Louise Kim: bringing home the benefits of pro bono service

There aren’t very many lawyers who get the chance to lead a case in the BC Court of Appeal within their first two years of call, but Louise Kim can already credit a win to her name thanks to her willingness to take on pro bono work.

Louise KimIt all started when Edwards, Kenny & Bray LLP (EKB), sent an email around the office asking if anyone would be interested in taking on a case for a group of Richmond tenants who were facing eviction. The landlord had issued eviction notices to the tenants claiming a need for vacant possession for renovations. Just four months after her call, and with no experience in residential tenancy matters, Louise decided to put her hat in the ring to see if the tenants would consider having her represent them on a pro bono basis.

“When the opportunity came up for Louise to take the case, management agreed that we should support this,” said Louise’s mentor, Robert Ward, a partner at EKB. “Supporting pro bono work is good for the public, it’s good for the firm and it’s certainly good for young lawyers because it gives them an opportunity to get into the courtroom.”

Since taking on the well-publicized case, Louise succeeded in defending dozens of tenants through six arbitration hearings and a case in the BC Supreme Court. The tenants contributed a small amount toward the cost of the arbitrations and court proceedings. When the landlord appealed the Supreme Court decision, Louise continued to represent the tenants in the BC Court of Appeal with support from Pro Bono Law of BC to cover the disbursements. On January 10, 2007, the Court of Appeal upheld the Supreme Court decision to set aside the eviction notices.

“We wouldn’t be in the situation we are in today if we didn’t have Louise and Edwards, Kenny & Bray on the case,” said Mark Allman, a tenant at Richmond Gardens. “For us to even take the case to a judicial review would have been impossible.”

EKB, which is now looking at developing a formal pro bono policy, supported Louise all the way through the lengthy process. To help her prepare for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, Louise had the assistance of David Turner, an articled student who is now an associate at the firm. And when it came time for her day at the Court of Appeal, Robert Ward came with her as assisting counsel.

“The partners supported and recognized my pro bono work, and it really helped to have my mentor in the room at the Court of Appeal,” said Louise. “Through this case, I was able to help numerous people stay in their homes, and help others who may find themselves in similar situations in the future.”

Louise was named the 2007 Judicial Review Program Lawyer of the Year by Pro Bono Law of BC. She recently began a new role as a policy analyst with Work-SafeBC.