Gillian Marriott – PBSC PartnerPrint
For Gillian Marriott, Q.C, law student pro bono is more than simply a training ground on the road to the legal profession. Marriot, Executive Director and founding member of Pro Bono Law Alberta (PBLA), credits student pro bono as “a key tool in dealing with the crisis of access to legal services”. She observes that “while students can’t give legal advice, they can play a role helping vulnerable individuals obtain key legal information and support.”
Gillian should know: during the time she has been ED of PBLA, she has taken a special interesting in working with PBSC and mentoring our students: “It’s a real pleasure to work with PBSC,” says Gillian. She adds, “it is one of the highlights of my job.”
Under Gillian’s leadership, PBLA and PBSC have formed a strong working relationship. Together the two organizations, along with McCarthy Tétrault LLP, developed the Calgary and Edmonton Small Claims Duty Counsel Project, in which volunteer duty counsel lawyers and supervised law students assist unrepresented litigants in navigating Small Claims Court. Gillian observes that the enthusiasm of the students rubs off on the lawyers, who are “thrilled to be working with the PBSC students.”
Gillian was also instrumental in helping our PBSC-Calgary chapter develop a Human Rights Project, where students assist complainants before the Tribunal and provides research support to members of the Commission. More recently, PBSC and PBLA partnered with Alberta Legal Aid to develop the Emergency Protection Order Project, in which law students are trained to support family law duty counsel as they assist survivors of domestic violence in securing court orders for protection.
On a personal level, Gillian enjoys working with PBSC volunteers because it creates opportunities to engage with students and see the work through their eyes. “The students are doing it for all the right reasons,” she says. “It makes them feel good, it’s the right thing to do, and they really want to help. I love that ethic.” As an adjunct law professor at the University of Calgary, Gillian takes the time to continue to mentor students even after they graduate, and to help them find pro bono opportunities in the profession.
Aside from the personal fulfillment Gillian derives from her pro bono activities, she firmly believes that it is a professional responsibility of all lawyers. “What I admire about PBSC, is that the program cultivates the pro bono ethic in the next generation of lawyers. Today’s PBSC volunteers become tomorrow’s PBLA volunteers.” When asked if she has one piece of advice for PBSC students she says: “Keep that excitement and enthusiasm when you get into practice!”