A Nanaimo lawyer says she has the solution to the rising cost in legal fees.
Waymark Law, the brainchild of long-time legal aid lawyer Denise Barrie, is an enterprise designed to give affordable legal guidance to those willing to self represent in court.
For a growing number of people, the cost to hire a lawyer poses a dilemma: the need for justice, versus the risk of losing a case after spending thousands on legal bills.
University of Windsor law professor Julie Macfarlane wrapped up an 18-month study of self-represented litigants "really horrified... by the social, emotional and psychological consequences" for many people. Barrie provides basic legal tools to help self-represented litigants succeed in court, at an affordable cost.
Barrie believed, when she first served people at the Nanaimo Justice Access Centre in 2007, her clients just need real lawyers.
Over time, she realized many just needed help organizing their cases.
"People can do a lot of work themselves," Barrie said.
"They know their cases better than anyone, what they don't know is how to package their cases - how to bring it before the court."
Rather than pay a hefty retainer, and steep legal bills, clients pay a flat $150 an hour to learn how to build a solid case to represent themselves.
Too often, self-represented litigants - SRLs - dump a disorganized jumble of information on a judge, which can hurt their case.
Barrie offers a six-steps system: Collect everything for the case, organize it into categories, coordinate the categories, develop a strategy,prepare the case and finally, present it in court.
Defending oneself in court isn't for everyone, but Barrie said even those too nervous to go before a judge benefit from good preparation.
"Even those who chicken out - lose their nerve - have done a lot of the work along the way."
An organized case given to a lawyer willing to present in court should save the client considerably in legal costs.
"When you're supporting an SRL, what you're doing you're working with them, as opposed to taking over and running with it. It gives clients a lot of control," Barrie said.
As far as Barrie knows, no similar service is offered in Canada. She hopes to build a franchise from it.
"Nanaimo is the pilot," she said.
For more information, Barrie can be reached at 250-591-3943.
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