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Thank You Donna Franey

Posted by Stephanie Hurley on November 12, 2021 in News, Legal Aid
Donna Franey (Image Provided)
Donna Franey (Image Provided)

A leader of Dalhousie Legal Aid Service (DLAS) and a champion of education, justice and community has retired after more than 30 years of dedicated service. Donna Franey finished at the Clinic in October, after holding the role of Executive Director since 1995.

The community legal aid office located in North End Halifax, forms a significant part of the curriculum offered at the Schulich School of Law, by providing an educational opportunity in clinical law for up to 44 third year law students. The Clinic is the only legal aid office in Nova Scotia providing dedicated services in the area of poverty law. It is also unique, in that its mandate includes engaging in community development and law reform work on behalf of low income communities as well as providing individual representation.

Donna took on the position of staff lawyer at the Clinic in 1990 and moved into the role of Executive Director five years later. Prior to that, she worked in private practice. An alum of Dalhousie’s law school, she graduated in 1986. She was admitted as a practising member of the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society in 1987.

Donna has been actively involved in the life of the clinic and local community. She oversaw the delivery of the academic program and skills sessions for students as well as professional development and management of clinic staff and delivery of services. She also carried a caseload of individual poverty, family and criminal law cases, and community development files. She has been continuously engaged in developing and revising the curriculum to enrich and grow the clinical law program.

“I had the good fortune of working with Donna for 21 years. She started out as my mentor and colleague and quickly became a valued and trusted friend,” says Heather McNeill, former DLAS lawyer and law school alum. “As the Executive Director of a teaching Clinic, she was always passionate about serving her clients, dedicated to teaching law students, and a huge supporter of access to justice for those living in poverty. Her commitment to these ideals not only influenced and impacted her clients, students and staff, but also the broader legal and Nova Scotian community. Donna has dedicated the better part of her legal career to the Clinic because of her desire for a more fair and equitable justice system. She has been, in my humble estimation, a purposeful motivator and leader, raising the reputation and esteem of Dalhousie Legal Aid Service throughout her tenure. I was very proud to be a part of her team.”

Over the years Donna has also been involved in numerous community organizations such as the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL), Bryony House, Adsum House, Bayer's Westwood Family Resource Centre, Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services, Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia, Committee Against Woman Abuse, NSBS Gender Equity Committee, Family SOS, and the Judicial Education Committee.

She has a passion for community engagement and social justice and has developed initiatives to engage the community for positive change through the provision of information, services, advocacy, organizing, law reform and community development.

“Donna has had an impact on the education of decades of Schulich Law students who have been fortunate enough to spend a semester in the Clinic. She has touched the lives of many clients, who come to the Clinic for information and advice that they would not be able to access otherwise. She has also played a vital role in the advocacy work that is an essential component of the Clinic’s mission. It is hard to measure the breadth and the depth of these contributions. She has done so much to make DLAS the force for good that it is today,” says Camille Cameron, Schulich Law Dean. 

“I have been privileged to spend the majority of my career at the Clinic surrounded by wonderful colleagues, incredible staff, interesting work and inspiring students,” says Donna. “As I contemplate my "second life", I will always draw on the extraordinary lessons I have learned from many extraordinary people—thank you all!”

Please join us in wishing Donna well in all her future endeavours as she embarks on this next chapter.