banner banner
Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Strategies for Lawyers Dealing with Clients or Other Parties with Addictions or Mental Health Issues

July 4, 2023 @ 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Seminar Overview    

As a lawyer, you are likely to encounter clients or other parties who suffer from addictions or mental health issues, which can significantly impact their ability to make sound decisions and engage in legal proceedings effectively. This seminar aims to equip lawyers with the necessary skills and strategies to navigate such situations with empathy, sensitivity, and professionalism.

During this seminar, you will learn how to identify and understand some common addictions and mental health issues that clients or other parties may experience. Our presenters will cover effective communication strategies that can help lawyers establish trust and rapport with individuals who are afflicted with addictions or mental health issues and highlight some of the resources that are available to help. The seminar will also provide guidance on how to effectively advocate for clients, manage expectations, and develop realistic goals and strategies for their cases. You will leave with a deeper understanding of these conditions and a greater ability to communicate, advocate, and navigate complex legal situations with empathy and professionalism.

Seminar Presenters

Valerie Corcoran

Valerie Corcoran is the Coordinator for the Newfoundland and Labrador Drug Treatment Court (“DTC”) in St. John’s. She holds the dual role of being responsible for the continued oversight of the DTC and as the second member of the Drug Treatment Court Services treatment team. In 2023, she will be responsible for the expansion of DTC’s to other regions of the province.

Her experience in justice and specialty treatment courts was gained through her position with Legal Aid NL as Risk Assessment Officer with the Family Violence Intervention Court and through working within the federal and provincial prisons as Federal Prison Liaison with the John Howard Society of NL.

In addition to her experience in criminal justice, Val holds a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology with a certification in Clinical Traumatology.

Mark Gruchy

Mark Gruchy has practiced in Criminal Defense since his call in 2007. He currently works with the Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission’s Special Defense Unit. His work there focuses on complex and serious criminal law matters. The unit handles all files involving death being carried by the NL Legal Aid Commission.

He is also a well-known mental health advocate and speaker. Mark was the President of the Canadian Mental Health Association – NL for six years, which made him the longest standing President in that organization’s history. He has appeared in local and national media numerous times speaking on mental health subjects. He has spoken to a wide range of community groups ranging from the judiciary to inmates at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary.

Mark received the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission Human Rights Award in 2016. He has also received the NLC President’s award for saving lives, the National CMHA Consumer Involvement and Pottle Award, and the 2017 Canadian Senate Sesquicentennial Award.

Mark has a history of lived experience with mental illness. Bipolar disorder is relatively common in Mark’s family. Mark’s father, who had bipolar disorder, suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke when Mark was nine. Mark experienced an immediate and severe emotional change, showing signs of depression and intermittent periods of emotional intensity which manifested as sleeplessness and energetic outbursts. Despite being a top performing student all the way though school, Mark was forced to leave school as a youth due to mental illness having experienced a steadily decline in his ability to attend due to severe depression commencing around Grade 4, culminating in his barely attending Grade 12 at all.

After time outside of the school system, he returned via a specialized adult basic education program for people with mental illnesses. Mark’s friends in this program experienced the full range of mental illnesses one normally thinks of. This program allowed Mark to complete three years of high school in one year. He then proceeded to perform very well in university, ultimately becoming a Lord Beaverbrook Scholar in Law at the University of New Brunswick.

Patricia Kirby

Patricia Kirby (nee Carpenter) was called to the Bar in April 2000.  She spent the majority of her career in public law, first as a Crown Attorney, then as a Staff Solicitor/Area Director with Legal Aid NL, before returning to private practice With Mills Pittman Twyne in February 2023 as the “World’s Oldest Junior Associate”.  Patricia is a strong advocate for mental health and autism awareness.  When not working, she enjoys cooking, baking, spending time with her family, and creating impudent cross-stitch samplers.

Riley Moss

Riley Moss was called to the NL bar in 2003. Since then, she has practiced in all areas of Newfoundland and Labrador at all levels of court. She has many years’ experience practicing in interdisciplinary settings. She has additional training in mediation, collaborative practice, trauma-informed practice, and restorative justice. For many years, she practiced family law, specializing in child protection. Through this work, Ms. Moss has worked with many clients who experience mental health and addictions issues and are among the most vulnerable clients involved in the court system. Most recently, Ms. Moss worked in the Legal Aid Mental Health Office, as one of two Legal Aid lawyers who handle the clients of Drug Treatment Court and Mental Health Court, as well as provincial Mental Health Care and Treatment Act reviews and the Federal Review Board (clients who are found unfit or not criminally responsible). She has just returned to private practice after fifteen years at Legal Aid NL.

Kara Pinksen

Kara Pinksen is the Addictions Specialist with the Newfoundland and Labrador Drug Treatment Court in St. John’s. She is a social worker with 20 years’ experience working in the field of addiction and mental health. While living in Fredericton NB, she was involved in the development of their Opioid Treatment Program. Upon returning to NL in 2012, Kara began work with Eastern Health doing addictions prevention work and community education. Throughout her career, she has maintained a special interest in working with offenders and served as the first Eastern Health Addictions Counsellor at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary prior to accepting her current position as DTC Addictions Specialist.

Kara holds a Master of Social Work and has a part time private practice with a special interest in trauma work as well as gender and sexuality.

Registration Fee
$115.00 ($100.00 + HST)
HST # R108086463

To register for this seminar, please click the following link:

CPD Credit
3 hours


July 4, 2023
1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Event Category:


Law Society of Newfoundland & Labrador


3rd Floor, Law Society Building
196-198 Water Street
St. John’s, Canada
+ Google Map