Most people in family court are there acting for themselves – mainly because they can’t afford traditional, full-service, lawyers, or had lawyers and then ran out of money. And others are there because they just don’t want to deliver their case into the hands of someone else to manage for them. Together, these people are called “self-reps”, or SRLs – self represented litigants. In the United States they’re called “pro se” litigants.
About Joel Miller
I’m Joel Miller, and self-reps are the people for whom I’ve created The Family Law Coach.
I’ve been a practicing family law lawyer for nearly 50 years. Recently I stepped out of traditional practice to see if I could create, price, and deliver affordable family law services to those in court without a lawyer. I asked what someone unfamiliar with family law and the family court system might want – especially if they weren’t familiar with public speaking or organizing and presenting a case. I tried to picture what legal assistance would look like from the perspective of the user, instead of from the perspective of the lawyer. I looked at what sort of help might be offered to someone who wanted to tell their story in a way a judge would find useful.
The services offered through The Family Law Coach are what I came up with. Hopefully, other family lawyers will ask the same questions and come up with other answers.
Why I founded The Family Law Coach
I’ve always thought that being a family law lawyer was a noble calling. A profession to help people caught in a conflict achieve just results. I felt I was providing access to justice though my daily work. I came to see that I was wrong.
One day not long ago I was in family court and realized that there were more people there without lawyers than there were with. I hadn’t realized until then that the only people I was “helping” were those who could afford me. And I hadn’t given any thought to how unfair it was to most of the people there to have a court system built for litigants with separate, vigorous, “advocates” when the cost of hiring those “advocates” was beyond their budget.
What I was only then beginning to see was that I was serving a system in which meaningful access to justice was being denied to those who couldn’t afford our services. We family law lawyers were so expensive that only those who could find the money for our fees could have representation. We were serving the rich, not the rest. And there were more people in “the rest” than those who could afford us. We had created a two-tier system which favoured those who could pay for us.
That struck me as wrong. There isn’t any access to justice for people without access to services, and the traditional way of lawyering denied services to most people in family court. Realizing that was the beginning of what’s now The Family Law Coach.
The services offered through The Family Law Coach have changed as I’ve tried to find ways to a way to deliver affordable legal services. Especially since I’ve come to see that for many people, they need coaching about how to navigate the system and be their own lawyer more often than they need specific legal advice.
I’ve become passionate about the need for lawyers, especially family law lawyers, to re-think what we do, who we do it for, and how we do it. We need to create affordable and accessible services that clients who can’t afford full-service, traditional, lawyers can get without blowing their budget, taking time off work, getting child care, or making awkward travel arrangement to come to see us. We need to find a way to get “some” services to those who need legal assistance, even if they can’t afford full representation.
And we need to look at how we do this from the perspective of the consumer – the person caught in a family law situation who can’t afford, or doesn’t want, to hire a traditional lawyer, but still needs help to be their most effective.
I felt it was important to find a way to do this. That’s how The Family Law Coach came to be.
Check out The Family Law Coach Solution Packages to look over what’s offered and the cost. See if one of the Packages is right for you.
Here’s the “traditional” info about me, if you care
Although I’ve dealt with the dark side of marriage and have worked with divorce and the breakdown of intimate relationships for nearly 50 years, I’ve been happily married for even longer. I’m a husband, father and grandfather, and have been practicing law since 1970, before there was any separate field known as family law.
For the last 30 years I’ve done nothing but family law. Most recently I was a senior partner at Ricketts, Harris, a downtown Toronto law firm, and Chair of our firm’s Family Law Group. I’m still associated with the firm as counsel but am now practicing as Miller Family Law Services and providing The Family Law Coach solution packages.
I was on the founding board of the Toronto Collaborative Law Association and a member of a variety of legal organizations. I’ve done volunteer work in my community, spoken at conferences, and been interviewed about family law matters on both radio and television.
I was, and continue to be, a Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) for the Superior Court, Family Division, in Toronto, and have been doing this for over a dozen years.
I was at a point in my career where I was charging more than most other family lawyers. Life was good, but I was ready for a change.
In my new practice of supplying services offered by The Family Law Coach, I only accept people acting for themselves as clients and I serve them remotely by phone and email, offering legal assistance and coaching. This is to help people without lawyers organize and present their case in their most effective and persuasive way. I’m a believer that whatever limited amount of legal assistance you can afford, it’s better than none. And I believe that legal services should be priced so everyone can get at least some meaningful legal assistance.
Recently, I’ve spoken at both Canadian and American conferences on the need for family law lawyers to find ways to develop, price, and deliver services in a way that the majority of family court users can afford. Although The Family Law Coach model is novel both here and abroad, I’m trying to encourage more family law lawyers to consider this form of practice.
If you need to know more about us, please call at 416-862-0997. We’d love to chat. We can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.