LESA Welcomes Matt Sommerfeldt to the Team

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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!

Meet Craig Edhart: A LESA Education Assistant

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Mar 222016

Craig Edhart

Since Craig Edhart started at LESA in July 2014, he’s worked in most areas of our organization on many different projects and tasks. His unique role and shifting responsibilities have allowed him to work closely with most people in the office, something he values.

There are some people who work a little more in their own area, but because I am able to work with almost everybody, I am able to see how supportive we really all are, in being one team – the team of LESA.”

The feeling is mutual Craig – the rest of us appreciate how you contribute to the LESA team with your serious but humorous nature and work-hard, play-hard attitude. If you’ve ever called LESA to inquire about CPLED, to place an order, or to register for a seminar – you’ve also likely had the pleasure of talking to Craig and getting his assistance – which is freely offered and followed through on directly.

Since Craig is one of the LESA staff you’re likely to deal with if you’re calling or emailing LESA, we thought you might want to know a little more about him.

What does Craig do at LESA?

When Craig was on LESA’s Integration Team, he took care of administrative duties, supported special projects, and backed up most of his fellow Integration Team coworkers – including the CPLED Student Coordinator – Ashley Iachetta.

Now that Craig is an Education Assistant, he plays an even bigger role supporting the CPLED Program. While he still supports Ashley and helps handle CPLED student inquiries and tasks, he also works with Bronwyn Connolly – LESA’s Education Coordinator responsible for supporting the CPLED Program’s online Learning Group Facilitators and Evaluators (LGFs and LGEs). This all means that Craig is busy with many CPLED duties, answering student emails or calls, contacting LGFs and LGEs, processing grades, preparing surveys, and more.

One thing Craig likes best about working at LESA is that no two days are ever same. That’s a relief, since in addition to his CPLED responsibilities, he also helps prepare for our live events – seeing various tasks through from start to finish.

What does Craig want you to know about LESA?

Craig enjoys the friendly, supportive team environment at LESA as well as the opportunities he’s had to interact with and provide service to Alberta’s legal community. His work has helped him improve his communication and project management skills, by working on things like the LESA Library and CPLED projects. It’s LESA’s innovative approach to these things that he wants others to know about.

We’re always striving for excellence; our ideas come from that vision. We’re not happy with the status quo. That’s what struck me. That’s actually what made me excited to work here even before I started. …. LESA really … challenges ideas and is always pushing forward. Whether it be new technology, new ideas, new ways to deliver products or education to our customers, we’re always looking to see how things could be done better.”

What else should you know about Craig?

While some people define themselves by their occupation or education, Craig prefers to describe himself to others based on his personality and passions. In that case, to understand Craig, you need to know that he loves hockey, spends a lot of his spare time on the ice as a ref, and volunteers in an executive role in the refereeing community. He also loves working with people, is patient, and handles stressful situations well. All of which make him a good teacher (he loves training people!) and an excellent resource when you’re phoning or emailing in to LESA with an inquiry.

Do You Know Bronwyn Connolly?

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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!

LESA Welcomes our 2015 Summer Students!

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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!

Carolyn Bernardin Celebrates 25 Years at LESA

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Apr 272015

We’re celebrating a special anniversary at LESA tCarolyn Bernardinhis week. Carolyn Bernardin has been with our organization for 25 years! To celebrate this milestone, we wanted to give Carolyn a big shout out to acknowledge all that she does for LESA and the legal community we serve here in Alberta

You can help us celebrate Carolyn too! Let’s get 25 social media shares (click the icon at the bottom of this post) – one for each year of Carolyn’s service – to show her how much we appreciate her!

If you’ve called LESA to ask questions about a program or to register for a seminar over the past few years, chances are you’ve talked to Carolyn. She’s the knowledgeable and helpful person who greets you when you call our main line (unless she’s busy assisting someone else or off on a vacation to Vegas!).

Since Carolyn’s one of our front line staff, we wanted to give you the scoop about who she is and what she’s up to here at LESA.

Tell us about your career. What led you to LESA?

I knew someone who worked at LESA, and she asked me if I would do the on-site seminar registration. I had just moved here from BC, and I was working at a job here for a travel company, so I did the registrations on a part-time basis.

How has your job changed since you started doing the part-time seminar registration? What kind of things have you done at LESA?

I’ve done reception, seminar registration, publication orders and subscriptions, daily deposits, BarAd [now CPLED] registration, receivables … pretty much everything we do here I’ve done part of it at one time or another.

What keeps you busy in your current position as our Information Specialist?

Day-to-day talking to people, getting information, finding out what people want us to provide for them, dealing with concerns that people have, and just generally getting information out to people about upcoming seminars.

What do you most love about your job?

The variety. I never do the same thing two days in a row.

What would you want others to know about LESA?

If they’re unaware, I would really like them to know about our vision and our mission statements.

  • Our vision is to set the standards of excellence in the education of lawyers, articling students, and their staff.
  • Our mission is to serve the spectrum of educational and professional development needs of Alberta’s lawyers, articling students, and their staff.

What are you most looking forward to about the summer?

I’m really looking forward to going to Chicago [for ACLEA’s 51st Annual Meeting], to get other people’s perspectives and to learn something from other people who do what we do. I’m also looking forward to being an exhibitor and sponsor at two upcoming programs in Alberta – the Federation of Law Societies’ Annual National Criminal Law Program in Edmonton (July) and the CBA’s Legal Conference in Calgary (August).

How do you fill your time when you’re not at work?

I get together with friends. I like eating out. I like the river valley, and I spend a fair amount of time walking. And I spend time with family. Reading is also really big on my to-do list.

Where would you recommend that someone go to eat in Edmonton?

Well, if that someone was me, it would probably be the Tea Palace.

So now you know a little more about Carolyn than you did before, and you can think of her when you pop into the Tea Palace for some dim sum. We hope you’ll also be in touch (780.420.1987) to talk to her if you have any questions about our programs!

Have You Met LESA’s Janette Sztym?

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Apr 012015

Janette Sztym - Education CoordinatorIf you’ve attended a LESA seminar, worked as a LESA volunteer, or been a CPLED student over the past year and half, you’ve likely had the pleasure of meeting Janette Sztym, one of LESA’s Education Coordinators.

Janette’s meticulous nature, organizational skills, and calm presence make her the perfect person to keep our live events running smoothly.

And Janette’s job involves a lot of moving parts.

First there’s all the background work and logistics: planning and monitoring the progress of educational deliverables, coordinating the recruitment of subject matter experts, booking audio visual providers, and serving as the primary contact with our event facilities.

Afterwards, Janette handles expense claims and makes sure our volunteers are reimbursed for their expenses (we know you all appreciate this!).

In between, there’s everything to take care of on-site. We asked Janette what she does when she’s getting ready for a seminar. Here’s her checklist:

  • I set up equipment,
  • I check on the banquet’s event order to make sure all the food is right,
  • I work with my AV crew,
  • I greet our volunteer speakers and make them comfortable before starting,
  • I help out at the registration table for our guests, and
  • I address any issues that come up where something doesn’t go as planned.

Janette also takes care of many things on-site for CPLED Face-to-Face sessions:

  • I help Kathy Fortier set up the equipment,
  • I greet our volunteer facilitators,
  • I direct CPLED students, and
  • I enter marks as they come in from the evaluators on competency evaluation days.

And Janette’s goal each time she’s on site? “I want it to look like nothing happens. … No issues is what I aim for.

Now that you know how much Janette does for you in the background of all our events (including making sure you’re fed at lunch and coffee!) make sure you give her a big smile when you see her at our next event. After all, she does it all for you. When we asked her what she liked best about working at LESA, it was the “opportunity to meet and work with the legal profession across the province” that was at the forefront for her.

Meet LESA’s Student Coordinator – Ashley Iachetta

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Jan 232015

Ashley Headshot 2If you’ve been involved with CPLED, particularly as a student, you’ve likely met Ashley Iachetta—our Student Coordinator. At very least, you’ve received her informative emails or heard her friendly voice when you’ve called to ask a question about the CPLED program.

Ashley’s willingness to go the extra mile, her bright smile, and her easy laugh are loved around the office, and we’re betting that you appreciate them too.

For those of you who don’t know Ashley—or for those who know her only by her email signature—we thought you might like to get a bit better acquainted.

Tell us about your role at LESA.

I’m the Student Coordinator, so I take in any information related to CPLED students: all of the questions, concerns, requests, accommodations, deferrals, excused absences, and any feedback in relation to the online and face-to-face modules. I’m the go-to person for student inquiries.

I’m also the LESA staff member who students contact to register. When the new 2015-2016 year begins, I’ll be the main contact for new students.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My typical day would start off by checking my email. I usually get quite a high volume of emails coming in from students asking questions. Then I would check voice mail as well. I also go through any paperwork that has come in, such as requests or deferrals.

How many students do you talk to on an average day?

It really depends on the time of the year and the time of the month. If a CE (competency evaluation) is due within the week or due that day, the number of conversations I have with students increases quite substantially. It could be up to 30-some conversations in a day.

Why do you like working at LESA?

I think LESA offers a great working environment. I feel like they care—not only about serving the legal community but also about their staff. They’re very engaged, they’re committed, and they’re all about fit and comfort. They want people to be happy, so they do what they can to make that happen.

I also feel like the people who work at LESA actually enjoy what they’re doing, and it’s not just because they enjoy sitting at their desk and doing that work. They also enjoy the people they work with. Relationships are built, people actually care, and we all have the same goal of providing incredible service to the legal community.

What do you like most about your job?

I’m very much a people person, so I really enjoy talking to students all day. That’s much better than just sitting behind a desk not really getting to see how people are doing. I enjoy getting to know the students that come in and go out of the CPLED program. I really love working with people, and I’m very hands-on, so it’s nice to interact with students.

One thing that I really enjoy about this job is when you are doing what you can to help students in any way possible and your hard work is recognized and appreciated. Just having that little “Thank you” or “I appreciate it” or “You’ve been a great help” goes a long way. That’s something I look forward to, and when it happens I love it. That’s one thing I love about my position: when I can help somebody or make them feel good or just do what we can to try to accommodate and make things a little bit easier, because articling can be tough at times, and so can CPLED. When you’re doing what you can, it’s nice to know that it’s appreciated. It makes me feel good.

I’ve been with LESA for just over five years, and it’s because I love it here. I think it’s a great work environment, and I’m happy to be here.

What do you like to do with your free time when you’re not in the office?

I have a lovely, handsome dog, named Rocky—he’s a labradoodle. I love him. He’s 7 years old, and my soon-to-be husband and I spend a lot of time with him. We love going for walks, runs, and taking him to the dog park. I’m very family orientated, so I also love spending time with my sisters.

What are you most looking forward to in 2015?

I am looking forward to my wedding in Mexico! I’m very excited!

We’re excited for Ashley too! And don’t worry, while she’s off enjoying her big day in the sun, Craig Edhart will be providing CPLED students with all the friendly and informative assistance they’ve come to expect from Ashley.

We’re also excited to start registrations for the new CPLED year (2015-2016) once Ashely returns. We anticipate that registration will open at the end of February, so current 3rd year law students should watch for the CPLED info sessions that will be coming to the U of A and the U of C.

Staff Profile: Carolyn Bernardin’s 23 Years with LESA

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Sep 192013

Carolyn Headshot 3Since Carolyn Bernardin began her career with LESA in 1990, there have been many changes in the organization. Carolyn has witnessed three changes in leadership and has seen many colleagues come and go. The one thing that has not changed over the years is LESA’s mission to provide high quality continuing legal education for Alberta’s lawyers, articling students, and their staff.

“LESA has both stayed the same and changed a great deal. We have always tried to give the profession the CLE that is timely and informative,” explains Carolyn.  “We now do our planning much further ahead, so people know what programs will be held a year in advance. Plus we cover all six areas of substantive law and a number of skills seminars every year.”

After being hired for a year to assist with registration on a part-time basis, Carolyn became a full-time employee and held several positions in the organization – everything from reception and collections to registrations for CPLED (formerly BarAd) and Live Events.

“I’ve done publication orders and maintained subscriptions, gathered information to inform the Live Events team about hot topics for legal profession, and worked with educational resources to cross-market their products at seminars.”

Carolyn’s favourite role by far is her current one as an Information Specialist in which she is the go-to-person for all kinds of information – everything from CPLED registrations to seminar information and all the hard-to-answer questions.

After 23 years, it’s understandable that Carolyn would have a lot of LESA memories. The one that stands out in her mind, though, is when LESA completed the Rules of Court in 2010.

“It was a great sense of accomplishment to have a huge project like new rules – to work closely with other members of the staff and to do it well.”

Because of dedicated staff members like Carolyn Bernardin, LESA continues to set standards of excellence in the education of lawyers, articling students, and their staff.

Find out about more about LESA’s staff and mission as well as upcoming seminars at www.lesa.org.



LESA Welcomes New Associate Director, Christine Hunter

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Jan 052011

LESA welcomes new Associate Director of Educational Resources, Christine Hunter to the team. We sat down with Christine to share with you a little about who she is, where she comes from, and what drives her ambitious spirit.

Christine, please share with us a bit about your background. Education, family, work?
I attended the University of Alberta where, after a semester abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, I received my Bachelor of Commerce. I went east to Queen’s for my first year of law school but returned to the U of A to finish my law degree. Following this, I clerked at the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, in Calgary, and was hired as an associate at a large, national firm focusing on Commercial Real Estate. After two years of private practice, I decided to continue with my education and moved to New York City to obtain my Master of Laws at Columbia University. I have now happily moved into my role at LESA and am excited for this new challenge.

I relocated to Edmonton when my partner, Adam, also a lawyer, found a new job in the city. We recently purchased a home and I am immersed in the decorating process!

What influences you the most?
I am most influenced by the people who work around me – knowing that I’m part of a dedicated team just motivates me to achieve as much as I can.

What led you to pursue a career in the legal profession?
I was always interested in education and business and originally chose to attend business school. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to head after my business degree but I knew I wanted to continue with my own education. Law school seemed like the natural progression as it gave me the opportunity to do exactly what I wanted – researching, writing and learning as much as I can about a number of subject areas. Now that it has led me down an education path, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A teacher!

You seem to be an ambitious and driven individual – what motivates you?
I have always been a classic ‘first-born child’ and motivated by the desire to do the best job at whatever position I am in. Ensuring that the people I’m working for are getting everything that I can possibly provide is a huge motivating factor for me.