WLGL Hires First Articling Student

The Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge (WLGL) hired its first articling law student, Sarah Kriekle, this past summer.

Kate Turner - 25 October 2021

The Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge (WLGL) hired its first articling law student, Sarah Kriekle, this past summer. The process of articling is the practical experience phase of legal education, where graduated law students work with an experienced lawyer for a year while they complete the bar admission course through the Canadian Center for Professional Legal Education (CPLED). Kriekle approached WLGL and asked if they would be willing to set up a formal training arrangement, and she articled under WLGL lawyer Koren Lightning-Earle as her principal.

Kriekle, a 2021 graduate of the University of Alberta JD program, articled with WLGL as part of a composite article, which was presented as an opportunity from the law firm in Red Deer she is articling with. Given the experiences and work she had done during her law degree, the firm supported the opportunity to gain experience in the work WLGL does.

Koren Lightning-Earle, WLGL lawyer and lecturer in the Faculty of Law, said in summer 2020 WLGL hired 4 summer research students, an idea that came from working with community partners. With the addition of community funding, WLGL was able to use their funding to hire an articling student.

While at the WLGL, Kriekle worked on the initial research phases of WLGL’s community projects, working with communities that had reached out to WLGL for support in developing their laws. She also supported the summer research students with their projects, as she was a summer research student at WLGL during summer 2020.

During her time articling, she also assisted in developing legal education materials, especially related to Rights of the Child under Bill C-92 and participated in meetings to see how to build relationships with communities.

Kriekle described her experience articling with the WLGL as “amazing,” adding that the way law is practiced at WLGL is different from other organizations.

“The way that they approached everything is just so holistic and so needs-based, and it's very community and people centred, so it’s just a different way of practicing law that I’m really happy that I got to work in for a little bit so that I can bring that with me into my practice as I move forward,” she said

Doing composite articling terms are rare, Lightning-Earle said, as most law students only article with one principal. However, she added that this is a way for students to get experience in different areas where they might practice law in the future.

“It’s a new way to look at articling for students, and that there are options to create experiences that help students in the work that they want to do,” she said. “Not everybody wants to go the traditional firm route, so this gives some people an opportunity to step outside of that and get experience working directly with community right away.”

Kriekle articled at WLGL for two months, but she and Lightning-Earle both recommended a four-month term for future students to see more of the community projects and the work the WLGL does. There is a hope that other articling students could work with WLGL in the future.

“That would be the ideal plan, is to continue with this process, it worked out so well, so I think we’re looking at how we can do this again. Maybe in a longer term, maybe go to three to four months, just because two months is such a short time, just seeing if there’s a way that we can do it longer, so we’re looking at our funding structures, and looking at partnerships with firms that are open to composite articles that see the benefit in them working with us,” Lightning-Earle added.

After she has completed her year of articling, Kriekle hopes to start off doing child welfare work after seeing a lack of available people with legal training to help with Bill C-92 and child welfare in Indigenous communities.

“I had always kind of shied away from child welfare because it’s just such heavy work, but I feel like with so much of my research having been dedicated to C-92 and so much of the work that I’ve done with Wahkohtowin, and with Hadley [Dr. Hadley Friedland], I feel kind of called to at least start out with child welfare,” she said. “I’m hoping that in doing that, it kind of builds the relationships that I need to get into the governance and law-making side of things, similar to what Wahkohtowin is doing, because there’s a lot more demand there than there is capacity to do the work.”