Our Updates

NSRLP Winter Closure

Here at the NSRLP we’ve been so busy this fall with new SRL resources, podcasts, blogs, and events like SRL Awareness Day, that we’ve realized we need to take a little breather to get caught up on lots of other important operational and administrative work. So, we’ll be closed from December 21st through January 31st – to first enjoy our holidays, and then to spend some time in the new year preparing for a busy and productive 2018. During [...]

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SRL wins case on judicial bias

We often hear from self-represented litigants that they are concerned about impartiality and even conflicts of interest in their appearances before a particular judge. Unfortunately, this is symptomatic of a growing crisis of confidence in the justice system among some members of the public. A recent Alberta Court of Appeal decision (Carbone v. McMahon, 2017 ABCA 384) addresses this directly. SRL Angela Carbone had asked that the managing judge in her Alberta Queen’s Bench civil action be replaced, because she [...]

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Introducing the SRL Case Law Database!

We are thrilled to bring you the first, preliminary, Report on the SRL Case Law Database, which we have been working on for most of the past year. The purpose of the SRL Case Law Database is to track the developing jurisprudence across Canada in cases that affect the positions of individuals appearing unrepresented. We are focusing on four themes: “vexatiousness”, cost awards, procedural fairness and accommodations. As the number of cases in the Database grows, we are expecting to [...]

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New Resource for SRLs with Disabilities

We hear increasingly often from self-represented litigants who are also persons with disabilities (PWDs), struggling through the court system with an extra level of difficulty. These litigants are forced to deal with the “double-whammy” of navigating the justice system alone, while simultaneously facing the physical and systemic barriers that PWDs deal with on a daily basis. In an effort to begin to address the needs of this community, we have recently released our newest “primer” for SRLs: “Navigating the Justice [...]

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Celebrating – and Using – the Pintea Decision

This week’s episode of Jumping Off the Ivory Tower, our social justice podcast, features Colin Feasby of Osler Hoskin & Harcourt’s Calgary office. Colin was the appellant’s lead counsel in Pintea v Johns (2017 SCC 23). In Pintea, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that self-represented litigants should not be treated in exactly the same way as a trained lawyer, because of the differences between them in terms of knowledge and power. Colin’s reflections on Pintea and predictions for [...]

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Reading and Understanding Case Reports: Equipping Yourself with Tools for Effective Legal Research

One of NSRLP’s mandates is to develop practical and accessible resources to empower SRLs and better equip them on multiple fronts. We believe that if someone finds themselves without expert assistance, it is critical that they should be able to access the best self-help tools. It is no secret that preparing to present your own case in court without legal representation is daunting, as well as stressful. While legal research lays a crucial foundation for preparing one’s case, reading judicial [...]

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SRL Awareness Day, October 4th 2017: Working Together for Change

Self-Represented Litigants Awareness Day, an NSRLP initiative first launched 3 years ago, is approaching fast. On October 4th, Windsor Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, the U of Ottawa Law School, Queens Law School, and Western Law will open their doors to local SRLs. SRL guests will sit in on law school classes, tour the law library, and participate in speaker panels dedicated to raising awareness about self-representation, sharing their experiences with both future lawyers and current practitioners. What is special [...]

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SRL Awareness Day, October 4th 2017: More Partners, Same Goal

For the past two years, the NSRLP initiative Bring a SRL to Law School Day laid the foundation for a meaningful and positive coming together of local  SRLs who attended  law school classes that day, and law schools. This year the NSRLP is again coordinating this event, with some new partners, as well as a new name (watch for the #SRLAwarenessDay hashtag on Twitter and Facebook). We are excited to have Windsor, Ottawa, Osgoode, Queen’s, and Western’s law schools [...]

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Windsor Law To Offer For-Credit SRL Coaching Course

This Fall, Windsor Law will offer the first ever for-credit SRL Conflict Coaching class in a North American law school, pairing Windsor Law students with SRLs via a clinic setting. This is a continuation of our work to develop a “coaching” model for SRLs, here focusing on the types of partnerships that can be provided by trained and supervised law students. Acting Dean Myra Tawfik says: “This is the first and only course of its kind that law students can attend [...]

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NSRLP Launching Social Justice Podcast!

Mark your calendars for the release of a brand-new podcast: Jumping Off the Ivory Tower with Prof Julie Mac! Starting September 18th, we will release weekly episodes that tackle topics from across the social justice universe. Naturally, we’ll often feature issues related to SRLs and Access to Justice, but in the first dozen episodes we’re also taking on topics such as sexual violence, racism and Islamophobia, disability rights, and legal education, to name a few. Hosted by NSRLP Director Julie [...]

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NSRLP Summer Team

We’re very pleased to announce that our NSRLP team has grown, and this summer we have three wonderful new Research Assistants working alongside two veteran RAs on our burgeoning Case Law Database (CLD). The CLD project will track highly anticipated and sorely needed data about Canadian case law particularly relevant to the experience and treatment of SRLs across the country. The CLD team is tracking issues of: procedural fairness, judicial assistance, claims of vexatiousness, costs, and accommodation. The RAs [...]

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SRL Awareness Day – and the Access to Justice Certificate Program

We are delighted to announce that it appears at least four Ontario law schools – Windsor, Ottawa, Osgoode and Queen’s – will participate October 4th in Self-Represented Litigants Awareness Day. This NSRLP event, formerly known as Bring a SRL to Law School Day, has changed names to better “brand” the SRL phenomenon within social media. We are hoping to bring the remaining Ontario schools on board as hosts within the next few months to make it a clean sweep! The [...]

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Watch out for the Fifth and Latest Version of the NSRLP’s Access to Justice Annotated Bibliography!

The NSRLP has released Version 5 of our Access to Justice Annotated Bibliography. The Access to Justice Annotated Bibliography is designed as a resource for students, researchers, and self-represented litigants themselves. Version 5 of the Access to Justice Annotated Bibliography includes over 100 summaries on access-to-justice material in the Canadian, American, and International context. Our latest updated Version 5 contains a specific section dedicated to unbundling and legal coaching, reflecting the increasing attention being given to these areas (and the [...]

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Paralegal Petition: Making Your Voice Heard

You may be aware that the NSRLP has established an online petition to try to include more public voices, including SRLs and friends of SRLs, in the important debate over the expansion of paralegal practice in Ontario. We are also encouraging lawyers and paralegals who support the principle of trained and licensed paralegals handling some types of family cases to sign and comment. NSRLP referenced the petition, and some of the hundreds of comments that have been posted, in our [...]

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Ontario Court of Appeal applies Pintea v. Johns

We are delighted to bring to your attention a recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Moore v.  Apollo Health & Beauty Care (2017 ONCA 383) by Justice Brown of the Ontario Court of Appeal that that applies the landmark decision in Pintea v. Johns (2017 SCC 23). The Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision in Pintea endorsed the Canadian Judicial Council’s Statement (henceforth “Statement”) for dealing with self-represented litigants (SRLs), and implicitly acknowledged the procedural challenges [...]

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NSRLP Responds to Bonkalo Review of Family Legal Services

The NSRLP has written two separate submissions to the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Law Society of Upper Canada in response to Justice Annemarie Bonkalo’s Review of Family Legal Services in Ontario. While we fully support all of Justice Bonkalo’s recommendations, our submissions address two specific recommendations, both of which have received a great deal of attention from the legal community: 1. The licensing of paralegals – This submission, drafted by NSRLP Director Julie Macfarlane and other members [...]

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The National Action Committee’s A2J Innovation Roundtable—This Time with Self-Represented Litigants

For the first time, National Action Committee members – leaders in the legal profession, members of the Bench, justice system policymakers and those providing A2J services – had the opportunity to work directly with SRLs at a Vancouver meeting of the Committee on March 22. Julie, along with David Merner, Executive Director of the BC Dispute Resolution Office, worked to arrange for the participation of ten SRLs as guests of the NAC. They were warmly welcomed. Working groups (each of which [...]

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NSRLP Heads to Supreme Court of Canada!

This coming Tuesday, April 18th, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the case of Pintea v Johns (2016 ABCA 99). This case centres on a finding of civil contempt against an elderly disabled man, who was representing himself because he could not afford counsel. Because of a change of address, Mr Pintea did not receive two notices from the court requiring him to appear at a case conference. When he did appear he was found in contempt and penalized [...]

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NEEDED: PUBLIC FEEDBACK ON FAMILY LEGAL SERVICES IN ONTARIO

The Bonkalo Review of Family Legal Services in Ontario Justice Annemarie Bonkalo was appointed in February 2016 by the Ministry of the Attorney-General (or MAG, the legal department of the Ontario government) and the Law Society of Upper Canada (or LSUC, which oversees the legal profession in Ontario) to lead a review of who can offer family legal services in Ontario. At that time, only lawyers could offer family legal services. Paralegals, who offer some types of legal assistance, were [...]

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Judges Assisting SRLs

This month the NSRLP would like to highlight a recent decision by the Honourable Madam Justice Kristjanson of the Superior Court of Justice for Ontario. The case – Sae-Bin Im v. BMO Investorline Inc.– explores the extent to which judges must assist self-represented litigants. In the case, Mr. Im brought a motion seeking leave to discontinue the action, with the intention of then bringing a new application for the same cause of action against the same parties. Justice Kristjanson, in [...]

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NSRLP Advisory Board Welcomes Chief Justice Derek Green and Dean Lorne Sossin

We are thrilled to welcome two new members to our terrific, cross-Canada Advisory Board. Our diverse and the NSRLP team to set priorities, brainstorm new ideas, enlarge our network of contacts, and of course, our wonderful board members share their own expertise with us. Chief Justice Derek Green Chief Justice Derek Green of Newfoundland and Labrador is a strong and outspoken voice in the national conversation on Access to Justice. Justice Green’s open-minded stance in the search for solutions to the [...]

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Are you a Family Lawyer? Do You Have Ideas About Legal Coaching? Fill out our Lawyer Survey Today!

As we reported in our last newsletter, the NSRLP has embarked on a major project involving “legal coaching,” another form of unbundled legal service delivery we believe responds to the needs (and budgets) of self-represented litigants. Legal coaching is a form of unbundling that envisions an ongoing relationship between the lawyer and the client from the start of the file, empowers clients to take the next step in their litigation on their own, and provides them with more control [...]

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Julie’s Blog Wins a Second Clawbie!

We’re thrilled to announce that Julie’s Blog on the NSRLP website has won a 2016 Clawbie Award! The Canadian Law Blog Awards (Clawbies) were established in 2006 by Stem Legal as a way to  highlight great blogs published by members of Canada’s legal community. The Awards are affiliated with lawblogs.ca, which tracks 485 Canadian legal blogs and podcasts; the Clawbies’ leadership reports that, “the consistent theme of the content posted in these blogs is the ongoing journey towards a better, [...]

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Great New Legal Resource for Ontarians

Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) has recently launched a fantastic provincial resource titled, Steps to Justice.ca, which provides reliable, easy-to-understand explanations of  legal topics such as custody, sick leave, rent increases, harassment, common law, discrimination, and severance pay, among others.   When self-represented litigants have to navigate a sea of online legal information, it can be very hard for them to locate trustworthy, authoritative sites. Steps to Justice provides accurate, authoritative information, with the goal of helping regular Ontarians understand Ontario’s [...]

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NSRLP Research Fellow Nikki Gershbain to Develop New Legal Coaching Model

The NSRLP is thrilled to announce that we are embarking on a major project in 2017 to develop and promote a “legal coaching model,” led by NSRLP Research Fellow, Nikki Gershbain! This initiative has been developed in response to the needs of self-represented litigants, who told us as part of our National 2013 study that, in order to make their way through the justice system, what they really needed was someone in their corner who could provide ongoing, compassionate support [...]

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A New SRL Resource in Ontario

Swift Action provides sample documents to help SRLs with Ontario small claims cases. David Turner says that precedent is the first thing that every lawyer looks for in preparing a case, and precedent is what he seeks to provide to SRLs with his website, Swift Action. Swift Action provides downloadable “Case-Packs,” which are comprehensive sets of sample court documents, forms and filings for the Ontario Small Claims Court. Case-Packs cost $30-$50, and provide a complete context surrounding fictitious cases, as [...]

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NSRLP Board Reviews 2016, Sets Ambitious Goals for 2017

NSRLP’s Advisory Board assembled in Windsor two weeks ago to review our work during 2016 (see the NSRLP Year in Review: 2016), and set priorities for 2017. As always, our annual face-to-face meeting produced a stimulating and productive discussion. There was a strong sense among Board members that many of NSRLP’s 2016 projects – for example, the National Database of Professionals Assisting SRLs, as well as ongoing law school projects educating the lawyers of tomorrow about the realities of the [...]

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Our Latest News

We’ve had a very busy month here at the NSRLP! We hope you’ve seen our beautiful updated website, but if you haven’t, go check it out now! We had a lot of fun making a video featuring top Canadian justices, to support the unbundling of legal services and our new National Database! Speaking of which, we’ve had lots of attention for our big new resource, the National Database of Professionals Assisting SRLs! We’ve also released a companion resource to the National Database, The [...]

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Small Steps Towards Big Goals

Other news in brief: A new study (funded by the Nuffield Foundation) will start shortly in Northern Ireland on the impact of self-representation in the family and civil courts, led by Professor Grainne McKeever from Ulster University School of Law. NuLaw Lab at Northeastern University School of Law is expanding its menu of interactive SRL video games with a new grant from the Legal Services Corporation. RePresent – a simulation of self-representation in small claims court, was “road-tested” before its launch [...]

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New US Report Examines Remote Services for SRLs

A new report prepared by John Greacen for the Self-Represented Litigation Network (released July 2016) considers data collected from Alaska, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Utah, and California, and sheds light on the provision of remote legal service access for self-represented litigants. “Serving Self-Represented Litigants Remotely: A Resource Guide,” is a hot-off-the-press strategic planning resource for how jurisdictions might better serve remote users who are representing themselves. The study consisted of onsite observation of remote service delivery, interviews with service providers, [...]

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We Have a New Project Coordinator!

We are thrilled to announce that Dayna Cornwall has started work as NSRLP’s Coordinator. Dayna steps into the role filled so ably by Sue Rice from 2012-2015. Dayna has a background in not-for-profit and public service work (she holds a Masters in Library Science and worked for a number of years in the public library system). She is a very experienced administrator who also brings social media savvy to the Coordinator position. Dayna has a strong commitment to working with [...]

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NSRLP Summer Closing

We shall be closing the office from July 22 – August 14, to allow for vacation time, administrative tidy-ups, and some recharging of the batteries. If you contact us during this time, please keep this in mind. We shall maintain some social media presence in the interim, so you will not be able to completely forget about the work of NSRLP. We hope you enjoy the summer!

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Canadian SRL Study Results Confirmed by US Research

In June, IAALS—the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System – published the results of their research on the SRL experience in four U.S. states (Colorado, Tennessee, Oregon and Massachusetts). The results of the U.S. study – “Cases Without Counsel: Research on Experiences of Self-Representation in Family Court” – mirrored the 2013 Canadian study in almost every way.   The primary reason for self-representation is lack of financial resources to pay for a lawyer “One lawyer told me she worked [...]

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Upcoming Fall Publications

We are excited about two upcoming publications in Fall 2016.   A new NSRLP resource, “My Learned Friend: Building Constructive Working Relationships between Self-Represented Litigants and Opposing Counsel” will launch in September. Its purpose is to move forward a respectful and better-informed conversation between SRLs and members of the legal profession and thus enhance cooperation. Like all NSRLP publications, My Learned Friend is written in plain language, informed by research, and packed with practical, concrete suggestions for best practice.   The National Database [...]

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The Ontario Family Legal Services Review

Justice Annemarie Bonkalo has been charged with reviewing the provision of family legal services in Ontario, including looking at how affordable family law services could be offered by lawyers, and whether para-legals should offer any family law services. The Review team, as part of the information-gathering process, asked NSRLP to informally reach out to those in the legal profession who are already offering, or thinking of offering, unbundled legal services to family litigants. The results of our short survey will be published in [...]

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New National SRL Support Organization: “My Journey to Advocacy”

Guest blog by Jana Saracevic, National Self-Represented Litigants Support Network How I Got Here  In 2008, my family and I became a statistic. We entered the enigmatic world of the family legal system. My spouse and I wore rose-coloured glasses – we imagined the process of separation and divorce would be relatively straightforward, and follow a logical path. Within a year ,I went from feeling sad at the breakup of my family, to utter shock and disbelief. The family legal [...]

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New On-Line Resources for Family SRLs

NSRLP recently reviewed 2 new – and quite different – on-line Canadian resources designed to assist and support family SRLs. Thistoo.co Thistoo offers a suite of free tools designed to obtain an accurate picture of the financial implications of divorce, including: child support, spousal support, and asset-splitting calculators. The site has 4 entry points: plan, organize, agree, resolve. Each category includes interactive and user-friendly tools which allow a user to gather and organize information, and also to actually move forward with their [...]

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New Self-Help Book Geared Towards SRLs

In ”Representing Yourself in Court: How to Win Your Case on Your Own”, Devlin Farmer uses his experience as a lawyer to create a resource-rich tool that offers SRLs insight into complex court processes and the “tricks of the trade” used by lawyers. “Representing Yourself in Court” provides an overview of the process a SRL can expect, from beginning to end, when they file in family or civil court. Devlin encourages the reader to consider alternative dispute resolution methods prior [...]

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Sage Advice from a Trusted Source about Using Mediation

We are delighted to offer visitors to the NSRLP website, and especially SRLs, excerpts from two chapters from Genevieve Chornenki’s latest edition (5th) edition of “Bypass Court: A Dispute Resolution Handbook”, reprinted with permission from LexisNexis Canada Inc.. The book can be purchased here. For more than a decade, “Bypass Court” has been a leading Canadian text covering the pros and cons of resolving your legal case outside the courtroom. Chornenki is a widely respected Ontario-based mediator and author whose practical, [...]

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Launching NSRLP’s latest Guide: The McKenzie Friend

We are delighted to launch our latest SRL resource, written and researched by Judith DaSilva with Julie Macfarlane. At NSRLP we are convinced that adding support and assistance for SRLs, especially in the courtroom where many feel intimidated and anxious, is in the interests of everyone in the justice system. A McKenzie Friend – a personal supporter who sits “upfront” and can take notes, or pass documents, but does not address the court or offer legal advice – can help [...]

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Access to Justice All-Stars: The Team at Calgary LInC

Our newest Access to Justice All-Stars award goes to a very special trio at the Law Information Centre at the Calgary Courts Centre. Cynthia Sawyer, Lisa Paul, and Melissa Molyneux were nominated by a member of the public who has had many encounters with the Law Information Centre, and has been greatly helped by the LInC team. Cynthia, Lisa, and Melissa are Law Information Centre Coordinators. They provide legal information to court clients looking for help. They work constantly with self-represented [...]

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2nd Annual “Bring a SRL to Law School Day”

On Monday March 16th, “Bring a Self-Represented Litigant to Law School Day” was held at Windsor Law, Osgoode Hall Law School and the University of Ottawa Law School. Each school opened up classes for the day to a group of local self-represented litigants, who were accompanied throughout the day by student “buddies”. Deans Chris Waters, Lorne Sossin and Nathalie Des Rosiers offered the SRLs a personal welcome on behalf of faculty and students before SRLs left to attend classes. Each school [...]

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Ontario Family Legal Services Review

We posted the announcement of the Ontario Family Legal Services Review headed by Justice Bonkalo last week. Here is another news story. We want to encourage our FB members, especially those in Ontario, to take up the invitation to be “consulted” by the Review and send your written comments and ideas to FamilyLegalServicesReview@ontario.ca. The questions that the Review is exploring are partly research-based – for example, developing a comprehensive picture of who is providing what types of family legal services currently [...]

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Flip Your Wig Campaign 2016 – Julie is an A2J Ambassador

This year’s Flip Your Wig campaign –aiming to raise awareness and money in support of Access to Justice organizations in Ontario – features 10 Access to Justice “Ambassadors”. We are happy that the work of the NSRLP has been recognized by the appointment of Julie Macfarlane as an Ambassador – even if it means that Julie will be seen in a variety of shots wearing a lawyer’s or judge’s wig this month. Flip Your Wig 2016 aims to raise $80,000 [...]

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Dr. Valarie Waboose, member of the Walpole Island First Nation, joins NSRLP Advisory Board

Recently appointed to the faculty at Windsor Law, Valarie Waboose has accepted an invitation to become a member of the NSRLP Advisory Board. The Advisory Board helps to set NSRLP’s strategies and priorities, and Board members make substantial individual contributions to our work. The Board decided at its last meeting that our 2016 strategic planning needed to include a focus on the particular needs and interests of First Nations Canadians as SRLs, given the dearth of data on access [...]

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NSRLP’s 2016 “Bring a SRL to School Day” will be Monday March 14th

In 2015, NSRLP launched “Bring a SRL to School Day”. The purpose of this project is to build awareness among law students of the challenges that self-represented litigants face and the impact SRLs have on the justice system. Last year 6 SRLs came to Windsor Law for the day. The SRLs joined the students for classes – including lectures on Contracts, Family Law and Civil Procedure and a seminar class on The Legal Profession. The SRLs also shared personal [...]

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Mindfulness Training and Stress-Reduction for SRLs

Mindfulness Training We are pleased and proud to announce another new NSRLP resource written and developed specifically for SRLs. “What Can Mindfulness Training Do for You? A Resource for Self-Represented Litigants” has been designed and written – along with an accompanying video – by Mindfulness Trainer Charlotte Thaarup-Owen. Julie and Charlotte met last September at a workshop in Melbourne. Julie was there to speak about self-represented litigants. In the course of their conversation about the debilitating impact stress can have on [...]

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The Rise of Online Courts

Continuing the theme of new developments online, a major new report in the United Kingdom (pp75-88) recommends the development of an online court (OC). The “Civil Courts Structure Review”, headed by Lord Justice Briggs, proposes “the first ever court to be designed in this country…. for use by litigants without lawyers.” Other features of the OC described in the Interim Report, released in December 2015, include an online application process, a built-in conciliation stage, and the use of video [...]

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YouCounsel.ca: A New Service Model for SRLs

Typical of the trend we are seeing towards the development of new service and delivery business models aimed at SRLs is You Counsel, the brainchild of Amer Mustaq, a Toronto employment and human rights lawyer at Formative LLP. Amer has recently launched an online course to help self-represented litigants make their way through the small claims court system. Amer says, “Over the last few years, I noticed that I was unable to help a lot of potential clients simply [...]

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NSRLP to Create National Database of “Professionals Assisting SRLs”

After noticing a sharp upswing in the number of lawyers offering unbundled legal services, as well as other professionals including para-legals, coaches and even editors offering services to SRLs, NSRLP is creating a Canada-wide database that will serve two purposes – an information resource for SRLs looking for affordable assistance, and a means of connecting the many different professionals interested in working with SRLs. The unbundling of legal services (or limited scope retainers (LSRs)) is just one adaptation that may [...]

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NSRLP’s Summary Judgment Research Report

Described by one media commentator as “groundbreaking”, NSRLP has released its research report on how summary judgments are being used to dismiss cases involving SRLs before they reach trial. While the courts must struggle to weed out cases without merit, the numbers we discovered when we dug deeper into the CanLll database raise a serious access to justice issue. Setting aside cases where litigants are described as “vexatious” or where there are indicia of “vexatiousness”, the number of summary [...]

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NSRLP Has Won a Clawbie!

2016 began with wonderful news for the NSRLP blog – we won a Clawbie (awards given annually for the top Canadian legal blogs) for the best non-lawyer audience blog (see http://www.clawbies.ca). The citation read as follows: “The National Self-Represented Litigants Project at the University of Windsor is at once perhaps the most important and most unsung access to justice initiative in North America. Regular updates on everything A2J-related, as well as a conversational tone and a commitment to practical solutions [...]

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“The New Litigants”: A Documentary for CBC’s The National

This summer Sue and I worked for several weeks with a CBC TV crew investigating the SRL phenomenon, under the direction of veteran (and former Fifth Estate) executive producer Diane Grant. As well as filming here in Windsor and Kingsville, the crew also went to Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Alberta to conduct interviews with SRLs and legal system “insiders” that we facilitated. The result is a 19-minute documentary entitled “The New Litigants” which will air on CBC’s The National [...]

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Upcoming NSRLP Projects 2016

Early 2016 promises a number of new NSRLP projects which we want to flag for your attention:  A research report and SRL resource (with Judith da Silva) on the use of MacKenzie Friends – companions who accompany SRLs into the courtroom to offer moral support – will be available in February 2016. A new SRL resource on emotional self-care and mindfulness (with Charlotte Tharup-Owen, Adelaide Australia, themindfulnessclinic.com.au) incorporating practical self-help tools designed to enable SRLs to manage the inevitable stresses of [...]

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New Zealand SRL Research Identifies Same Trends and Draws Same Conclusions as other National Studies

For the past 3 years, we have been following the doctoral research of Bridgette Toy-Cronin at the University of Otago, New Zealand as she undertook empirical research on the SRL phenomenon in New Zealand. Bridgette’s methodology was in many aspects (for example directly interviewing SRLs and court services staff) similar to our own National SRL Study. Bridgette summarizes her results this way: “My research investigated why more and more people go to court without a lawyer in New Zealand, their experience of [...]

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How Did We Do? NSRLP Annual Report 2015

The NSRLP Advisory Board met in Windsor on November 27th and reviewed progress towards our 2015 strategic goals, including what we did as an organization during the course of the year. The NSRLP Annual Report describes our major activities under our three mandates of research, resource development and dialogue. The report also highlights NSRLP’s growing influence and impact via our social and other media statistics. NSRLP now has almost 3,000 direct social media followers and in the past 12 months [...]

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Sue’s Departure and NSRLP Future

After four years of dedicated work for NSRLP (and its predecessor, the National SRL Study), Sue Rice, our Project Manager and Research Co-ordinator is stepping down from her position on December 31. In addition to running NSRLP operations on a daily basis, Sue has been responsible for the creation of innumerable NSRLP projects and systems. While we cannot possibly replace Sue’s unique brand of creativity and energy, many of these initiatives will continue after her departure in the capable hands [...]

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Announcing the Launch of our CanLll Primer – Now in French

We are delighted to announce that NSRLP’s CanLII Primer – which has received rave reviews, including from CanLll themselves – is now available in French. The translation was commissioned by CanLll immediately after the launch of the English version this summer. Click here for both versions. President of CanLll Xavier Beauchamp-Tremblay says: “We are so excited to have been able to help make the CanLII Primer available for Francophone Canadians. CanLII is a valuable tool in access to justice and the CanLII [...]

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Small Steps Towards Big Goals

The Family Justice & Mental Health Social Lab The Family Justice and Mental Health Social Lab at the Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution aims to improve the family justice system experience for litigants with mental health challenges.  The Lab is led by York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and supported by Legal Aid Ontario and the Ontario Psychological Association. The Lab takes a collaborative and user-centered approach to problem solving. It brings together experts such as social workers, lawyers, mental [...]

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CLEO – Steps in a Family Law Case Flowcharts‏

CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario) has launched three interactive flowcharts designed to help people understand and navigate the family law court system. The first flowchart takes users through the opening steps in a family law case, including consideration of legal issues, as well as making a separation agreement and thinking about alternative dispute resolution. The next two flowcharts take users through the process as either an applicant or a respondent, from filing or responding to an application to going to [...]

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Introducing the “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 is spearheaded by long-time NSRLP volunteer Heather Hui-Litwin and trial lawyer Michael Hassell. The Self-Rep Navigators aim to publicize the availability of unbundled and fixed-fee services for those unable to afford or uninterested in full representation, but who want assistance with their legal [...]

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“Journey to Justice”: important new resource for SRLs (and their lawyer coaches)

We are delighted to recommend a new book written by SRL coach, lawyer Denice Barrie (www.waymarklaw.ca) from Gabriola Island, B.C. Titled “Journey to Justice: A Practical Guide to Effectively Representing Yourself in Court”, Denice’s book is packed with practical ideas, to-do checklists, and supportive tips that draw on her extensive experience in legal practice and of working with self-represented litigants. “Journey to Justice” is organized in six sections that walk a SRL through the process of bringing their legal matter [...]

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Small Steps Towards Big Goals

We are continuing our series that publicizes developments significant to Access to Justice and in particular to SRLs. With a goal as big as Access to Justice, we believe that all incremental steps should be promoted as widely as possible. The SRL game being developed at NuLawLab at Northeastern University has attracted a great deal of interest among SRLs. NSRLP has now connected NuLawLab with 50 SRLs who will be testing the game in the coming months. For further information, [...]

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NSRLP Presenting SRL Data in Australia to Professional Audiences

“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 [...]

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More Law Student Involvement in Programming For SRLs: The Family Court Support Worker Program

As we reported in our last e-blast (“Pro Bono Students Canada Begins Family Law Coaching Project at Windsor Law”) Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) is ramping up its involvement in programming that focuses on assisting and supporting self-represented litigants in family court. In another PBSC initiative, law students are working as volunteers alongside Family Court Support Workers from the Barbara Schlifer Clinic in Toronto. The Family Court Support program is available to those who have experienced domestic violence and abuse [...]

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Small Steps towards Big Goals

We are excited to introduce a new regular feature to our E-blasts: documenting the most interesting and encouraging developments impacting Access to Justice for SRLs as we come across them. With a goal as big as Access to Justice, all incremental steps should be promoted as widely as possible. NuLawLab at Northeastern University is in the final stages of developing a SRL Game that will give SRLs the chance to practice courtroom appearances and be guided through the most effective and [...]

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Pro Bono Students Canada Begins SRL Family Law Coaching Project at Windsor Law

The Family Law Coaching Project is a partnership among the University of Windsor Faculty of Law, Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) Windsor, and the National Self-Represented Litigants Project. The Family Law Coaching pilot program will match local self-represented litigants with Windsor Law students, who will provide one-on-one legal information, moral support, and community referrals where appropriate. By focusing on self-represented litigants, the Family Law Coaching Project differs from the traditional legal clinic setting in a number of ways. Rather than [...]

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SRL Experience “the same” both sides of the border: Preliminary Results from the US SRL Study

The first US research to focus on the experiences of self-represented litigants in American family courts – conducted by IAALS at the University of Denver – has just released its preliminary findings. “Cases Without Counsel” is modeled on the Canadian study and uses the same methodology: qualitative interviews with SRLs and court and other service providers. Julie and Sue were in Denver two weeks ago with the US research team to hear the initial findings discussed by their Advisory Board [...]

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5 Ways to Talk about A2J Over a Summer BBQ

For the last three months, NSRLP has been focusing on the theme of “communication” and its importance in making progress towards greater access to justice in Canada. If we cannot talk to one another, we cannot have the type of rich stakeholder discussion and debate that is necessary to begin to resolve such a complex problem (look back at our kick-off blog on “The Shut-Up Culture” at https://representingyourselfcanada.com/2015/04/07/the-shut-up-culture-why-we-need-to-speak-openly-boldly-respectfully-to-one-other-about-what-really-matters; and the conversation between one SRL and three members of the NSRLP [...]

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NSRLP Summer Closing

We shall be closing the Project for the month of July and the first two weeks of August to allow for vacation time, administrative tidy-ups, and some recharging of the batteries. If you write to us during that time, please do not expect a full reply until after we reopen on August 17th. We shall be maintaining a small social media presence during this time, so you will not be able to completely forget about the work of NSRLP, [...]

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A NSRLP Summer Reading List

We have been asking around in our A2J community for suggestions for summer reading on inspirational topics. We received many suggestions and offer you the following five recommendations for your reading pleasure: Getting to Maybe: How the World is Changed (Vintage Canada 2007) by Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman, and Michael Quinn Patton. This book begins with a warning: “This book is not for heroes or saints or perfectionists. This book is for flawed people [and we are all flawed in [...]

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New UK Guidelines for Lawyers on Working with SRLs

The Law Society of England and Wales has just published guidelines for lawyers regarding their interactions with self-represented litigants (described as “litigants-in-person” or LiPs in the UK) that are refreshingly forthright about the realities of self-representation. In the foreword, it advises its members that “LiPs should not be seen stereotypically as ‘a problem’” and continues “(A) lawyer should not make assumptions about the merits of a LiP’s case simply on the basis that they have not obtained representation…. (some) [...]

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Unlocking the Potential of McKenzie Friends: NSRLP Research Project

This summer NSRLP is working with Judith da Silva, an Osgoode Hall, York University graduate student, on a research project looking at the potential for Canadian courts to accept McKenzie Friends as supporters and helpers of SRLs. The concept of the McKenzie Friend (MF) derives from a UK divorce case (McKenzie v McKenzie (1970) 3 WLR 472; (1970) 3 All ER 1034) which ruled that a person without counsel could ask for a “Friend” to sit with them and provide [...]

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NSRLP’s Strategic Plan

In September 2014, the NSRLP Advisory Board began a discussion about how to set priorities and devise strategies for maximum effectiveness for our small but nationally prominent organization. What is the NSRLP’s core mission, what does it do that is different and necessary from other A2J organizations, and how can we marshal our existing and new resources to advance these goals? We asked Board members at that in-person full day meeting to help us to frame a role for the NSRLP [...]

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Tracking the Continuing Trends of the SRL Phenomenon: Data from the NSRLP, 2014-2015

Despite closing the formal SRL National Study in January 2013, we continue to hear every day from SRLs all over Canada (and occasionally from other countries – the NSRLP website had visitors from 91 different countries in 2014). Many of these SRLs are as eager to share the story of their experiences as our original study respondents. After months of exchanging emails with some of these SRLs, we eventually realized that we had a data collection opportunity. From March 2014, [...]

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NSRLP Talks In Saskatchewan

Sue Rice, NSRLP Project Manager & Research Coordinator, was recently in Regina, Saskatchewan addressing the Ministry of Justice – Justice Innovation Division, and presenting the opening plenary for SATA (Saskatchewan Administrative Tribunals Association) the provincial organization of administrative tribunal members and others involved in administrative justice. True to its name, the Justice Innovation Division team, lead by Glen Gardner, Assistant Deputy Minister, followed Sue’s presentation on “The SRL Phenomenon: Consequences for Justice Services and Justice Seekers” with a lively discussion [...]

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UK Legal Aid Cuts Inspire Open Letter – and Super Heroes Video

Massive cuts to Legal Aid – civil, family and criminal – in the United Kingdom has led to a coalition including lawyers, judges, legal academics and psychologists who are speaking up about the harm caused to access to justice (read their “Open Letter” here http://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/may/01/legal-aid-cuts-threaten-very-democracy). Legal Aid in the UK has fallen from £2bn ($3.7) a year in 2010 to £1.5bn ($2.75) today, a 25% reduction. This affects both civil and family litigants. In one area of civil law (employment [...]

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Can We Talk? NSRLP’s Communications Focus

“(W)e need to communicate much better with each one another about what really matters if we want to make the justice system and the legal profession better for everyone – and once we have had some practice, we need to talk with the public.” (https://representingyourselfcanada.com/2015/04/07/the-shut-up-culture-why-we-need-to-speak-openly-boldly-respectfully-to-one-other-about-what-really-matters/). NSRLP will be focusing on a theme of communication over the next three months. We believe that better communication – open, bold and respectful as above – is at the heart of our efforts [...]

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NSRLP Releases 2014 Annual Report

Sue Rice, Project Manager and Research Co-ordinator, has produced a review of our work during 2014 which shows the extent to which NSRLP has influenced the national conversation about self-representation. We were shocked to realize that we had done 80 media interviews since the SRL Study got underway in early 2012 (and 12 already so far this year). We are especially proud of the level of SRL participation via our conference Speakers Bank and requests for focus group and [...]

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Update from the US Study of Self-Represented Litigants

The IAALS ( the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System) Cases Without Counsel: Experiences of Self-Representation in U.S. Family Court Study in now underway in all selected jurisdictions. Cases Without Counsel is a qualitative empirical research study consisting of one-on-one interviews with self-represented litigants in divorce, separation, and child custody/support cases.  This study builds on the methodology and results of the National Self-Represented Litigants Study (2013) and the NSRLP team is serving as consultants to IAALS researchers. Four U.S. jurisdictions [...]

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The CanLII Primer

The Can Lii Primer (Eng) The Can Lii Primer (Fre) The NSRLP is proud to launch our latest resource for SRLs NSRLP CanLII Primer V1 English NSRLP CanLII Primer V1 French The CanLll Primer: Legal Research Principles and CanLII Navigation for Self-Represented Litigants is the result of innumerable hours of research and drafting by NSRLP Research Assistant Tamara Thomas, who worked with Julie to develop the Primer. Tamara says this about what she learned from the experience, and what motivated her to spend so much time [...]

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Law at the Library: Free Legal Seminars

A second major project comes to fruition this week. Heather Hui-Litwin, a Toronto-based lawyer, has been working with a number of dedicated volunteers on a committee since spring 2014 to organize a series of free legal seminars for people either considering or already handling their own legal matters. Law at the Library is a series of seminars to be held at Toronto-area public libraries. The complete list of seminars, venues and speakers is at http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/programs-and-classes/featured/law-at-the-library.jsp Heather was a former self-represented litigant and a client. [...]

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Toronto Star Story Highlights Legal Coaching

Last Saturday’s Toronto Star carried a feature article focusing on potential “solutions” for SRLs.The feature canvassed innovative developments in the US, UK and Canada. Each story segment highlighted ways in which those without a full legal qualification – including law students – could nonetheless offer significant assistance to SRLs. In the US, Judge Fern Fisher described New York’s “Court Navigator” program that began by using law students to “steer” SRLs through the courts, and has now grown into an institutionalized [...]

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SRLs in the Law School Classroom

Dean Camille Cameron welcomed a group of five local SRLs to Windsor Law on March 3rd for “Bring a SRL to School Day”. Noting that two of the group had previously used the school’s law library and had been assisted by the school’s law librarians, Dean Cameron underlined Windsor Law’s commitment to make its library accessible to the public. This set the tone for the day, which was welcoming and inclusive for the SRL guests. Over the course of the [...]

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Coming to a Conference/ Training Near You: The SRL Interactive “Game”

Sue Rice, NSRLP Project Manager, was invited to present the opening plenary for the Safety, Licensing Appeals and Standards Tribunals Ontario annual training symposium on March 2nd. SLASTO is a cluster of Ontario adjudicative tribunals comprising the Animal Care Review Board, the Fire Safety Commission, the Licence Appeal Tribunal, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, and the Ontario Parole Board. Over 100 adjudicators and members of SLASTO were in the room for Sue’s presentation “Working with SRLS: Moving Beyond Stereotypes to Practical [...]

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Jana Saracevic becomes the First SRL “Flip Your Wig Ambassador”

We are delighted to announce that the Flip Your Wig for Justice fundraising campaign has appointed SRL Jana Saracevic as an “Ambassador” (for the full list of Ambassadors). A collective of non-profits including Community Legal Education Ontario, Pro Bono Students Canada and the Ontario Justice Education Network and supported by the Law Society of Upper Canada, Flip Your Wig is a pledge-based fundraiser in support of access to justice programs in Ontario. Jana will use her position to help raise [...]

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Access to Information: Resource Development and Open Sourcing

Two weeks ago we highlighted the work of Vancouver’s Paralegal Litigation Users Group in the creation of a 200-page manual for SRLs using the BC Supreme Court (https://representingyourselfcanada.com/2015/02/03/access-to-justice-is-access-to-information-guide-to-civil-litigation-for-bc-srls-launched/). There continue to be impressive efforts to enlarge resources and enhance access to information for the self-represented. Newfoundland and Labrador has just launched a searchable database of their Court of Appeal cases (http://court.nl.ca/supreme/appeal/decisions.html), a huge project that illustrates the importance being placed by Chief Justice Derek Green on improving resources for [...]

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A Reading List for Reading Week

This week (February 16-20) is “Reading Week” at Windsor Law as well as many other law schools around the country. In honour of this week – more traditionally used for a quick vacation somewhere warm – we offer you the NSRLP’s List of Five Top Reads for Reading Week. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande (Picador 2011, $12.99). A book about “how professionals deal with the increasing complexity of their responsibilities” (Malcolm Gladwell), this is [...]

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Windsor Law Hosts “Bring a SRL to Law School Day” 

To advance the NSRLP’s goal of continuing to build awareness among law students of the experiences and impact of SRLs in and on the justice system, Windsor Law and the NSRLP is hosting “Bring a SRL to Law School Day” on Tuesday March 3rd. NSRLP as well as individual law students are inviting local SRLs to come to Windsor Law as our guests on this day. Five professors have opened their classes for the day , and SRLs will be [...]

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Access to Justice All-Star: Dom Bautista

Our first Access to Justice All-Star of 2015 is Dom Bautista, who for the past 23 years has been the Executive Director at the Law Courts Center in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Law Courts Center provides continuing professional development seminars and lectures for the legal profession in British Columbia. Dom is also the Executive Director of the Amici Curiae Pro Bono Paralegal Program. Amici Curiae, which means friends of the court, is a group of paralegals who offer pro bono [...]

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“Access to Justice is Access to Information”: Guide to Civil Litigation for BC SRLs launched

Dom Bautista’s Paralegal Litigation Users Group (“Plug 5) has achieved something quite remarkable – a comprehensive walk-through of the civil litigation process in the British Columbia Supreme Court, complete with template forms and documents. The purpose of the Guide is spelled out in its introduction: “To the self-represented litigant, this guide was written for you. It is designed to simplify court procedures in your quest for a legal solution.” Instead of focusing on the problems that arise from working with [...]

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“What is Going Wrong with Access to Justice Projects”: Open Lab Survey

Echoing a query that we hear often about the practical impact of the various meetings, task forces and other efforts to draw together stakeholders to talk about A2J barriers and innovations, Margaret Hagan asked this question in a survey on her site posted from November to December 2014. The results are visually summarised here: http://www.openlawlab.com/2015/01/19/whats-going-wrong-access-justice-movement/ We were struck by how much these results – citing “challenges mis-framed”, “chill from regulation” (“big system changes are constrained by rules and norms that seem [...]

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NSRLP Website Reaches 91 countries, 27,000 readers

The NSRLP website recorded a fantastic 27,000 views from no fewer than 91 countries in 2014. To put this number into perspective, 27,000 people would be 10 sold-out performances at the Sydney Opera House. The busiest day of the year with the most hits on the website (almost 800) was September 22, 2014, shortly after we released the Open Letter to the Canadian Judiciary https://representingyourselfcanada.com/2014/09/15/an-open-letter-to-the-canadian-judiciary-a-first-step-towards-a-dialogue-between-reasonable-people/ – this was also the most read blog of the year. The same week also [...]

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De-Stressing Litigation: Working out the Kinks

A collaborative NSRLP/ Canadian Mental Health Association (Windsor)/ Ontario Court of Justice (Windsor)/ Canadian College (Windsor) project highlighted the stress and anxiety caused by self-representation. On Friday, January 9th a room in the Windsor courthouse was converted into a temporary massage therapy space for the afternoon. A group of Registered Massage Therapy students from Canadian College (including former NSRLP volunteer Cynthia Eagan) offered free mini-massages to SRLs in family court. Others in the courthouse, including court staff and lawyers, also took [...]

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NSRLP’s Updated and Expanded SRL / A2J Annotated Bibliography

This week we are posting version 3 of NSRLP’s SRL / A2J bibliography https://representingyourselfcanada.com/annotated-bibliography/ This resource has been growing since its first iteration, at the Dialogue Event in May 2013, and now includes summaries of articles, reports and news reports from around the world. It is available for download and use by students, SRLs, practitioners and indeed anyone interested in digging a little deeper into the growing literature on the SRL Phenomenon and the Access to Justice crisis. Version 3 has [...]

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