Is it improving access to justice?

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Daniel Lublin‘s weekly column in the Metro News was a caution to the public about buying legal services over the internet. The article highlighted a situation where a business got “burned” by using a “contract” form they had purchased online. They thought they could save money by not paying for the lawyer’s time.

The companies that provide forms (such as DynamicLawyers.com, lawdepot.ca, megadox.com here in Canada), all have the same general philosophy; that some people just can’t afford a lawyer’s services, and by providing forms they are providing them with some level of access to justice.

As pointed out by Sapna Mahboobani, there are varying degrees of online legal services – from forms, to lawyer prepared forms, to online lawyer services. An online lawyer is a service where the client only consults with the lawyer virtually (by email, skype, etc.) Again, the idea for the public is that with an online lawyer there is an expected cost savings.

But wouldn’t the public be better served if the legal industry in Canada moved towards the unbundling of legal services?

Andrew Feldstein asks a pertinent question in a recent video blog:

…why shouldn’t individuals retain lawyers on a limited retainer basis and have them complete the work which they do not want to or are unable to complete on their own?

Could an alternative lawyer-client relationship not help provide access to better justice for those individuals who typically can’t afford comprehensive legal services but are in desperate need of help?

Natalie Waddell

Founder and President at LawyerLocate.ca Inc.
Natalie was spirited to start this company after a frustrating and poor personal experience when searching for a lawyer back in the late nineties. “I quickly realized that the tools available to assist someone in finding the right lawyer were grossly inadequate. Not only inadequate for the individual in need of a lawyer, but also inadequate for the lawyers in search of new clients. There had to be a better way to connect clients and lawyers in a more efficient manner – without wasting everybody’s time and effort”, explains Natalie.

Natalie brings a passion to the business that ensures the entire LawyerLocate.ca team strives to improve the service for both lawyers and the general public. To that end, she is committed to ongoing communication with our members and welcomes and relies on clients’ input to continually evolve the service to make it better for all.

2 comments

  1. Sapna Mahboobani says:

    Thanks for the mention Natalie. Yes, there is an expected cost saving with an online lawyer, both in terms of time and actual fees. The other benefit is the geographic reach – with an online lawyer you no longer have to be in the same town or city as your lawyer – your lawyer could be in Ottawa, while you are in Toronto or vice versa. Of course, it happens even now – but the general sentiment when looking for legal services is that your lawyer should be geographically close by.

    As for “unbundling” – most transactional lawyers have been doing that for a while now – someone might go to a lawyer to draft and employment agreement, pay for that and never see that lawyer again. Of course, lawyers do want to build relationships with their clients, and such a relationship is beneficial because it’s always easier (and cheaper) to go back to a lawyer who already knows your business than bring another lawyer up-to-speed. But you can still provide unbundled services to a client you have a long term relationship with.

  2. Frances Wood says:

    I think many lawyers already provide unbundled legal services, but the topic is certainly hot on the LSUC’s agenda and most Bencher candidates make some mention of it in their election platforms. It has been discussed by the County and District Law President’s Association (CDLPA). It is no doubt the way of the future…..

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