumed it would be as a lawyer. When I read LESA’s job description, I thought—they wrote that for me!

One of the things that really caught my attention was something I noticed when I first stepped foot in LESA’s office. There’s an atmosphere here that you can feel. I’m sure that there are very stressful days for people, but there is just something that’s light, refreshing, and exciting about this place. That was a huge draw for me … it kind of feels like I’m coming home.

On behalf of our LESA team, we look forward to getting to know you more and are excited for a successful year of LESA programming.

Welcome to the team Matt Sommerfeldt!

Weekly Program Feature: Collaborative Law Programs

 Calgary, Edmonton, Legal News: Alberta, LESA Update, News, Upcoming Seminars  Comments Off on Weekly Program Feature: Collaborative Law Programs
Jul 212016


Are you a lawyer who practices in the area of family law? Have you considered becoming a registered collaborative professional?

LESA offers collaborative law programs on an annual basis. Here’s what’s happening this year.

Basic Collaborative LawŸ Ÿ• Edmonton •Ÿ September 30 – October 1 2016

Interest Based Negotiations Ÿ• Edmonton Ÿ• October 20 – 23 Ÿ 2016

Mediation of Family and Divorce Conflicts Ÿ• Calgary •Ÿ May 15 – 19 Ÿ 2017

** NOTE: These are limited enrolment programs. **

** NOTE: Refer to the Collaborative Divorce Alberta Association (CDAA) for certification requirements.**

Basic Collaborative Law

This fall, attend the Basic Collaborative Law program and learn methods for dispute resolution that encourage mutual respect, allow for open communication, utilize a problem-solving approach, as well as identify and address the interests and concerns of all parties, including children.

Cover the 4 principles of collaborative practice.

  1. A pledge not to go to court;
  2. An honest exchange of information;
  3. Good faith negotiations; and
  4. A solution that considers the highest priorities of all parties.

Instructor Susan L. Zwaenepoel QC received her collaborative law training in 2001 and has been teaching this course for several years. Here’s what she has to say about collaborative practice.

Both clients and lawyers really benefit from this kind of work. … The clients gain access to support they wouldn’t necessarily have had in a traditional divorce … matters are often resolved quicker and more positively for everyone involved.”

Register for Basic Collaborative Law. (Limited Enrolment)

Interest Based Negotiations

Join instructors Suzan L. Zwaenepoel QC, E. Leith Martin, Sharlene Yanitski, and Marne Turnbull this fall for Interest Based Negotiations.

As Susan says, “Collaborative work is fundamentally a philosophical approach to family law. … It is geared toward problem-solving, cooperation and to providing the client with the support and tools to get through the process in a less litigious manner than in a traditional divorce.”

Learn the difference between principled and adversarial negotiations, delve into the 5-stage interest based negotiation model, and enhance practical skills, such as:

  • active listening
  • effective questioning
  • interactive learning
  • reframing

Register for Interest Based Negotiations. (Limited Enrolment)

Mediation of Family and Divorce Conflicts

Mediation of Family and Divorce Conflicts is one of the 3 pillars of collaborative law training. This five-day program will be instructed by 3 experienced collaborative professionals.

It is this harmonic range of different professionals – who provide the greatest ability to understand different perspectives – that makes this program successful. Attendees have come from the United States, Holland, and Switzerland and include judges, psychologists, lawyers, teachers, police officers, members of the cloth, politicians, and many other professionals.” – Dr. Larry Fong Ph.D., R.Psych

Register for Mediation of Family and Divorce Conflicts. (Limited Enrolment)


2016/2017 Educational Calendar Now Available

 Calgary, Edmonton, LESA Update, News, Resource, Seminars On Demand, Upcoming Seminars  Comments Off on 2016/2017 Educational Calendar Now Available
Jul 182016

2016/2017 Educational Calendar

The 2016/2017 Educational Calendar is now available!


We’ve been hard at work these past few months, developing a brand new list of LESA programming, selecting new Seminars on Demand, and providing other educational resources to assist in your 2016/2017 CPD planning.

What to Watch for

This year’s calendar is full of new programs, resources, key dates, and more. Search the alphabetical program listing on pages 3 – 10 to discover more than 40 programs across multiple practice areas.

Program Highlights

Check out this year’s program highlights (page 2). Please note that some of these programs have limited enrolment. Register today to save the date!

Seminars on Demand

Don’t forget to check out the list of Seminars on Demand that will be available this year (page 10). You can also watch for the Seminars on Demand icon beside titles in the alphabetical program listing.


Looking for CPLED information? Find key dates and volunteer opportunities on page 11. You can also find information in the visual calendar on pages 14 – 19.

Keep an eye out for the hardcopy calendar, which should be arriving in your mailbox soon. We’re looking forward to the upcoming educational year!

Contact Us!

If you have questions about any of our programs or resources, please contact our office 780.420.1987.

Recording Client Interviews

 Guest Blog, News  Comments Off on Recording Client Interviews
Jul 112016


We’ve all had important interviews with influential people, and it is likely that most of us have relied on a tape recorder as back up. That being said, technology doesn’t always work the way we’d like it to. Maybe you’ve forgotten to press record, had a battery die, or conducted an interview with a soft spoken individual rendering the recording virtually impossible to hear.

In today’s blog, the Honourable J.E. Côté provides tips for conducting and recording client interviews efficiently and effectively.

Happy reading!

Get tips on recording interviews from the Honourable J.E. Côté.Some interviews are very important. When you interview a new client for the first or second time, often you are focusing on temporary issues. For example, whether to act, whether any steps are urgent, and how you will secure payment. You subtly assume that nailing down all the details of what the client knows can come later. Yet when you come to prepare for trial after a few years, you realize that you went into the detailed facts only at the initial interviews, but your notes of them are brief and hard to understand. Yet your client may be your most important witness. And some details may well have faded from his or her memory.

Obviously you need better ways to record the details of important interviews in your office.

Possible Ways to Record Interviews

What is the best way to make and keep such records?

No method is perfect.

  • Handwriting is slow, and often hard to read. It is performed in front of the client, which makes the client more self-conscious, and less relaxed.
  • Sound recordings are sometimes hard to hear, especially if you do not use very modern high-quality digital equipment. Recordings are always laborious to transcribe, even if your assistant plays back on a machine with proper foot controls. Without such foot controls, the work is very frustrating. Furthermore, you will want the client’s consent before mechanically recording him or her, and the microphone will remain in view. That inhibits relaxed speech even more than do a pen and pad of paper.
  • Taking notes using the keyboard of a computer is a little better, but it is still not that fast. Especially if you do not keyboard very efficiently. It can be even more obvious and intrusive. Sometimes it is not much better than pen and paper.
  • Using dictation software would not work well, as the computer software would not be used to your client’s voice, and the computer might interrupt.
  • You could ask the client to go away and produce a full narrative in writing, either with a computer or with a pen in a notebook. Some clients can do that well, but most do not. And they will never know what topics you want to emphasize, or what is of little relevance.

Furthermore, any simultaneous method which you operate will distract your mind. It is like your university days: taking very full lecture notes hindered your paying full attention to the lecture. If you try to take full notes of an interview, you will not have a chance to notice gaps or obscurity in what your client says, let alone ask the client to clarify them. Listening to and watching the client, and thinking about what to ask next, keeps you fully occupied. Trying to write or keyboard as well, is serious overload.

The Best Compromise

There is one other way to make a record which can work well. Bring someone else to the interview, and have him or her take notes. That person can take them in pen, or with a quiet keyboard: whichever works best for the note-taker. A verbatim record is not necessary. If the note-taker is intelligent, he or she will get down the important points. Complete sentences are not needed. The notes can be proofread and expanded after the interview.

The person whom you bring to take notes may be an articling student, a paralegal, or an experienced legal assistant. That person will need a little advance instruction from you, until he or she gets used to this role.

Introduce the note-taker to the client. Ask the client whether it is o.k. for that person to attend the interview. Say that that person will keep the matters confidential the same way that you will. Ask the client if that person may take notes. Rarely will the client object to this procedure.

Then have the note-taker sit in a place which you have carefully chosen beforehand. You do not want the client to focus on the note-taker furiously scribbling. As with other methods, that would distract and inhibit the client. So the note-taker should not be right in front of the client, e.g. sitting beside you at the desk or table. But on the other hand, many clients will be nervous about having someone sitting behind them, or sitting far enough back that the client cannot see them. So the best location is off to one side. That way, the note-taker is not hidden, and the client can look over at the note-taker if desired. But the note-taker is far enough to the side that the client will not readily look at the note-taker, and will soon forget the note-taker. Especially if no noisy keyboard is used.

If you have confidence in the note-taker, you need take very few notes yourself: maybe just an address or a phone number. Or a reminder to diarize or check something. Since you are not a scribe, you are free to converse more spontaneously with the client and can pay very careful attention to what the client says and what he or she omits.


Have you tried this method? What do you think? Let us know on Twitter: @lesaonline

If you are interested in submitting a blog post relevant to Alberta’s legal community, please contact Andrea Maltais, Communications Coordinator at

Assist Peer Support Training Session

 Guest Blog, Legal News: Alberta, News  Comments Off on Assist Peer Support Training Session
Jul 082016


Assist Peer Training Support

On June 25, 2016, LESA’s summer student’s Katie Moore and Angela Beierbach had the opportunity to attend the Alberta Lawyers’ Assistance Society’s (Assist) peer support training session.

This confidential and discreet program allows participants to be matched with a peer support volunteer who is trained in having discussions with people in distress and can offer support, encouragement, and referral to appropriate resources.

Through peer support training sessions, volunteers learn valuable communication skills that can be used when providing peer support to participants. Here’s what Katie and Angela learned.

Body Language

First, body language is an essential component of creating meaningful conversation. It is important to ensure that the speaker feels that they have your full attention. This means planning a time when you can put down your phone, facing the person with open posture and avoiding distractions that can draw you away from the conversation.

Active Listening

Second, when you are looking to have a meaningful conversation it is important to be an active listener. Active listening involves ensuring that you have a strong understanding of the information being conveyed to you by asking questions and making observations.

This doesn’t necessarily involve frequent interruptions and fact-checks, but is more of a pointed checking in process through which you can both ensure that you are on the same page. This can be as simple as asking, “how does that make you feel?” or checking in with observations such as, “you sound upset about this.” Checking in demonstrates to the speaker both that you are listening and that you are making every effort to better understand the issue at hand.

Being Genuine

Thirdly, remaining genuine is key to creating meaningful rapport in any social situation. It can sometimes feel difficult to be yourself in a structured situation where you are trying to say the right thing or remember specific points of conversation, but staying grounded is an integral part of positive communication.

Being genuine will help conversation to flow more easily and create a more comfortable environment for both you and the person with whom you are speaking.
It is through communication tools like these that Peer Support volunteers are able to be positive resources for participants across Alberta.

About Assist

Assist is an independent, charitable Society that seeks to provide confidential help to lawyers, law students, and their immediate families with personal issues.
Assist offers many different resources beyond the peer support program that can help lawyers or families of lawyers with their personal needs. Some of these resources include offering counselling sessions with registered clinical psychologists, online modules, and proactive sessions throughout the year like AssistFit.

Contact Assist

For immediate help from Assist call 1-877-498-6898 (toll free) from anywhere in Alberta. For more information on Assist’s services or to access online resources please visit the website . To speak with someone at Assist about their services or volunteer opportunities please call 403.537.5508 or 1.877.737.5508.

If you are interested in submitting a blog post relevant to Alberta’s legal community, please contact LESA’s  Communications Coordinator, Andrea Maltais.

July Upcoming Legal Events

 CPLED, Legal News: Alberta, LESA Update, News  Comments Off on July Upcoming Legal Events
Jul 042016

July Upcoming Legal Events


It’s the beginning of July, which means the start of a new educational year at LESA. Watch your mailbox for the 2016/2017 Educational Calendar, filled with a fresh list of programs, seminars on demand, and key dates you won’t want to miss.


The 2016/2017 Student Guide and Program Agreement have been posted. Students from Alberta and the Northwest Territories can now pay tuition for the upcoming year. The deadline for documentation and fees is July 29. Get more information at

Legal Community Events


Win your firm the grand prize at AssistFit’s Line Dancing: Whoop-Up, July 12. And, on July 23, sweat your stress away at Assist’s private Spin Class at YYC Cycle.

If you want LESA’s help to raise awareness about an upcoming event relevant to the Alberta legal community, contact Andrea Maltais, Communications Coordinator.
780.969.0555 or


LSA Rules Amendments

 Legal News: Alberta, News  Comments Off on LSA Rules Amendments
Jun 212016

LSA Rules Amendments

The Rules of the Law Society of Alberta (LSA) [the Rules] were recently amended. The changes took effect on February 4, 2016. Key among the changes was the addition of a new rule (r 165.1) for an administrative rules suspension, which is intended by the LSA to streamline the reinstatement process for members who have been administratively suspended for non-payment of fees.


Under the new r 165.1, an administrative suspension occurs where a member of the LSA is subject to a rules suspension (defined in r 167(1)(b) as a suspension of membership imposed by the operation of rules 148, 149.3, or 165). Taken together, these rules mean that the non-payment of membership fees, professional liability insurance levies, or trust safety insurance levies will result in an administrative suspension.

Members of the LSA who are subject to administrative suspensions have 15 days from the date of the suspension to either make arrangements for an active practicing member of the LSA to assume conduct of the suspended member’s files, or to seek reinstatement through compliance with the rules and payment of outstanding fees or levies. Suspended members seeking reinstatement are also required to pay a suspension transaction fee (for the 2016 year, this fee was $236.25, inclusive of GST), though this fee may be waived by the Executive Director in some circumstances.

If the suspended member does not make the necessary arrangements or seek reinstatement within 15 days of the suspension, a Notice to the Profession of the member’s administrative suspension will be issued (for previously active members only), and a custodian will be appointed by the LSA for that member’s practice.

Members subject to administrative suspensions must seek reinstatement within 3 months from the date of suspension, in order to avoid the more onerous formal application for reinstatement, as set out in r 115.

More Information

For more information about the recent amendments to the Rules, and for a complete list of the changes, see the Rules Amendment History and the current version of the Rules (2016_V1).

ACIA’s Summer Training: Interpreters for Legal Settings

 Calgary, Legal News: Alberta, LESA Update, News  Comments Off on ACIA’s Summer Training: Interpreters for Legal Settings
Jun 152016

Alberta Court Interpreters Association (ACIA)

The Alberta Court Interpreters Association (ACIA) is in need of lawyers to participate in mock trials for Summer Training: Interpreters for Legal Settings.

This 5-day workshop (August 17 – 21, 2016), focuses on an overview of the criminal, family, and civil courts; terminology and processes embedded in these areas; skill development activities facilitated by interpreter educators and lawyers; and mock trial experiences.


The ACIA will hold mock trials on the following topics:

  • Assault;
  • Custody;
  • Impaired Driving, Refusing to Blow; and
  • Sexual Assault.

Debra Russell is an ASL-English interpreter and interpreter educator from Calgary who has been interpreting for 30 years in a range of medical, legal, mental health and employment settings. Debra is also a founding member of the Association of Visual Language Interpreters of Canada (AVLIC) and the Association of Sign Language Interpreters of Alberta (ASLIA). In 2011, she was elected President of the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI) and is also the Open Forum Editor for the International Journal of Interpreter Education (IJIE).

ACIA Secretary, Alex Zisman is a Spanish-English court interpreter, translator, and editor who was accredited as a Court Interpreter by the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario in 1986. He also obtained Interpreter Certification from Employment and Immigration Canada/Immigration and Refugee Board in 1992. He has worked as an interpreter for the Department of Justice Canada, the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario, the Immigration and Refugee Board, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Amnesty International, Legal Aid Alberta, and the Province of Alberta.


Click here for more information, including prices, registration forms, and pre-requisites for participation in ACIA’s Summer Training workshop.

For registration inquiries, contact Alex Zisman.

If you want LESA’s help to raise awareness about an upcoming event relevant to the Alberta legal community, contact Andrea Maltais, Communications Coordinator.
780.969.0555 or

49th Annual Refresher: Real Estate – Audio Now Available

 LESA Update, News, Resource  Comments Off on 49th Annual Refresher: Real Estate – Audio Now Available
Jun 092016

49th Annual Refresher: Real Estate - Audio Now Available

This year’s 49th Annual Refresher: Real Estate was a huge success! With more than 20 speakers covering topics such as eSignatures, Trust Conditions, Lawyer-to-Lawyer Relations, Foreign Ownership of Land, and more, attendees gained practical tips and valuable information to help improve their practice.

Did you Miss out This Year?

If you missed the chance to attend the Refresher, you’ll be pleased to hear that we captured it all on tape. Audio recordings are now exclusively available to LESA Library Subscribers.

Review the current status of the law concerning adverse possession and specific performance in Alberta with Jeffrey R. Fixsen, learn about increasingly significant factors affecting mortgages in the residential conveyancing practice with Roger Lennartsson, discover the top 10 considerations when acting for a purchaser with Heather M. Bonnycastle QC, and much more.

Topics and Speakers

Here’s a complete list of the topics covered at this year’s 49th Annual Refresher.

  • Rare but Relevant: Adverse Possession and Specific Performance | Jeffrey R. Fixsen
  • Title Insurance | Mae Chow, Ryan MacKay & Frank Maggisano
  • Real Estate Tips for the Rural Practitioner | Cyril Gurevitch QC
  • Lawyer-to-Lawyer Relations | Khalil Haji
  • Residential Mortgage Issues | Roger Lennartsson
  • The 3 Ps to Residential Real Estate Transactions: Paper, People, and Property | Kristin Ailsby
  • Alberta Land Titles Online: Summary Session | Curtis D. Woollard
  • Foreign Ownership of Land | Mark Christensen
  • Expropriation | Debi Piecowye
  • Builders’ Liens | Tim Mavko
  • Top 10 Considerations when Acting for a Purchaser | Heather M. Bonnycastle QC
  • Recent Case Commentary | John M. McDougall
  • New Home Buyers Protection Legislation | Hugh Willis
  • Non-Resident Vendors, GST, and Other Tax Considerations | Ebony Verbonac CPA, CA
  • Farm Property Transactions | Jason Stephan
LESA Snapshot Sessions

In addition, this year’s 49th Annual Refresher saw the first ever LESA Snapshot sessions. These short (10 – 15 minute) TED-style talks, led by Jason S. McCulloch, cover topics on protocol, trust cheques, and real property reports.


For more details on each of the discussion topics, view the program brochure or read our blog.

Stay up-to-date on important issues and changes in real estate law. Get your audio recordings of the 49th Annual Refresher today.


If you’re not already a LESA Library subscriber, you can learn more at or by watching the short introductory video below.


We’re happy to answer any questions you may have to help you get the most out of your LESA Library subscription. Email us at or call us at 780.420.1987 (or 1.800.282.3900 toll free in Alberta).