It is National Duty Counsel Day today, October 27, and I want to take this opportunity to recognize and thank the 450 of you who provide duty counsel services in BC. Duty counsel are the front lines of the front line. I should know – I was duty counsel not that long ago, in another jurisdiction. I know that it can be a mix of highly gratifying work, along with some grinding and, occasionally, moments that require true humility.
Some duty counsel are very experienced, senior members of the bar, offering ingenious arguments and modelling tireless patience with challenging clients (and Crowns and judges and opposing counsel). But they too must roll up their sleeves to run something over from one courtroom to another, at least back when virtual courtrooms were science fiction. Others focus their work less by way of courtroom advocacy than advising people in dire legal straights. Either way, as far as I’m concerned, duty counsel are rescue workers within the legal system of British Columbia.
The vast array of legal issues that duty counsel might address affects the most vital personal interests. In addition, the courts, judiciary, Crown prosecutors, tribunals, and opposing counsel rely heavily on the assistance provided by duty counsel.
Last year, duty counsel assisted clients more than 81,000 times; Brydges Line handled nearly 20,000 calls, and Family LawLINE helped over 4,800 people. Thank you for helping so many legal aid clients to exercise their rights under the law and thank you for bettering their lives on behalf of Legal Aid BC.
CEO, Legal Aid BC