It’s time to solve the access to justice problem
It’s now time to stop talking about it, and solve the access to justice problem. In some divorce courts in Canada, 70% of people are self-represented. This is terrible because it means that people are preferring to take care of their serious legal issues instead of hiring a lawyer. It’s like if people were doing surgery on themselves instead of going to a hospital because they hate doctors.
Make no mistake, legal issues such as family law are serious. People lose their homes and children. I don’t think it’s inappropriate to compare it to a hospital.
Important studies that have come out of the 2019 Legal Trends Report show that people don’t self-represent just because of saving money. The main reason why people prefer to do it themselves is because they don’t trust lawyers.
A lot of people don’t end up saving money doing it by themselves because they end up paying massive amount of court fees and process serving by filing the wrong forms. Even worst, they end up spending years of their time on something that could have been resolving in a few months by a lawyer.
Less Talk, More Action
There’s a lot of talk by the courts, the Law Society and a few forward-thinking law firms about increasing access to justice. But very few people are doing anything about it.
I found that most lawyers are good at identifying problems, but they often have no solutions. They can’t tell you what should happen instead of the problem. The same is true with politicians, of which many politicians were previously lawyers.
So, what my law firm, ClearWay Law, is trying to do is create an online law firm. This idea seems to many people in the legal community to be a very innovative and possibly crazy idea.
Access To Justice Problem- Innovation Sometimes Is Forced
But I want to point out that it‘s very similar to what immigration lawyers have been doing for a long time. Immigration lawyers provide most of their services over the phone, videoconferencing, e-mail.
They do this because there’s no way that a Calgary immigration lawyer can meet a client in China or India that wants to move to Ontario. It‘s impossible that the lawyer can verify the I.D. face to face. So, for most immigration lawyers, what they do is they get multiple pieces of I.D. and then verify the person’s face on videoconferencing. This is why immigration lawyers are often quite innovative, because they must be. They don’t have the opportunity to be a traditional law firm that’s open 8am-4pm.
Law firms that don’t do immigration law must also learn to be more flexible with how they provide legal services. They are currently losing 70% of clients that choose to take care of their own legal issues.
And on the other side, 70% of people are not getting the benefits of a lawyer‘s knowledge. It might not be hard to find a lawyer in Calgary, because you have a lot of family lawyers near you, so you can kind of shop around. But if you’re in a remote place, there might be no family lawyers there.
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Clients Cannot Drive Six Hours To See Their Lawyer
There might be one family lawyer that gets conflicted out on the first consultation (a lawyer can only provide a consultation to one of the parties, not both.) And so someone might have to drive three hours to meet a family lawyer and then three hours back home.
That’s not realistic to expect of people when they need legal help. Therefore, they often do it themselves again. And it‘s a it‘s a massive problem. So instead of talking about access to justice and then just identifying it as a problem, I want people to really think about how they can fix it.
My answer to it is the online law firm that I’ve been working on. I don’t share all the details of how it will work yet, because it won’t come out until I secure seed funding.
Let’s Solve The Access To Justice Problem
I’m sure I’m not the only one that has an answer for the access to justice problem. I encourage all law firms to think about the problem and to put forward their best answer. Don’t just come up with an idea but follow through on the idea.
I can promise you that old school lawyers are going to end up fighting any kind of innovation you do. I’ve experienced it since day one with ClearWay Law.
Every time I talk about doing something innovative or challenging old school law, I get anonymous hate email. I like getting hate mail because old school law isn’t working anymore, and they see my company as a threat. If they didn’t think it was possible to build an online client focused law firm, they would just ignore me.
Alistair Vigier is the CEO of ClearWay Law, an online law firm in Canada. The management company is currently trying to raise seed funding. You can learn more about us by seeing our videos.