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Epstein Cole Sponsors External IPV Articling Placement

Alina-Oriana Valchi | Ferreira & Bettencourt LLP | Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic

Epstein Cole Sponsors External Articling Placement with Focus on Intimate Partner Violence Services

Epstein Cole recognizes the need to support mentoring opportunities for family lawyers working with vulnerable family law clients who are victims of intimate partner violence (IPV).  These clients face complex legal, emotional and financial challenges.   To support compassionate and skilled advocates who serve this client base, Epstein Cole is sponsoring an external 2022-2023 articling placement for Alina-Oriana Valachi with Ferreira & Bettencourt LLP under the supervision of Gisel Bettencourt and Darlene Rites.

Alina will graduate from the University of Toronto Law School with a joint JD/MSW degree in 2022.  Alina has demonstrated a dedication to working with victims of IPV, both in her 10+ years of social work experience prior to law school and during her JD/MSW program, most recently as Project Manager with the David Asper Center of Constitutional Rights and Dr. Barbra Fallon from the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, to develop the Law Foundation of Ontario-funded "The Child Welfare Toolkit".  Alina has personal and professional experience addressing immigration, resettlement and mental health challenges faced by women, and their children, victims of IPV.  Alina is multi-lingual, speaking French, Romanian and Urdu.

Gisel Bettencourt and Darlene Rites are seasoned family law lawyers who have assisted many IPV clients with the requisite specialized knowledge-base.  They are sensitive and tactical advocates in the IPV area where many family lawyers feel uncomfortable.  Gisel was called to the Bar in 1998 and immediately established herself as a sole practitioner primarily in the area of family law & wills/estates.  Gisel has trained law students, was a supervising family law lawyer at Community Legal Aid Services Programme (student legal aid clinic at Osgoode Hall Law School), a Panel Member of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, the Chair of Abrigo (social service agency) and has worked with various organizations serving women fleeing abusive relationships, including Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic.  Darlene was called to the bar in 2011 and joined Ferreira & Bettencourt in 2012.  Darlene was co-founder of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (L.E.A.F.) chapter in Windsor Law School and has acted as Domestic Violence Advice Counsel to Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic and Abrigo Centre.  Gisel speaks Portuguese and Darlene speaks Portuguese and Spanish.

In addition, as part of this initiative, Alina will be volunteering with Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic in the #AndMeToo project where she has, over the course of her last academic year, supported the Clinic to increase access to justice for women of precarious status and employment who have experienced workplace sexual assault or harassment. Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Clinic is also supporting Alina's involvement with an Honorarium.

Epstein Cole is privileged to be able to sponsor this collaborative articling position among Alina, Gisel, Darlene, and Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic to create this specialized mentorship opportunity.  

We encourage other law firms to partner and fund articling opportunities for students at external firms for underserviced practice areas to promote access to justice and mentorship.