Passion for helping people drives nurse-turned-lawyer
Ashlea Richard, JD’13, loves helping people. Before she became a lawyer, she completed her Bachelor of Arts in history, as well as her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. It was during her nursing studies that Ashlea’s parents got divorced, which sparked her interest in the intersection of law, family, and health care.
“Going through my parents’ divorce opened my eyes to many aspects that can affect family members in the same situation,” says Richard. “I realized then that pursuing a career in family law and child protection was my true calling.”
Richard moved to Calgary in 2010, looking for an adventure and knowing she would have a support system with friends in the city. She worked at Foothills Hospital in the operating room on the weekends, through the week between classes while in law school, to help cover costs. She knows she missed out on some of the social aspects of attending the Faculty of Law.
“I’m really glad I chose the University of Calgary, but I had to work a lot, so I didn’t make the most of the social atmosphere that I watched my classmates partake in,” recalls Richard. “If I had to do it over again, I would have made my social life a bit more of a priority.”
Richard has settled back in Halifax and is currently working as a staff lawyer with Nova Scotia Legal Aid. She provides support for the most vulnerable and historically disadvantaged including First Nations Peoples, African Nova Scotians, Immigrants, clients struggling with mental health issues and economically disadvantaged persons. Richard’s focus is on family law, with a bit of duty counsel (criminal law). She is also involved in the early stages of starting a Mental Health Court in Lunenburg and Queens County. Richard has been collaborating with her Managing Lawyer, the Crown, the Judiciary and other Courts in the province who have started similar programs.
“What I like about Nova Scotia Legal Aid is that I’m helping some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” says Richard. “Some of our clients have never had anyone in their corner, or to listen to them, and it feels good to be able to help them in some of their most desperate times.”
“I really feel like I do more nursing now than I did when I was nurse…it’s amazing how much the two professions have overlapped in my life,” she continues.
Richard also sits on the Children and Family Services Act committee for Nova Scotia Legal Aid, which meets monthly to discuss case law updates, provides the Commission with an annual conference to keep staff and lawyers current on the most recent case law and other hot topics in the field.