Monday, February 09, 2009

Top judge adds voice to debate over legal fees

McLachlin's nudging of the legal profession was part of a speech in which she decried the lack of affordable legal help in Canada. She said that some courts report that more than 44 per cent of cases involve self-represented litigants.

Unbundlingis thriving in the U.S., but is in its infancy in Canada, where the concept is being promoted by law societies in British Columbia and Alberta. Lawyers effectively act as consultants for their clients for any work that the clients can do themselves.

In a 2008 report, a Law Society of British Columbia task force described unbundling as "a midway option between full service representation and no representation."

The report notes that lawyers must come to terms with the fact that self-representation is not going away because legal information is easily obtainable online. The "cultural shift" of the information age is making legal information easily obtainable online by a new generation of computer-savvy litigants.

"Many of these litigants will not see the value in hiring a lawyer to collect and process information they might easily collect themselves."

Canadian Lawyer magazine, in a survey published last summer, reported that the average "going rate" in Canada for a two-day trial civil is $25,220. It costs an average of $1,250 for a bail hearing, $4,820 for a separation agreement and $6,600 for a child custody and support agreement, said the survey of 300 lawyers.

To cope with an escalation in go-it-aloners, courts are scrambling to offer how-to guides, tip services, checklists and some are even setting up storefront kiosks that offer legal help.

Knowledge empowers people and breaks expensive traditions -Good for the Inter-net knowledge which is affordable and available- PR

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