Litigation-help.com is an initiative that provides free public legal education. It is run by lawyer and former self-represented litigant, Heather Hui-Litwin, J.D., LL.M., Ph.D. Heather invites guest speakers, such as mediators and other lawyers to deliver seminars with her on a variety of legal topics. 

We are out and about giving talks to community groups in Toronto and the surrounding areas. We invite you to take a look at them. If your organization is interested in any of the following, please contact Heather at hh@litigation-help.com.

(A) General Series

(1) Program Title: Who does what in the Legal System?

Program Description: Many litigants or people who become involved in court do not realize that in addition to lawyers, there are many other professionals who may be very helpful to their matters. One example is “process servers.” These are people who deliver and serve court papers. Another are court reporting services, where one holds “out of court” examinations in preparation for trial. In this talk Heather Hui-Litwin (Ph.D., J.D., LL.M.) will explain who the various professionals are, such as mediators, paralegals, financial evaluators, etc. and what they do and how to find them.

Program Outline: This talk will be primarily lecture style.

Audience experience: Attendees who must represent themselves will learn about the various service providers they can contract with directly. Traditionally, many of these professionals could only be accessed through one’s lawyer. However, recently, there is a trend for self-representation. Knowing who they can hire can lessen the workload for these individuals.

(2) Program Title: What to Expect in a Civil Lawsuit?

Program Description: Many people go into lawsuits without any knowledge as to how a lawsuit unfolds, or what to expect. Many people express disbelief when they finally find out, at the end of a lawsuit, that the court does not enforce the judgement for you when you win!

In this talk, you will be introduced to a summary of the entire process, beginning with pleadings, the various procedures and deadlines that occur before trial, trial itself and enforcement, and a very brief introduction to what appeals involve.

You will learn the following what the basic phases are in a civil lawsuit:

-Pleadings 

-Discovery

-Mediation

-Pre-trial conferences

-Motions

-Trial 

-Appeals

You will learn about the concept of “precedents.” You will learn about the different sets of laws and rules and customs (practices) that may apply.

(3) Program Title: How to get Legal Advice without Breaking the Bank

Program Description: Many people who are involved in lawsuits know that they need to hire lawyers to help them. However, due to the huge costs, many are choosing to represent themselves instead. 

Currently, there are some very useful legal information websites that are free to the public. Despite this, most people recognize they still need to have individual assistance and advice from in-person consultations with lawyers. 

One type of live, in-person legal help can be found in legal clinics. Some are located right in court houses. Others are specialized clinics which offer services in specific subject areas, such as family, business etc. I will give examples of these.

Secondly, lawyers are beginning to offer what is known as “unbundled services” or “limited scope retainer” or “limited scope” services. This type of service means that lawyers can help you for discrete parts of your lawsuit. This kind of service is supported by the Law Society of Ontario. It is also acknowledged in the rules governing lawsuits, and in the rules governing the legal profession.

(B) Family Law Series

(1) Program title: Divorce and Separation: What are my Options

Program description: Many people tie divorce with going to court. In fact, there are other ways to go through a divorce other than traditional litigation. Laura Tarcea, Eva DiGiammarino and I will compare the processes of going to court in family law, versus mediation and collaborative lawyering, both of which provide much less antagonistic and more cost effective approaches. Examples of custody and support issues will be used to explain the three approaches.

Program outline: Heather, Laura and Eva will host a dialogue style presentation, where Heather asks open questions to guide Laura and Eva (the experts) along the presentation, (similar to TVO’s “The Agenda” with Steve Paikin).

Audience experience: Attendees will learn how to make informed decisions on whether to choose litigation or mediation, and how to hire family lawyers, depending on whether they want to hire a collaborative lawyer or a traditional family lawyer.

(2) Program title: What’s the Difference between Mediation and Litigation

Program description: Many people assume that when you are involved in a dispute, you must go through the court system. Furthermore, you have no choice but to hire lawyers to represent you throughout the whole process. In fact, you have options! You can also choose to have a neutral, third party professional to help you both reach a resolution through mediation. Heather and Gregg will explain what the major differences are between filing a lawsuit and going through the public process of litigation and resolving differences through the cooperative and confidential mediation. They will discuss when each process is appropriate for what circumstances.

Program outline: Heather and Gregg will be the main presenters. This will be an informal question and answer dialogue type presentation with Heather being the main host. There will be a power point. Questions will be encouraged from the audience.

Audience experience: The participants can expect to learn how mediation and litigation differ, and which process to use to their own situation. There are a lot of misconceptions and assumptions about both processes. It is hoped that by educating the community about what each process is really about, that people will be able to decide which process to adopt for their own needs.

(C) Business Law/ Employment/Personal Finance Series

(1) Program title: Incorporation Basics

Program description: More and more people are opening up their own businesses these days. However, there is more to be done than just getting a website, or having inventory ready! Before starting a business, it is important  to be aware of basic legal requirements, such as how corporations are set up,  what legal documents have to be filed with the government, and what the pros and cons are in setting up a corporation. 

Program outline: Heather and Samuel Michaels will hold an interview style presentation, where Heather will ask Samuel open questions regarding business and corporate law. 

Audience experience: Attendees will learn the basics about incorporating, so that they can decide whether incorporation is the appropriate avenue for their business.

(2) Program title: “You can’t fire me! I quit!” What you need to know about employment termination.

Program description: Many people have experienced discontent at their jobs, and wished they could quit.  However, most do not understand the legal implications of quitting versus being fired. For example, an employee who quits their job could forego compensation such as severance pay. 

Program outline: Heather and Samuel will hold an interview style presentation, where Heather will ask Samuel open questions on this topic. 

Audience experience: Attendees will learn how to make informed decisions when deciding whether to leave their job. 

(3) Program title: Employment Standards Minimum-What you need to know to protect your rights as an employee

Program description: Did you know that Ontario’s Employment Standards Act protect employees by setting out minimum wages, hours of work, overtime pay, etc.?  Make sure your rights are not violated by attending this important presentation. This talk is especially appropriate for young people starting out their careers, or those returning to work after a break. 

Program outline: Heather and Samuel will hold an interview style presentation, where Heather will ask Samuel open questions on this topic. 

Audience experience: Attendees will learn what their legal rights are as employees or contractors.

(4) Program title: Will and Estate Basics

Program description: Many people know that they should be planning their estate and have a will in place. However, the thought of having to see a lawyer usually dampens their motivation to do these tasks. Let Heather and Samuel make it easier by hosting this talk at the library! We will answer some of the frequently asked questions, such as “Do I really need a will?”, “When should I update my will?” and “What does probate mean?”. We will also explain other important concepts like Power of Attorneys and trusts. 

Program outline: Heather and Samuel will hold an interview style presentation, where Heather will ask Samuel open questions on this topic.

Audience experience: Attendees will learn the basics of wills and estates , so that they can have the information they need to make informed estate planning decisions