Nearly 10 years ago, Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan noticed something peculiar about the people walking into his office – many of them were approaching him with legal issues, in hope he could provide advice.
So, he did something about it. He approached a lawyer in Langford in 2007 and asked him if he’d be prepared to hold a free legal clinic as part of his pro-bono work, or giving back to the community.
“For me, it was something I couldn’t help people with, so how could I find a way to get them the help that they need within the confines of my job as an MLA?” Horgan asked.
As it turned out, the outcome was overwhelmingly positive.
“It started with the first and third Wednesday of every week for a couple of hours, first come first serve, and we were just swamped,” he said, adding that it grew to such popularity that it now runs on the second and third Wednesday of every month.
Sooke was still mostly out of the loop, as Horgan noticed people were driving all the way into Langford to wait in line on a Wednesday night, but he figured that part out too.
“I approached Tom Balmer, a lawyer in East Sooke, to see if we could do a night in Sooke and take some of the pressure off,” Horgan said.
Now, people can meet with a lawyer in Sooke every second Wednesday of the month, at 6631 Sooke Rd. for their own slice of free legal advice.
“[Balmer’s] averaging around six people a night, and that’s providing some legal advice just to get people started or to let them know that if they want to proceed, it’s going to cost them a bag of money,” Horgan said, noting it gives people the opportunity to explore a legal matter without the need to spend any money, unless they choose to do so at their own expense.
“Most people are grateful for it, and some are repeat customers, and that speaks to a service useful to the community.”
It’s not just lawyers and politicians, though, part of Horgan’s repertoire is Hans Frederiksen, a retired sheriff of the Victoria court system, who helps out with legal advice.
“I enjoy trying to help people, because that’s what it’s all about,” Frederiksen said, who first began volunteering for Horgan in 2006, and brought on board part-time when the first legal clinic in Langford launched 10 years ago.
“You put lawyers and politicians together and something good comes out of it is a surprise,” Horgan laughed.
The next legal clinic in Sooke is Dec. 14, at 6 p.m. with two more on Dec. 14 and Dec. 21 at the Horgan’s Langford office at 2806 Jacklin Rd.
For more information, please call 250-391-2801.