People needing legal aid in Williams Lake have access to a local office again.
Since November the local legal services office was closed temporarily while a new local agent was being sought.
“It was a hassle for people,” said Dan Patterson, the 30-year-old lawyer who put in a successful application to be the local agent for legal services. “People had to have phones, minutes for calling, and a way to get their documents to Vancouver.”
Patterson and intake worker Carmen Kallman opened for business on Wednesday in a conference room located on the fourth floor of the Williams Lake courthouse.
By mid-afternoon, Kallman had processed five applications.
“Now the applications will be assessed to determine if they qualify for aid,” she explained.
Moments later a client knocked on the door to hand in some of his necessary paperwork.
The legal services society provides assistance to people who cannot afford a lawyer, generally for criminal matters, although sometimes people who are dealing with immigration, mental health or serious family cases, such as violence or child protection, access the services.
There are also many helpful publications on the Legal Services Society website at http://www.lss.bc.ca, Kallman said.
Last August Patterson moved to Williams Lake fresh from Thompson Rivers University’s law school in Kamloops to article with John D. Russell.
“I got involved with legal aid cases in Williams Lake,” Patterson said of one of the reasons he felt compelled to re-open the local office. “When the Legal Services Society put out a contract for tender in February I put together an application.”
The legal aid contract is something the two of them will work at part-time. And they will draw from the legal aid lawyers available in Williams Lake.
Recently Patterson joined the firm of Oliver and Co. where he is a general litigator for criminal and family law. Kallman said she will continue with her position at the Women’s Contact Society as the good food box co-ordinator.
Office hours are Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., phone 250-267-5454, fax 250-398-7423. The courthouse is located at 540 Borland Street.