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Classroom 'liaison lawyer' role ideal opportunity to give back

For lawyers looking to give back and impart their legal knowledge and experience on the next generation, acting as a liaison lawyer with a high school law class may be the ideal volunteer opportunity, Toronto business lawyer Inga Andriessen tells

Several years ago, Andriessen, principal of Andriessen & Associates and chair of the Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN) Halton Committee, started a program to match lawyers with teachers specifically for mock trial purposes. She has served as a volunteer judge at the Halton District School Board's mock trial program for a number of years.

Recently, however, Andriessen says this has evolved into more of a ‘liaison lawyer' program.

“The teachers expressed that desire to have lawyers involved in more than just coaching the mock trial team. They wanted the lawyers to be able to provide information to them on court cases or just answer questions they had or try to find speakers for their classroom, et cetera,” explains Andriessen.

As such, she says, the role has been expanded to pair the lawyers and law teachers for the school year.

“We're being a liaison for the teacher to get access to knowledge and legal education,” she says.

As part of the program, two lawyers are paired with a law teacher, requiring a commitment of a maximum of 10 hours, on average, from September to May, at the lawyer’s convenience.

Although acting as a coach for the school’s mock trial team is still one of the liaison lawyer's main tasks, Andriessen says speaking to students about their own potential legal career or other opportunities within the profession is another key role.

“We're talking to people who might want to be a paralegal, but they don’t even know what that is. ‘What's a paralegal? What's a law clerk? I don't have the marks to go to law school. I don't have the money to go law school, but I'm interested in a career in law. What are my other options?’ So it's really just about being that real-life resource to the teacher,” Andriessen says.

Lawyers also often provide the teachers with information or context on recent cases or decisions from CanLII.

“We all say to the teachers ‘we're here. Use us,’” says Andriessen.

Ultimately, while the program provides a number of benefits to the students, the lawyers also get the chance to give back and connect with a generation who sees the world differently.

“Everybody who has done it has always come away from the program feeling like they're invigorated in their own practice just because of the enthusiasm of the high school students,” she says.

Although Andriessen’s liaison lawyer work is focused on the Halton region, she says lawyers across Ontario have the opportunity to volunteer in similar programs through OJEN’s regional committees.

For more information, visit OJEN’s website or contact Andriessen at

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