Thompson Rivers University

Building community through CLC

  Posted on: July 10, 2022

A TRU alum with a drive to improve access to justice is the supervising lawyer at the TRU Community Legal Clinic (CLC).

Kelly Melnyk joined the TRU Law school’s first full complement of students in 2013. After graduating, she moved to Lumby, BC, as part of the REAL program run by CBABC for her summer articling with Deuling & Company. Her passion for providing the community access to justice and breaking down barriers for those with limited resources began there, where she focused on criminal, estate and general civil litigation. 

The business side of the law was never appealing to her. While articling and then working as an associate with Joe Dueling in Lumby, she was inspired to give back to the community. After about two and a half years in Lumby, she and her husband started a hops farm outside Kamloops.

“My husband says I should have been a hops farmer,” she says. “I just wanted to help people, and somehow I would get paid to do that.”

She worked with Paul and Company for a year but longed to be more integrated with the community while assisting those that needed access to justice in the areas not covered by legal aid. At this crossroads, she heard of an opening with the CLC and was excited to be hired as supervising lawyer.

When asked what she enjoys most about her role, Melnyk says besides providing those in need with legal services, she loves instilling her passion for community in her students.

Unlike private practice, the Community Law Clinic comes with a gamut of challenges — not all of them legal. Melnyk says the CLC has worked with a social worker on some cases and directed clients to the appropriate resources. The CLC is making a difference, providing immediate access to marginalized people in the community and taking the burden off the justice system by triaging issues.

Despite the pandemic, the CLC has been thriving in the last couple of years, building on the support of former dean Brad Morse followed by Dean Daleen Millard. In the last two years, the CLC has reached more clients than before, despite limited resources and a small team. There is an ongoing work toward truth and reconciliation, including connecting students to the Cknúcwentn First Nations Court and observing local duty counsel, Mr. Graham Kay, at the sittings.

Melnyk is proud to be a TRU Law alum. She says the CLC benefits from a solid group of alumni who are there to help and drive change. 

Connect with Kelly Melnyk at kmelnyk@tru.ca

To learn more about CLC, visit: law/students/outreach/Legal_Clinic.html