Kathy Moulton – Former CoordinatorPrint
Of the many high-needs areas for legal services, family law is right at the top. Demand is huge, with few support options for the thousands of litigants that can’t afford legal assistance or representation. The problem got exponentially worse for New Brunswick citizens in 2009, when government cuts to Legal Aid forced significant reductions in the services provided by mediators and duty counsel lawyers in family courts. That same year, Kathy Moulton took on the job of program coordinator at the University of New Brunswick chapter of PBSC. She immediately began arranging meetings with community partners, and cultivating the invaluable placement relationships so vital to PBSC’s work. At one of these meetings, Kathy spoke with the executive directors of local women’s shelters. “They kept talking about how all the cuts to Legal Aid were affecting their women and how there was basically no family law help for New Brunswick women with very little income,” says Kathy. “I thought we should do something about that.”
“The best part of the project is that the client gets to sit with someone for up to two hours who spends the time explaining legal concepts.”
After quickly drafting a project proposal and securing the support of both her supervisor and dean, Kathy recruited student caseworkers and supervising lawyers. With her team of volunteers in place, the UNB Family Law Project (FLP) started taking on clients. When a referral form from a shelter came in, Kathy would assign it to a PBSC student volunteer, who would then research legal information specific to the client’s situation. After a supervising lawyer checked the work, the student would meet with the client to go over the information. “The best part of it is that the client gets to sit with someone for up to two hours who actually spends the time explaining legal concepts to them,” says Kathy. “Having access to somebody who can explain a certain legal term or concept means a lot.”
In the FLP’s first year, ten unrepresented women received much-needed legal assistance from Kathy’s team of volunteers. For the partner shelters, FLLIP provided a valuable support resource they could offer clients facing a difficult period in their lives. “Not only is the program empowering, but the information has the potential of alleviating a lot of stress and anxiety,” says Judy Loukes, executive director of the Liberty Lane women’s shelter. “I applaud Kathy for taking the initiative when she saw the need and I applaud the successful results.”
The results were so successful, in fact, that Kathy received a prestigious Lexpert Zenith Award, winning Platinum in the category of Pro Bono by a Law School Student for creating and running the FLP. Though the project recently took its first summer break between school years, Kathy continued her dedication to pro bono service. She spent the summer working as the executive director of New Brunswick Pro Bono (NBPB), where she designed the new concept for a Fredericton legal clinic. Kathy will enter her third and final year at UNB in Fall 2010, and will continue her work at NBPB through the school year. She plans to article with the Newfoundland Legal Aid Commission in 2011.