THE ADVOCATE V O L . 7 5 P A R T 4 J U L Y 2 0 1 7 523
WHAT EVERY LAW OFFICE CAN DO
TO HELP THE UNREPRESENTED LITIGANT
By Marlene Russo
Have you had someone walk into your office who falls into
one of the following categories?
• the client with a case that is beyond your area of
• the client whose emotions may make it difficult to provide effective
• the client who cannot afford a lawyer.
We might turn these people away by telling them that we do not practise
in that area of law or that our schedule is full for the next six months. We
might tell them our hourly rate or ask for a large retainer, knowing full well
that they cannot afford either. We might encourage them to seek help elsewhere.
We are not trying to offend, but we also do not want to get roped into
something that will not go smoothly.
Many of us have also dealt with difficult unrepresented litigants on the
other side of a case who seem unable to understand the rules of interaction.
They may want to record all meetings, raise irrelevant issues in court or
refuse to be agreeable out of fear that they are giving up something that
they should not. If you are dealing with an unrepresented opposing litigant
who does not realize that there is a limitation period looming, what is your
obligation to disclose that fact? For every lawyer who feels that there is a
duty to disclose, is there another who does not?
There are a number of resources to assist these people. Here are some
that every lawyer, and every lawyer’s assistant, should know. The ones discussed
in this piece are all offered through the Justice Access Centres
(“JACs”) in British Columbia.
JUSTICE ACCESS CENTRE
Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo have JACs. Think of the JACs as a foodcourt
type of service provider. There are a variety of different services avail-