• Lauren Zaoral

Refer to Aspire!

Updated: Dec 20, 2017

In October 2017, the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family released the

results of a voluntary survey of lawyers and judges who participated in the 2016 National Family Law Program*. One of the interesting statistics that came from that informal research was about the proportion of files that lawyers had where one party was self-represented. The average percentage of files that participants reported having a self-rep on the other side for the last year was 20.4% - not an insignificant amount.

Acting for one party on a file where the other party is self-represented obviously adds some complexity for the lawyer. Self-reps often find themselves attempting to navigate a confusing system without proper guidance and information. This can result in them filing too many (or not enough) claims, peppering you with emails that you may not properly be able to answer within the confines of acting in your client’s best interests, and can (through no fault of their own) cause proceedings to drag out without finding an adequate resolution. A matter that takes considerable time to settle isn’t in anyone's benefit, including your clients.

It can be frustrating, and sometimes near-impossible, to manage your end of the file and assist the self-rep without finding yourself in a conflict of interest. You may really want to help, but in many ways your hands are tied by our Code of Conduct, and no one wants to expose themselves to complaints to the Law Society. Going the other route and attempting to restrict communications with self-reps doesn’t help anyone get through the matter either, and can close the door on achieving a timely settlement outside of court. This is where we can come in handy!

Our aim is to help self-reps be better prepared in all aspects of their matter. Self-reps may be able to take advantage of our sliding scale billing, and can pick and choose which services will best assist them, even if they are especially sensitive to cost. And no matter why a person is choosing to represent themselves, we can support them through as much or as little of their matter as they want - they get to remain in the driver’s seat. This will mean a better prepared, more organized self-rep for you to work with; one who won’t need to put you in an awkward position by asking for help or advice, and won’t need your guidance to take the appropriate steps that will help settle the issues.

Statistically speaking, you have at least a file or two (or ten) with a self-rep on the other side at this moment. Refer them to Aspire – it’s not only going to help the self-rep get valuable assistance, but will help your client too!

*The complete title of the research is The Practice of Family Law in Canada: Results from a Survey of Participants at the 2016 National Family Law Program, written by Lorne D. Bertrand, Ph.D., Joanne J. Paetsch, B.A., John-Paul E. Boyd, M.A., LL.B., and Nicholas Bala, L.S.M., J.D., LL.M. It was published by the Government of Canada.

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