Why public legal education?

*This is an opinion piece. It is not legal advice.*

Before I became a lawyer, I was a litigant. We had hired litigators to represent us. A few years into our lawsuit, we became self-represented litigants in order to save money.  By that time, I was in my first year of law school. I remember wondering why it was that the litigants are generally discouraged from representing themselves. It seemed to me that they are in fact the best person to present their case! They are the parties involved in the dispute. They know the facts first hand. Surely they could simply tell the judge what happened in plain language, and ask the judge for justice. 

As I learned more and more about litigation, I realized that handling one’s  lawsuit takes a lot of skill and knowledge. Even before trial, the litigant needs to understand how to prepare for trial by building up her case. For example, she needs to understand what procedures are available (eg. discovery, request to admit) to obtain crucial evidence from the opponent that may be helpful to proving her case. As for the trial itself, there is a large amount of knowledge that must be acquired and skills to be mastered. Making legal arguments is not the same as making common sense or moral arguments. In addition, a litigant has to be good at thinking on their feet. They must know how to ask open questions to their witnesses so that the facts are revealed to the court. They must know enough rules of evidence and procedure to make objections as they occur. They must know how to ask leading questions during cross exam of witnesses of their opponent. These skills are not gained by watching other lawyers or reading text books. They are developed slowly (sometimes painfully) through practice. 

Some litigants prefer to be in control of their lawsuit and choose to represent themselves.  Others do not have a choice. There are many litigants whose entire savings have been depleted by legal fees. Yet, these people must continue carrying on their lawsuits without legal representation. Regardless of how someone become self-represented, I believe that information about how the legal system truly works is beneficial. The legal system belongs to everyone. Legal education should not be reserved for an elite class of lawyers. For me, my good fortune in having received a legal education and practice experience led me to appreciate and admire the rigours of our justice system,  as well as recognize its limits. It has allowed me to understand what it truly takes to be a litigator. I am eager to share all that I have learned for the benefit of those who are engaged in the legal system, whether they be clients, self-represented litigants, future lawyers or paralegals.

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Small Group Workshops (Fundraisers) are available.

(1) What Does Common Law mean?

Maximum attendees: 5

Feb. 16, 2021. 1:00-2:00 pm EST

Tickets on Eventbrite:

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/what-does-common-law-mean-in-our-legal-system-fundraiser-tickets-138444107051

You might have heard that Canada’s legal system (other than Quebec) is based on the “common law” system. But what does this really mean? This is a one hour, small group program designed to provide a deeper understanding of how our common law legal system works. This is suitable for the beginner, who has no knowledge of the Canadian legal system. I will be explaining how our courts are structured, so that you understand the concept of binding versus persuasive case law. I will be using case law to demonstrate what “legal argument” is. I will introduce what “legal argument” is, versus “common sense” or moral arguments, by examples.

This is a fundraiser event. Donations are collected by Eventbrite. All revenue (after Eventbrite fee) will be donated to the Canadian Cancer Society. Suggested amounts: $5, $10 or $25.

(2) How to Read Case Law

Maximum attendees: 3

March 16, 2021. 1:00 – 2:00 pm EST

Tickets on Eventbrite:

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/understanding-how-to-read-case-law-fundraiser-tickets-138452510185

This is an introduction to reading case law. Many people are intimidated by all the code and jargon they see when they do legal research. In this hour long program, I will give you some basic skills in navigating a judge’s decision.

The decisions McMurter v McMurter (LINK: https://canlii.ca/t/gx63w , costs for self-represented litigants) and Callow v Zolliner (LINK https://decisions.scc-csc.ca/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/18613/index.do, Supreme Court of Canada on contract dispute) will be discussed.

This is a fundraiser event. Donations are collected by Eventbrite. All revenue (after Eventbrite fee) will be donated to the Canadian Cancer Society. Suggested amounts: $5, $10 or $25. Once you have booked a ticket, I will follow up with you by email with the Zoom link.