After practicing family law for over 46 years I’ve seen lots of self-reps in family court with good cases that aren’t being presented effectively, and who aren’t getting the results that they, and their children, deserve. The judges are trying to do their best, but without the proper evidence or organized and meaningful presentations, they can’t always get things right. That’s what motivated me to shift my attention and create The Family Law Coach.
Most recently I was a partner and chair of the family law group at Ricketts, Harris, a downtown Toronto law firm, and I’m still Counsel to the firm. I’ve been a long time instructor in the Family Law Section of the Bar Admission course, a founding Director of Toronto’s original collaborative family law association, have appeared before all levels of the court, and have a continuing appointment as a Dispute Resolution Officer for the Superior Court of Justice. I’ve presented papers at legal conferences, talked to numerous groups, and have been interviewed on radio and television. I’ve been in the “trenches” and understand how the family court system works for the thousands of people who are caught in a family law dispute.
Over the years I’ve seen the phenomenal growth of self-reps in the family court system. And like the judges and lawyers I know, I’ve been concerned about the impact this has had on the way the system works. I’ve wondered what could be done to improve things.
The problem was that I’d been looking at this through the eyes of a lawyer – not through the eyes of a family law self-rep trying to navigate the system. So I began to look at things from the perspective of the litigant as a consumer of legal services. I asked what family law self-reps wanted.
I was told that self-reps wanted assistance in navigating the family court system, to understand what they were supposed to do, and what they could expect to happen at each step, and how they could better present their case effectively. And they wanted to get some helpful legal information and strategic advice without having to hire a lawyer on a full retainer, pay-by-the-hour, basis.
This lead me to develop the 3 Pillars of Self-rep Service as one way to make available services that family court self-reps would find useful.
A 3 Pillar service is a form of “unbundled” service but it’s predefined, at a fixed fee, and accessible from anywhere. You know what you’re getting, and the cost, before you decide to buy. And it’s available to you from where you are – by phone, Skype, or email. No need to go to a lawyer’s office.
With the 3 Pillars in mind, I created the services now being offered by experienced family law lawyers through The Family Law Coach. All but one of services offered are full 3 Pillar services. They set out in advance what you get, the fixed fee cost, and are accessible form anywhere. (The other is a service personalized to the self-rep’s needs.)
And self-reps told me they wanted a place on the Internet where they could get free, reliable, information about the law and the way the system worked. So the Resources section of this site is filled with useful information and it keeps expanding regularly.
There’s a Self-rep Provider Directory so you can find other people who have at least one 3 Pillar service to offer family law self-reps. I wanted to crate a marketplace where a self-rep could shop for the service they wanted.
For too long the legal profession has regarded itself as special. Only lawyers can appear in court unless you’re acting for yourself. Only lawyers can prepare material to be used in court, unless you’re acting for yourself. And only lawyers are in court enough times to learn the “tricks of the trade” – what works and what doesn’t. It’s as though the profession says that if you can’t afford one of us, and don’t want to pay one of us by the hour, tough. You’re on your own.
That no longer seems right to me, and The Family Law Coach is a new way to let people acting for themselves keep control of their case, but still get some assistance, strategic advice, and practical tips along the way. It’s a fresh, consumer-oriented approach to the creation and delivery of family law services.
I hope you’ll find The Family Law Coach helps you help yourself. Let me know of any other services you’d find helpful. I’d appreciate your feedback.
Founder, The Family Law Coach