Our on-line Annotated Bibliography is now available and will be updated on the website each month. It now contains over 100 items from scholarly journals, news media and other sources of new and research about the SRL phenomenon.
Coping with the Courtroom: Essential SRL Tips & Information is a 20 page primer designed to help SRLs with all aspects of self-care, preparation and court appearance know-how. Coping with the Courtroom reflects what SRLs told us that they needed to know and had learned in the course of representing themselves in motions hearings and at trial – one part of the SRL experience that many find particularly stressful and overwhelming. Coping with the Courtroom will be formally launched in March, when we are focusing on the second of our Ten Action Steps: Listening to SRLs.
Hannah is also working with Julie on developing What Court Staff Told Us, a summary of the major themes we heard from court staff as they struggle to manage the deluge of SRLs in their courthouses and the ways in which they could provide greater and consistent assistance to SRLs. It will be piloted with court staff in Halifax Nova Scotia at the end of February (see also “Research”).
Our new NSRLP Volunteer Research Assistant, Billy Good, is working on developing a more user-friendly and up-to-date list of SRL provincial legal resources (pro bono programming, legal clinics, legal information and education services, and other social agencies working with SRLs). We hope to have a comprehensive resource list for every province and territory ready by the spring.
A NSRLP project to develop new guidelines on distinguishing legal information from legal advice– removing the “handcuffs” from court staff to enable them to better assist SRLs with procedural and other information – commences in the Nova Scotia Family Courts at the end of February. Dr John Greacen, who has worked extensively with US courts on this issue, will be training court staff in Halifax, and Sue will be observing and assisting John. Court user surveys developed by Julie and John will be administered to SRLs attending Halifax Family Court both before and after the new training to assess the impact of the new guidelines on user satisfaction. A final report will be compiled by NSRLP and available this summer.
Legal Aid Ontario has contracted NSRLP to conduct a public consultation following the release of its proposals (expected March/April) for innovations in publicly funded family law services. We shall be contacting SRLs in our database as well as using social media to solicit public reaction and response to the proposals, as well as convening public focus groups in different parts of the province. Watch for details on our Facebook page, on Twitter and on the website. We hope that this will be just the first of a series of public stakeholder consultations that NSRLP can assist with over the next 12 months as the recommendations of the Cromwell Task Force and the Canadian Bar Association on access to justice are turned into concrete policy directives and reform.
DIALOGUE & COLLABORATION
Our initiative to bring SRLs into law school classrooms to talk about their experiences and the type of assistance they want from lawyers (spearheaded by Noel Semple of our Advisory Board) is continuing to expand. Derek Parry spoke at the University of Western Ontario and Windsor Law Schools in the past month, and we are looking for a SRL to speak at the University of Ottawa Law School in March. Jennifer Muller spoke to a class at UBC Law School in December. If you are interested in inviting a SRL speaker, please complete our “Invite a SRL” form. If you are a SRL who would like to speak about your experiences, please use the Intake Form to contact us.
A steering committee of SRLs convened by NSRLP is moving ahead with the development of a mission statement and outreach guidelines for regional chapters of a new National organization for SRLs. The Canadian Association Supporting Self-Represented Litigants (CASSL) hopes to launch this spring.
Julie’s weekly blog continues to attract new followers and is prominent on Twitter among a large and growing group of justice system professionals and others concerned about the SRL phenomenon. The blog is also posted on our Facebook page, which now has almost 350 members, most of them SRLs.
If you are a (present or former) SRL in family or civil court and are not yet part of our membership database, please considering completing the Intake Form. Christine Dymarski, our new volunteer Intake Co-ordinator, is compiling new Intakes each week.