“My Learned Friend”: Building Constructive Working Relationships Between Self-Represented Litigants and Opposing Counsel

“My Learned Friend”: Building Constructive Working Relationships Between Self-Represented Litigants and Opposing Counsel

We know from our research that many SRLs will find that the other side in the dispute is represented by a lawyer, for some or all of the time. When this is the case, it is critically important for the SRL and opposing counsel to create a constructive working relationship. A functional professional relationship between the SRL and opposing counsel is critical to the progress and the resolution of the case.
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But for a variety of reasons, creating a positive working relationship is very challenging for both sides. We have heard from both SRLs and lawyers about the difficulties each experience in their encounters.

“My Learned Friend” is the first NSRLP Resource we have written that is directly addressed to both SRLs and legal counsel. We felt that since the focus is on cooperation and enhanced understanding, the resource should reflect mutual challenges and interests. Some of these problems relate to the demands or constraints of the particular role: lawyer, or SRL. Others are common to both sides (for example, a general feeling of discomfort and unfamiliarity about how to behave). Many of the difficulties we have heard about from both SRLs and counsel arise from a lack of understanding of the other side’s responsibilities and motivations, and uncertainty about just how to go about developing a constructive working relationship.

“My Learned Friend” offers an overview of the problems articulated by both SRLs and counsel, and practical advice based on real-life experiences on how to create a good working relationship. The goal of the new Resource – which as always, is free open-source access, downloadable as a pdf here, or linkable to your own site – is to increase mutual understanding and to provide some practical direction for establishing and maintaining a constructive and professional relationship that can make a critical difference to case outcomes.

You can watch our promotional video here.

And as always, we welcome your feedback.

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Comments (2)

  • twechar Reply

    Here’s one for you;

    I had a Summary Judgment hearing before a Judge Sullivan in Calgary Courts and in my opening remarks I addressed the Lawyer as “my friend”. Sullivan retorted “are you a member of the bar” of course my answer was “no” Sullivan scornfully retorted “he’s not your friend”!

    I found this ridiculously funny and wanted to answer with …not yet but I’m working on it!
    Is this “Judicial Discretion” at work?

    I also asked Sullivan if he read my pleadings because he appeared to be nonplussed and he answered no I did not read your documents.

    That’s an idea what we SRL’S have to put up with in Alberta Courts.

    The Judges are the problem and it is infecting the whole judicial and legal system.

    If anyone wants to see the transcripts on this just ask and I will email them.

    September 22, 2016 at 11:02 pm
  • Katya Reply

    YIKES!!!! that’s scary…..

    I was just in SC in Vancouver asking for fees waived. I was so nervous (courtroom full of lawyers), that I referred to the master as “your honour”..very respectfully but WRONG ADDRESS. He could have kicked me out. He could see I was respectful though and granted me my wish. Was I ever embarrassed when I realized my mistake!!
    This seems superficial to many of us…but respecting the system is our responsibility. It never works to show any indifference or humour about this. As SRL’s we have to be better than the lawyers in this respect. I thought of calling the defence lawyers “my friend” since I’ve known them for 6 years now (!!)…but remember we are the new kids on the block. We receive our respect by being prompt, organized, concise, knowledgeable, respectful to the courts on ALL LEVELS..including not interrupting.

    It’s annoying that I have to contend with the conditioning of “SRL” as being all the “dis” words.
    It’s a real education to present oneself with humble assertiveness while at any moment we could be blindsided with something we didn’t know about…and have to be FLEXIBLE in the moment…quite a feat!! Sometimes I’m able and sometimes I dissociate and there’s nobody home!!!

    November 23, 2016 at 3:17 pm

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