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A Tale of Two Systems: A Modern-Day Fable

Our medical system is far from perfect – as a patient for the last seven years I am aware of many of its shortcomings. Some of the same tensions and challenges that are faced by the legal profession exist within the medical system. However, the medical system may be light years ahead of the legal profession in appreciating the importance of inter-related and complimentary roles and skills, and meeting the basic needs of its users. The following is based on [...]

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The Change & Advocacy Blog: How We Each Can Do Our Bit

We were honored by the award of another CLAWBIE for this blog at the end of 2016 in a new category called “Change & Advocacy. The new Clawbie category recognizes “blogs that drive positive change in the legal system.” I will face some challenges to my scholarship and activism in the coming months, as I go back into treatment for cancer. So this blog post is about how we can each find the motivation and the means to do our bit [...]

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What Do the Cosby Mistrial, Climate Change Denial, and Perceptions of SRLs Have in Common?

A Pennsylvania jury has failed to reach the necessary unanimous verdict in the prosecution of Bill Cosby for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, leading the judge to declare a mistrial. My first reaction to this news, which I woke up to on Saturday morning was, predictably, anger. This was the only one of 33 similar fact complaints against Mr. Cosby that could be prosecuted because of the Statute of Limitations (which I am proud to say Ontario repealed in 2016 for [...]

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Law Convocation 2017: Be Smart, Be Idealistic, & Be Bold

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will know that I feel some despair about the state of legal education – that is, despair about the resilience of the archaic system norms, not my wonderful colleagues – and certainly not our law students. Over the past few weeks many law schools, including my own, have held Convocation for their graduating class. Assuming I shall never be invited to be a Convocation speaker (I think a fairly safe bet), [...]

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A Coach in Your Corner: Promoting Legal Coaching in Family Law

This week’s guest blogger is our 2017 Law Foundation Research Fellow, Nikki Gershbain. Nikki is the National Director of Pro Bono Students Canada, an organization that runs law student pro bono programs across Canada. A former family lawyer at Epstein Cole LLP, Nikki has a long history of working on Access to Justice, including serving on the Law Society’s Equity Advisory Group and co-directing the University of Toronto’s Middle-Income Access to Justice initiative. In January, I took a leave [...]

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Yes, We Can (With Reservations) – But No, They Can’t

As the clock ticks down on the deadline for comments on the Bonkalo recommendations (May 15), we are getting some clear signals of the legal establishment’s response. Yes, We Can Justice Bonkalo’s endorsement of unbundled legal services and legal coaching has been met with some questions and continued reservations, but a good degree of openness by the Family Bar. The Family Bar appears to have set aside their entrenched resistance to anything other than full representation. In the weeks since the publication [...]

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We Need to Help Family Litigants – Now

When the Bonkalo Report was released in February, I felt optimistic that its central recommendation – to allow licensed, trained paralegals to work on some types of family files – would be met with perhaps resignation but also broad acceptance by the Family Bar, given the enormous numbers of family litigants who are without any type of legal assistance whatsoever. No one – not even perennially optimistic me! – imagined that the Family Bar would immediately embrace every detail of [...]

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“This Case is About A2J – and About Insiders and Outsiders”

The Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision in Pintea v Johns (heard April 18, 2017) was delivered from the bench by Justice Karakatsanis. But even before a decision was rendered, it was very apparent that the Court took seriously the challenges that SRL’s face, and the need to adjust and adapt to ensure that they have Access to Justice. Here I offer a brief summary that I hope conveys the tone and flavor of the hearing (which I attended along [...]

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Why I Work With Julie and the National Self-Represented Litigants Project

This week’s guest blog is written by Cynthia Eagan, who has worked with the NSRLP since 2012. Cynthia is a former librarian in the Detroit Public Library system, a literacy expert, and is presently retraining to be a massage therapist. In her blog, Cynthia explains why she feels a connection to self-represented litigants, and how she was drawn to work with NSRLP. Way back when I was in library school, there was a legal skirmish between California’s Nolo Press and [...]

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Case Law Research is like Cheesecake

This week’s guest blog is written by Cynthia Freitag, a Law Clerk and an active member of the Toronto chapter of the National Self-Represented Litigants Network (NSSN). As a self-represented litigant (SRL) you are, in fact, your own lawyer. This means you need to learn how a lawyer carries out legal research, what they research, and why they research, in order to represent yourself the best way you can. This means learning about case law. When lawyers prepare for trial they [...]

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