Licensed paralegal expertise helps LAO’s Adrea Smith support clients

Posted: Friday, November 7, 2014

When Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) client service specialist Adrea Smith explains the court process to a caller who reaches out to LAO via its toll-free phone number, she draws upon first-hand experience.

She’s a Sheridan grad

Adrea is a licensed paralegal. She joined LAO’s call centre in 2010, immediately after graduating from Sheridan College’s two-year paralegal program. And she applies what she learned from her paralegal studies just about every day.

“The summary conviction course at Sheridan was particularly helpful,” she says. “I also learned a lot about what a good duty counsel can do during the 130-hour work placement I completed, as required for a paralegal license, at the Ontario Court of Justice criminal courts in Toronto.”

Helping LAO’s clients

At LAO, Adrea takes callers’ legal aid applications and determines their financial eligibility over the phone and on video from jails in southwestern and northeastern Ontario. She also directs callers to websites and resources that can help them in their matter.

Thanks to her paralegal training, when callers need a word of experience to allay their fears, she can provide it.

“Many have never been to court and are worried about what will happen,” she says. “I can explain the process and point them in the right direction – usually either to summary legal advice over the phone or to the duty counsel in court – just because I know what happens from having been there as a licensed paralegal.”

Volunteering at the Refugee Law Office

On top of this, Adrea has chosen to act on her interest in helping refugees and immigrants by volunteering at LAO’s Refugee Law Office twice a week after her day ends at the call centre.

She is happy to transcribe hearings, conduct country research, copy, bind and scan materials and do file management because of her commitment to serve this most vulnerable of populations.

“I can see, first-hand, the refugee process from beginning to end,” she explains. And the added experience helps me better help clients in my fulltime job!”


Patti Vipond
Communications advisor
Phone: 416-979-2352 x 6013