Nfld. & Labrador

Legal Aid tackles reputation problem with 'Real Lawyers for Real People' rebranding

The group says there's a misconception free legal help isn't worth much, and hopes a new name, logo and slogan change that.

Organization hopes new name, logo and slogan combat stereotypes

Shelley Senior of Legal Aid NL in western Newfoundland says the idea that legal aid lawyers aren't 'real lawyers' is a misconception. (Cherie Wheeler/CBC)

In an effort to shake the stereotype that its lawyers aren't qualified, the province's legal aid association has rebranded itself, with a new logo and name: Legal Aid NL.

There's also a new slogan: "Real Lawyers for Real People" is meant to let clients know they're in qualified hands. 

"Legal aid lawyers are in court almost every single day," said Shelley Senior, a legal aid lawyer in western Newfoundland.

She worked in private practice for 15 years before moving to legal aid about 11 years ago. Since then, she's noted that perhaps because people don't have to pay for legal aid, they think the lawyers' expertise isn't worth much. 

"For example, a judge will say, 'Are you going to apply to legal aid?' And they'll say, 'No, I'm going to get a real lawyer,'" she said.

Rebranding campaign

Senior said the commission wants people to know all the organization's lawyers have graduated from law schools, and have all been called to the bar in the province they work in.

"We do litigation, we do family law and criminal law, and both of those things require we spend an awful lot of time in court," Senior said.

"So I got a lot more court time and experience — litigation experience — in the last 11 years of my career."

It's social justice work, really- Shelley Senior

Senior said she's not sure where the misconception comes from, but doesn't think it's reflected in the pool of lawyers Legal Aid NL has in the province, who deal daily with people in serious crisis — from those in the criminal justice system, to family breakups, to children who have been removed from their homes by the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development.

"It's social justice work, really, and you'll get passionate young people who are interested in doing that kind of work," she said.

"Personally, I think we've got the best firm in the province."

This rebranding campaign comes about a year after director Nick Summers was forced to publicly defend the commission.

In April 2018 a man accused of sexual assault and sexual interference fired his legal aid lawyer, saying he "wanted to get a real lawyer, not one that is working for the government." 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from the Newfoundland Morning Show

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