Friday, June 15, 2012

And the legacy of representing the unrepresented continues

By Lucianna Ciccocioppo

In a celebration of 40 years of representing those who couldn’t afford a lawyer, Downtown Legal Services at the Faculty of Law opened up its doors on June 13 to alumni, students and friends for an afternoon of reminiscing.

More than 130 guests gathered in the characteristic Fasken Martineau building on Spadina Ave. to reconnect with fellow DLSers and view the spacious location that students now have to volunteer their services.

The affable and long-time supporter Justice Harvey Brownstone spoke of his delight in working with Lisa Cirillo, acting executive director, in introducing family law services—unique to the DLS clinic only.

“It was a revolutionary idea, and long overdue,” said Brownstone. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for law students, working under the supervision of lawyers, and for the clients as well, as they would otherwise be unrepresented.”

Brownstone called the family law initiative a huge success, and said his fellow justices “love seeing the students.”

Legal Aid Ontario CEO Bob Ward spoke of the intrinsic commitment to social justice that the agency sees every day. “It’s important that current and future students know how much we value the education they receive while at DLS. The art of understanding and committing to social justice starts here at DLS,” said Ward.

Judith McCormack, DLS’s first executive director, spoke of the passion so many students had for their case files, “even the ones I thought were totally unwinnable. And then they turned around and won.”

Lwam Ghebrehariat, JD 2011, who was called to the bar the same day as the DLS event, brought his parents and sister, in town from Alberta, to the DLS event. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my call to the bar today.” Ghebrehariat said DLS helps create “the kind of lawyer the public needs. I gained incredible advocacy, communication and client-relationship skills. I learned as much from the clients and DLS staff as I did from any law course.”

Cirillo wound up the formal presentations with a birthday cake, but not before she encouraged guests to wander through the centre, view the historic photos and slide show, and leave a message or memory on the DLS timeline display [you can still send a memory to:].

“I also encourage you to read the wonderful expressions of gratitude, appreciation and relief from some of our client testimonials at finding the help they needed at DLS.”

Revisit the DLS event on our YouTube channel: . Photo gallery to come. Look for the feature story in the Spring / Summer 2012 issue of Nexus, in the mail soon.


Photos: Michelle Yee