For starters, what exactly does access to justice mean?
Well, most people would probably think it’s all about empowering more people (particularly those with less resources and sophistication) to find good and affordable lawyers who can help them with their legal problems. Digger deeper reveals that this idea of “access to justice” is all about dispute resolution: faster, cheaper, and more effective ways of resolving disputes. This could be in the context of court (e.g. family, small claims, etc.), government agencies and tribunals (e.g. Ontario Securities Commission, Real Estate Council of Ontario, Ontario Human Rights Commission, etc.), or mediation / arbitration. So things like legal aid, pro bono lawyers, duty counsel, paralegals, etc. could help to improve access to justice in this regard. And making a post on Dynamic Legal Forms can also help by having local lawyers (who focus on the area of law you require) compete for your work! We also have affordable, downloadable, and customizable lawyer-prepared legal forms + video guides which can help you resolve disputes by avoiding going to court (e.g. settlement agreements, auto accident releases, cohabitation agreement, etc.).
But improving dispute resolution for the masses isn’t the be all and end all of “access to justice”. As Richard Susskind points out in his book, “The End of Lawyers?”, there are 2 additional components of access to justice which are sometimes missed.
First, access to justice means preventing disputes before they arise: prevention is better than than the cure. You go to a doctor for an annual health checkup, but when is the last time you went to a lawyer for an annual legal health checkup? Why wait until it’s too late to be proactive? That’s why we created a FREE legal health checkup. You can go directly to it here to take the Free Legal Health Checkup. The idea behind this innovative application is that, by answering a few questions in under 5 minutes, you can get an instant grade to better gauge your legal health. This can help identify issues of concern in various legal areas (e.g. estates, family, work, employment, real estate, etc.) and hopefully lead you to take action to prevent unwanted and potentially costly / emotionally distressing situations in the future. So by now, you’re seeing that access to justice is more than just a better cure when things go bad: it’s about preventing those disputes to begin with.
But there’s a final aspect of access to justice that’s often left to the back burner (also discussed by Richard Susskind). This has everything to do with the BENEFITS OF KNOWING THE LAW. People often look at legal services as a cost, but not as an income-generator or as allowing people to save money. But if more people knew the law, it could help them do BOTH! For example, if more and more people understood the following, they could generate or save money:
- Welfare eligibility and benefits
- Employment standards (minimal pay and notice requirements)
- Tax planning in making a will
- Tax planning in using the appropriate business structure (e.g. sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, limited partnership, etc.)
Knowing the law can also empower people so that others (e.g. employers, landlords, the government, etc.) don’t take advantage by infringing on their legal rights. Those rights could arise at common-law (i.e. judge made law), in a statute or regulation, or based on contractual principles.
So how does Dynamic Legal Forms help in this regard? Well, we not only allow you to get in touch with local lawyers who practice in the area of law you require, but we also offer a TON of free guidance everywhere you look. That guidance comes in the form of the DL Guide, the Legal Areas page, our Stats and Reports, and our affiliations with other websites (e.g. Legalline, Duhaime, AdviceScene, LegalTree, IsThatLegal, etc.). We want to help democratize legal services for the everyday person in Canada.
So by now it should be clear that access to justice has 3 fundamental aspects to it (improving dispute resolution, preventative law, and the benefits of understanding the law) and all of them are being addressed by Dynamic Legal Forms on a large scale 🙂