An Innovative Information Resource for Self-Represented Litigants and Others

To better assist self-represented litigants and others navigate the overwhelming volume of legal information online, the Provincial Court of British Columbia has collaborated with Clicklaw to create one page summaries of some useful online resources in each of the Provincial Court’s major subject areas. Some of the resources that can be accessed online can be found through the following links:

Where do I start for information on Family Court?
Where do I start for information on Criminal Court?
Where do I start for information on Small Claims Court?

These three pages can also be accessed here: bit.ly/clicklawbcpc.
Coordinator of Clicklaw, Audrey Jun has also created a Communications Toolkit.

Earlier this year, the Court also adopted Support Person Guidelines: http://www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/enews/enews-11-04-2017.

The Cost of Justice in Canada: Overview Report, Methodology and Survey

The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) has released several new publications from their Cost of Justice research project, which examines the cumulative social and economic costs associated with everyday legal problems. Stemming from this project are the following recent publications:

1)   “The Everyday Legal Problems and the Costs of Justice in Canada: Overview Report”

Gathering data from over 3,000 survey respondents, the Overview Report, available on the CFCJ website here, looks at the public’s experience with the justice system and the various costs (ex: monetary, physical and emotional) that it imposes.

2)   “Design And Conduct of the Cost of Justice Survey” 

This publication sets out the specific methodology used by the CFCJ research team to collate the survey data. The method of sampling, data collection, and data processing are discussed at length here.

3)   “Everyday Legal Problems and Cost of Justice: Survey” 

The Cost of Justice Survey was structured to determine the number of respondents who had experienced 84 specific legal problems. The 84 problems were grouped into 17 types, with a section of the survey being devoted to each type. The Survey can be accessed here.

4)   “Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada: Fact Sheet”

This (updated and revised) Fact Sheet summarizes some of the key findings arising out of the Overview Report. The Fact Sheet can be accessed here.

Comparing the Views of Judges and Lawyers Practicing in Alberta and in the Rest of Canada on Selected Issues in Family Law: Parenting, Self-represented Litigants and Mediation

Comparing the Views of Judges and Lawyers Practicing in Alberta and in the Rest of Canada on Selected Issues in Family Law: Parenting, Self-represented Litigants and Mediation draws on the findings of a survey, conducted by the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family, Professor Nick Bala and Dr. Rachel Birnbaum, of the participants at the 2014 National Family Law Program in Whistler, British Columbia, and compares the views of Alberta respondents with those from the rest of Canada on a number of issues, including parenting after separation, self-represented litigants, access to justice and mediation.

The report notes some striking differences between the views and experiences of Alberta practitioners and those from elsewhere in Canada. Among other things, Alberta practitioners are more likely to: have cases resulting in shared custody or shared parenting; support the amendment of the Divorce Act to use terms such as parenting responsibilities and parenting time; have cases involving self-represented litigants; support mandatory information programs for self-represented litigants; and, support the use of paralegals to improve access to justice for self-represented litigants. Recommendations are made on subjects including: the amendment of the Divorce Act; the use of unbundled legal services to promote access to justice; the use of mandatory mediation where at least one party is self-represented; the provision of limited legal services in family law matters by paralegals; and, the use of standardized questionnaires by lawyers screening for domestic violence.

Comparing the Views of Judges and Lawyers Practicing in Alberta and in the Rest of Canada on Selected Issues in Family Law: Parenting, Self-represented Litigants and Mediation was written by Dr. Lorne Bertrand and John-Paul E. Boyd and can accessed through the Institute’s website here.

Self-Rep Navigators

A Toronto-based lawyers group has launched the “Self-Rep Navigators” to direct legal services towards self-represented litigants. Described as “a hub for connecting self-represented litigants to supportive lawyers and high quality resources both online and offline”, Self-Rep Navigators have established a website at www.limitedscoperetainers.ca and list lawyers who will take clients on a limited scope retainer/ at fixed fees for civil and criminal matters, and those offering the same types of services to family clients.

Heather (hh@litigation-help.com) and Michael (mhassell@trialcounsel.ca) would like to hear from any other lawyers interested in being a part of this group.

You can find the full write up about Self-Rep Navigators here.

Unprecedented Legal Aid Funding Increase In Ontario: Questions Remain

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Although the Ontario government’s unprecedented multi-year commitment to increasing legal aid funding continues to move forward, the National Self Represented Litigant Project cautions that celebration may be premature. In a recent blog post, the NSRLP congratulates the decision to increase legal aid funding, but poses a few critical questions about the implementation of aid distribution which has yet to take place.

Semple Explores Civil Justice Costs for Canadians

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Noel Semple has recently released a paper contributing to the ongoing discussion surrounding the cost of civil justice in Canada. He draws attention to the financially burdensome nature of civil justice claims, as well as temporal and psychological costs involved with legal disputes. His thorough investigation of the issue draws on the National Self Represented Litigants Project for quantitative information about the true costs of accessing civil justice. The paper is available on SSRN.

Family Lawyers Petition for Contingency Fees

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A group of 11 Toronto family lawyers are petitioning the Law Society to lift its contingency fee prohibition. They argue that the current regulatory framework poses a disadvantage to parties with access to fewer resources. The lawyers also point out that the high number of self-represented litigants in the family justice system warrants a change to current billing structures.

To read more about the petition, see this Toronto Star article.