Consumer debt negotiation project aims to enlist retired lawyers, judges, provide articling position An ambitious project at the University of Calgary Law School aims to solve at least two serious issues brought on by the economic fallout of COVID-19 — law school graduates who don’t yet have an articling position, and Albertans who have become swamped by debt thanks the pandemic hitting an already weak economy.

The consumer debt negotiation project at the Public Interest Law Clinic is part of a teaching program at the University of Calgary. Those Albertans with debt who are accepted into the project will receive legal advice from trained lawyers, but there will also be law students to help.

The program goes live for consumers with debt who want to sign up on Oct. 16, and the aim is to start actively working on cases by mid-November.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Albertans hard, says Christine Laing, executive director of the Public Interest Law Clinic. She adds that layoffs, job losses and business closures have all triggered financial chaos in the province. Christine Laing

“I think the pain in Alberta is just so great,” she says. “Falling into debt because of a drop in the economy blindsides people. They think they have things sorted out, and then ‘Boom,’ it all falls apart.”

Law students have also been impacted, with Laing saying it is estimated that more than 50 law students across Alberta looking for articling positions have been unable to secure a spot.

Through the consumer debt negotiation project, students will be working alongside volunteer lawyers to complete composite articles, while at the same time providing access to justice for many Albertans facing financial hardship.

Crowdfunding campaign launched

Laing says the idea of an unpaid articling position was quickly discarded “on the ethical grounds that these students should be paid,” says Laing. Instead, the clinic is using crowdfunding to raise money towards the articling student’s salary.While the goal was initially to raise $100,000 towards four articling positions with the debt negotiation project, Laing says a decision was made to slow things down a bit to demonstrate “proof of […]

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