NSRLP Presenting SRL Data in Australia to Professional AudiencesNSRLP
“Most judges tend to couple the words “self-represented litigant” with an expletive. It is customary to regard them as difficult, time-consuming, unreasonable and ignorant.”
These are the opening lines of a 2013 paper by Justice Faulks, Deputy Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, where around 40% of litigants are self-representing (“Self-Represented Litigants: Tackling the Challenge”). The paper is an intelligent and extremely sympathetic analysis of problems faced by SRLs when interacting with the court system, and a call for a renewed commitment to access to justice. But as the quote suggests, by no means are all Justice Faulks’ judicial colleagues as knowledgeable, proactive or empathetic (evidenced by my own conversations with judges over the last three weeks).
Australia does not have comparable research to the 2013 National SRL Study, although a small study conducted in 2000 for the Family Court of Australia by Professor John Dewar and two colleagues (“Litigants in Person in the Family Court of Australia”) reached the same conclusion – that self-representation is primarily the result of the unaffordability of private legal services and declining public assistance. There is limited quantitative data available, and apparently little national or professional/ academic conversation about SRLs and A2J.
We hope that the keynotes and workshops being presented by NSRLP – in Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Hobart – for The Resolutions Institute (a professional association of mediators and arbitrators that includes lawyers, judges and tribunal officers) will help to further the conversation. There has been a great deal of interest and a very positive response so far to our message about the critical importance of responding, as Justice Faulks proposes, proactively and constructively to the SRL phenomenon.