Final Report of BC Family Justice Unbundled Legal Services Project

We previously discussed “Unbundling” in this introductory post.

In short, unbundled legal services means clients pay for some assistance depending on: (1) what they want help with and (2) what they can afford. It is ideal for clients who value cost predictability and prefer to play a more active role in their own legal matter.

The BC Family Justice Unbundled Legal Services Project has now released their Final Report, which gives some more background on the project designed to encourage more BC family lawyers to offer unbundled legal services to BC families who wish to resolve issues arising from separation and divorce through out-of-court processes including mediation. The Report details the project’s activities, and contemplates the future of the project.

The Report also highlights places where you can learn more about Unbundling, namely the unbundling website: http://unbundling.ca

You may also access the Unbundling Roster on the Clicklaw HelpMap here.

Please spread the word with your colleagues, friends and family; as the Report notes, the Roster “will only be effective and sustainable if the public knows about it and uses it.”

Stay informed:

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Organization of the Month | July 2017

This month, we feature Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS), a Clicklaw contributor.

Meet Samrah

Samrah Mian is the Intake Coordinator for the Community Law Program at CLAS. Samrah acts as the first point of contact for all clients and advocates accessing the Community Law Program’s services. She listens to their stories, gleans relevant information, helps clients gather documents from various sources in order to complete a program intake, and links clients and callers to other resources and referrals when appropriate. She also plays a role in community outreach, public legal education and research, and works towards program goals surrounding residential tenancy.

Thanks for talking to me today, Samrah. Can you tell me more about what you do?

I was hired about a year ago at CLAS, in a newly created position, intended to streamline and simplify intakes with the hope that clients could quickly reach someone who would be able to help them immediately and that this would lessen the load on the rest of the program staff.

What I truly appreciate is the diversity of the work that my job involves. I’ve been given the opportunity to become involved in public engagement, conducting research and learning more about poverty law topics that interest me.

Can you tell me more about what your Community Law Program (CLP) is working on?

Besides providing direct services to hundreds of people every year, we’re involved in a number of systemic advocacy actions.

Our program is active in lobbying for changes to residential tenancy laws and procedures at the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB). We supported the new legislative amendments that allowed tenants fleeing family violence to be able to end their fixed-term tenancies early and we actively work with the RTB to improve practices.

Outside of residential tenancy, our recent work includes a case that resulted in the repeal of discriminatory income assistance policies and we are currently challenging the validity of forced psychiatric treatments under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We also intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada in a human rights case that will determine whether the BC Human Rights Tribunal can deal with complaints of workplace harassment involving co-workers, customers, contractors and other non-supervisory personnel in the workplace.

Very cool to hear. What about your direct services? When should people refer to CLP?

Here’s a handy chart:

A good time to refer to CLPNot a good time to refer to CLP
Your client has received an Order of Possession from the Residential Tenancy Branch and is required to leave their homeYour client has received a Notice of Eviction from their landlord
After a co-op board meeting, your client’s membership has been terminatedYour client is receiving letters from their co-op that threaten to cancel her membership if she doesn’t comply with their terms
Your client has been served with court papers from the bank holding the mortgage in the house that they live in Your client has missed a mortgage payment
Your client has received a decision from the Workers Compensation Appeal TribunalYour client has received a decision from a WCB officer
Your client has received a decision from the Social Security Tribunal or the Employment and Assistance Appeal TribunalYour client has been told that they are not eligible for income assistance by a government branch such as the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation (now Social Development and Poverty Reduction)
Your client has had a human rights tribunal hearing and lost the hearingYour human rights claim has been accepted and you are seeking representation (in this case, the Human Rights Clinic would be a good referral)
Your client has received a decision from the Employment Standards TribunalYour client is being harassed by their employer and want to file a complaint with the Employment Standards Branch
Your client has received a decision from the Mental Health Review Panel or is being detained under the Adult Guardianship Act or has been issued a Certificate of Incapability under the Adult Guardianship ActYour client has been involuntarily detained under the Mental Health Act (if they have applied for a review panel hearing, they can apply to the Mental Health Law Program for representation)

Fantastic. I think that will be an excellent tool for people to have when making referrals. Anything else CLP is working on that you’re excited about?

We’re currently building self-serve website called BC Judicial Review Self-Help Guide where self-represented litigants can walk through the judicial review process and download templates that will make it easier for them to file for a review. In the past, this used to be a very long PDF but we’ve updated it to make it easier to follow. We’re also making different ‘streams’ for different legal issues. We currently have the residential tenancy and workers’ compensation streams up and we’ll be working on human rights and some other tribunals soon.

What’s the biggest misconception that people have about CLP?

One big misconception is that we can represent all clients in all types of legal matters for free!

The legal services that we provide through the Community Law Program are free of charge but, in reality, our program mandate is limited. We’ve done some work to spread awareness about this fact but we still get the occasional phone call from a client who wants our help in suing their dentist.

Our primary intake criteria is assisting low-income clients resolve their legal disputes when they have a decision from an administrative tribunal in the areas of work-related legal issues, human rights, government benefits, housing, and mental health law. In addition, we can also help individuals when their co-op membership is terminated, we can provide advice to low-income homeowners when their house is being foreclosed upon and we can help with certain situations in regards to adult guardianship.

CLAS serves the entire province of BC, and our other programs include the BC Human Rights Clinic, the Community Advocates Support Line and the Mental Health Law Program.

Thanks for clearing that up. I hope this helps spread the word, and better connects people to CLAS.

Me too. Speaking of connecting, we are holding our Working CLAS Blues fundraiser on October 26, 2017. If you’re in the lower mainland, we’d love it if you could join us for a night of music, dancing and social justice. Contact Dianne Bankay dbankay@clasbc.net for more information.

Sounds like fun. Last question–what’s something you enjoy when you aren’t working?

I volunteer at Battered Women’s Support Services Family Law Information Clinic along with a team of legal interns. I also spend time reading contemporary literature and listening to HowStuffWorks podcasts.

Stay informed with CLAS:

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Organization of the Month | June 2017

This month, we feature People’s Law School, a Clicklaw contributor and early Clicklaw Wikibooks adopter.

// New Website

PLS launched a new website yesterday at peopleslawschool.ca.

PLS is a BC non-profit providing free education and info to help people “work out life’s legal problems.”

The website is responsive and mobile-friendly, and it focuses on providing plain language legal information on areas where there isn’t a lot of information available online:

  • Cars & Getting Around;
  • Consumer;
  • Wills & Estates;
  • Money (additional content to come in the months after launch); and
  • Work (additional content to come in the months after launch).
Image 1: Document builder for Agreement for Sale of Used Vehicle

The new website focuses on clean, visual and interactive design, with practical tools such as template letters and document builders, that people can use to take steps to address their problem. For example, they provide a document builder so you can draft your own agreement when selling a used car (See Image 1). You can provide feedback on the beta site here.

In addition to providing linkages to their resources on Clicklaw, PLS continues to be a big contributor to the Wikibooks. PLS is committed to delivering information digitally, in addition to their in-person services and print publications.

// Justice Theatre

The Justice Theatre program stages interactive theatre performances in classrooms and community settings around the province, featuring legal issues relevant to the everyday lives of students and those with unique legal needs. In the months ahead, PLS will be working to develop curriculum resources for teachers to use before and after the Justice Theatre comes for their performance visits, working to have a more seamless integration with learning happening in the classroom.

// Online Classes

PLS will be developing a program to deliver classes online, zeroing in on their focus areas listed above, along with newer topics such as neighbour law. They will continue providing their in-person Learn @ Lunch sessions, as well as evening classes across the province with partnering community organizations and public libraries.

// Get Involved

There are many ways to contribute as a volunteer with People’s Law School – you can also sign up for their newsletter at the footer of their new site.

// Acknowledgements

Thank you to Patricia Byrne, Executive Director, and Drew Jackson, Legal Content Developer, for providing the information for this post.

People’s Law School would like to thank the Law Foundation of BC for their support in building the new website.

Stay informed with PLS:

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Big Changes to Small Claims

Small Claims under $5001

Last week, the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT)–Canada’s first online tribunal–began accepting small claims disputes $5000 and under.

Small claims disputes that the CRT can resolve include a wide variety of issues between individuals and organizations. You can start with the Solution Explorer, the first step in the CRT process, to find information and self-help tools for your issue. You can also apply for dispute resolution right from the Solution Explorer.

If you go through to obtain a CRT order, it may be enforced by filing it in the BC Provincial Court. When you do so, it has the same force and effect as a judgment of the BC Provincial Court.

What about Small Claims over $5000?

The BC Provincial Court now handles Small Claims cases between $5001 and $35,000. The Court has put together a helpful page that goes over the changes, including:

  • types of disputes;
  • what the CRT can and cannot hear;
  • when a claim under $5001 can still be heard by the Provincial Court;
  • when the CRT might refuse a claim;
  • what to do when you are not happy with a CRT decision;
  • special procedures in Vancouver and Richmond; and
  • alternatives to court.

What resources & help are there for Small Claims?

With the help of Judge Ann Rounthwaite (retired), Digital Communications Coordinator for the BC Provincial Court, we have updated Where do I start for information on Small Claims Court?

This page provides a curated collection of helpful basics for all things Small Claims.

It includes a printable PDF handout with:

  • A summary of the resources; and
  • A short bit.ly link so anyone can quickly access the full list of links.

Other Provincial Court resources

The following Common Questions have also been updated:

Access all “Where do I start…?” questions and handouts at: bit.ly/clicklawbcpc

Stay informed:

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Organization of the Month | May 2017

This month, we feature BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA), a Clicklaw contributor.

FIPA is a non-partisan, non-profit society established to promote and defend freedom of information (FOI) and privacy rights in Canada. They strive to empower citizens by increasing their access to information and their control over their own personal information. FIPA was the major force in getting BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act passed.

// Upcoming Events

Wednesday, June 21: FIPA AGMFIPA will have a joint speaker with the Canadian Institute for Information and Privacy Studies. The public is welcome attend but only members can vote. Become a member today, and join FIPA for the AGM! For more information on membership, visit FIPA’s website.

Tuesday, July 11 @ 12:30pm: FOI 101 Online Webinar with Courthouse Libraries BC. Open to anyone interested in learning the basics of filing FOI requests and learning to navigate some common challenges that can arise as requests are processed. Stay tuned for more information! You can also subscribe here to stay updated on all Courthouse Libraries BC webinars.

September: Right to Know Week – FIPA will be hosting their annual FOI 101 workshop as well as the 7th BC Information Summit. More information to come, so be sure to check the FIPA website for the most recent updates. These events will be included on the Clicklaw blog’s monthly events posts.

// Q&A with Vince, FIPA Executive Director

Hi Vince, thanks for answering our questions. Can you explain what FIPA does?

A lot of what we do is helping people navigate a system that is completely alien to them, usually to get them information or documents they need to take care of other problems they may be having. We also do some education, but keeping in mind most people we help are focused on other issues–FOI is a means to an end.

Who does FIPA help?

We work to serve all of BC and even more so this year by providing our FOI 101 workshop through an online webinar with Courthouse Libraries BC, so that we can better reach the entire province. This interactive webinar will provide newcomers to FOI with practical skills to prepare and submit information requests that get results, and to navigate some common challenges that can arise as requests are processed. We are also actively engaged in national issues as well.

What are you working on now? 

We’re always working on exciting privacy and FOI reforms at both the provincial and federal levels, but with a new provincial government apparently ready to take office, we’re gearing up to really push for these reforms that have been largely ignored.

This year, we’ve also been doing work based on our 2015 The Connected Car: Who is in the Driver’s Seat? Report for the federal Privacy Commissioner. We have just appeared at a Senate Transportation committee hearing into autonomous and connected vehicles, and we hope to do an update on the report later this year. This exciting research will examine the current state of privacy protections in the Canadian car industry.

What’s something you’d like to clear up about FIPA?

A lot of people think we hold personal records in our office, or that we are a government body to whom they send their requests–but we don’t, and we aren’t!

What are you most excited about for FIPA?

We have the opportunity to deal with a very fast-changing field, especially working to ensure that new technological advances are also protective of our information and privacy rights.

Conversely, is there anything you are worried about?

I’m worried that we are being sold a bill of goods, trading our rights to information and privacy for convenience and/or claimed protection from danger.

Last question: if you could wave a magic wand and make one wish come true, what would it be, and why?

I’d wish that even a small percentage of the money and time being spent on developing new technologies and products was spent on ensuring that those technologies and products protect our information and privacy rights. It’s not impossible to protect privacy in the new information age, but there is a reluctance to devote the resources to make it happen.

// FIPA expertise brought to Common Questions

Thanks to FIPA, we also have a slew of new Common Questions on FOI, records, and privacy. Check them out by scrolling down on the Clicklaw home page:

Stay informed with FIPA:

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Organization of the Month | April 2017

This month, we feature the BC Provincial Court, a Clicklaw contributor.

An Innovating Court

The Annual Report notes that the BC Provincial Court saw 135,663 self-represented appearances in 2015/16. This is a 4% increase, and is the first increase in the past five years.

The BC Provincial Court’s  2015/16 Annual Report highlights several of their innovations: the use of video technology to save transports for prisoners’ preliminary court appearances, an active website and social media presence for more open communication, improvement in caseload management, an open and accountable complaint process, and volunteer activities by the Court’s Judges, Judicial Justices and staff.

Their efforts to serve the public by providing an accessible, fair, efficient and innovative forum for justice also include several notable initiatives with direct public impact: In addition to hosting the second-ever Twitter Town Hall, the Court is also taking greater efforts to improve meaningful access to justice for self-represented litigants (SRLs), and has recently released Guidelines for Using a Support Person in Provincial Court.

Support Persons Welcome

The Annual Report noted that the Court saw 135,663 self-represented appearances in 2015/16. This is a 4% increase, and is the first increase in the past five years. A self-represented appearance means an appearance where at least one of the parties does not have (is not represented by) a lawyer.

The Guidelines clarify that the Court welcomes self-represented litigants (SRLs) to bring support persons to civil and family court trials or hearings, although individual judges still have the discretion to decide whether the support person’s presence would be disruptive or unfair in a particular case.

The help provided by the support person can include: taking notes, organizing documents, making quiet suggestions to the SRL, providing emotional support, and doing any other task approved of by the judge.

The Court hopes that this initiative will bring clarity, consistency and credibility.

Further details are provided in the Guidelines and the Court’s eNews announcement.

Twitter Town Hall 2.0

The Provincial Court ran its second ever Twitter Town Hall, which included participants from: justice system organizations, lawyers, students, and people with legal problems.

Chief Judge Crabtree answering questions at the second annual Twitter Town Hall

The event invited anyone to “tweet” a question to Chief Judge Crabtree, who would endeavor to answer all questions in a two-hour period on April 6th.

As the Chief Judge explained, “Last year’s Town Hall wasn’t just a one-off event intended to make a splash. It was part of the Court’s ongoing communication initiatives dedicated to two-way engagement with the public…It’s just as important that we listen to the questions and comments of British Columbians about their courts and justice system. Our public speaking engagements permit this two-way communication, but Twitter provides an opportunity to engage with more people in a different way and with people who may not be able to attend a class or meeting due to geographic or other barriers.”

The Court received 176 tweets and responded with 129 answers and 9 comments.

Recurring themes included: Access to Justice, “unbundled” legal services, the new online Civil Resolution Tribunal and changes to Small Claims Court, diversity on the bench, using plain language, restorative justice, and First Nations Court.

The success of #AskChiefJudge inspired the Nova Scotia Courts to launch their own #AskaNSJudge event.

Information for the Public

The Court also continues to publish new information through its website. As a Clicklaw contributor, the Court ensures its resources are made more widely available and searchable on Clicklaw.

Read eNews for useful and interesting information about the Court and its work.

The Court’s Digital Communications Coordinator, retired judge Ann Rounthwaite, said “We try to provide people with useful and interesting information about the Court and its work by regularly publishing short eNews articles on the website, engaging in two-way communication through @BCProvCourt on Twitter, and providing helpful information on our website.”

For example, see these resources on Small Claims:

Stay Informed with BC Provincial Court

You can subscribe to eNews and follow the Court on Twitter.
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Do you have a will?

Printable PDF handouts with accessible Wills and Personal Planning Resources for all audiences

Wills are essential tools for responsible planning and are applicable to persons considered “mentally capable” and 16 or older in BC.

Completing a will is usually a relief.  If you have been thinking about a will for yourself or if you have family members who have yet to take that step, the next few weeks are an excellent time to start.

April 9-15, 2017 is Make-a-Will Week, and a number of organizations and legal professionals are coming together to donate their time and effort to help people write their will or bring an existing will up to date.

Don’t forget about Personal Planning

A will doesn’t mean you’re totally covered — if you don’t know about Representation Agreements, Enduring Powers of Attorney and other personal planning documents, you’ll want to read more about these important legal planning documents with experts like Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre and Registry.

What events are going on?

On April 22, 10am-2pm, call 604 687-3221 OR 1-800-663-1919 for a free 15 minute consultation with a lawyer

Make a Will Week is closely followed by Law Week, so there are a lot of events happening in the month of April. We covered a variety in our last post on April Events.

For example, the CBA BC is holding its province-wide Dial-a-Lawyer day on Saturday, April 22, 2017 from 10am – 2pm where anyone can call 604 687-3221 or 1-800-663-1919 for a free 15-minute consultation with a Wills and Estates Lawyer. They also cover other areas of law: Business, Employment, Family, Immigration and Tort & Motor Vehicle.

Nidus is holding online and in-person presentations about Personal Planning — legal documents for health care, personal care, financial and legal matters.

People’s Law School in collaboration with various organizations are holding many Public Legal Education Law Classes across BC on various topics, ranging from Writing a Will and Probating a Will to Strata Law.

I want to learn more about making my will. What do I read? Who do I call?

At the Wills and Personal Planning Resources page on the Courthouse Libraries BC website, there is a comprehensive list of free or nominal fee resources and services for everyone—from lawyers to people who aren’t familiar with the law. The webpage contains the full list of resources, services and events. The PDF handouts (printable, shareable) contain examples of types of help that can be found on the webpage, and contain a short bit.ly link that forwards to the webpage.

If you would like to make a suggestion for a resource, please email us.

Want to share the Wills & Personal Planning Resources page? Use this short redirect URL: http://bit.ly/CLBCwills

Stay informed:

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Who can help with income tax filings?

It’s that time of year again – 2016 returns must be filed by April 30, 2017! Here are some places to refer to for help with income tax filings:

Canada Revenue AgencyBC-wide, In-Person, Phone

  • has a list of Tax Preparation Clinics across BC. Multiple languages are supported depending on location. You may be eligible if you have a modest income and a simple tax situation. See eligibility requirements here.
  • also runs a individual income tax helpline 1-800-959-8281 from Monday to Friday, 9am-9pm local time, and Saturdays from 9am-5pm local time (until May 1, 2017)

    To be eligible for the CRA tax preparation clinics, the suggested income level is $30,000 for one person and $40,000 for a couple. More for each dependant.

Disability Alliance BC | Vancouver, In-Person, Phone & Email

  • through Tax Aid DABC, helps people who are receiving the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) benefit or the Persons with Persistent and Multiple Barriers (PPMB) benefit with simple income tax filings and information/referrals.

Together Against Poverty Society | Victoria, In-Person

Online Resources

Stay informed:

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Organization of the Month | February 2017

Introduction to the RSTP

The Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP) supports groups interested in the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Program, through which Canadian citizens and Permanent Residents can engage in the resettlement of refugees.

RSTP works with many different types of sponsoring groups: Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) and their Constituent Groups (CGs), Groups of Five, and Community Sponsors across Canada (excluding Quebec).

The increase in interest in the PSR program and involvement from the public in the resettlement of Syrian refugees that Canada has witnessed since September 2015 dramatically increased demand for RSTP services. With additional funding support, RSTP has been able to expand its staff and programs to assist sponsors across the country. For the first time, RSTP placed Trainers in Vancouver and Halifax to provide more intensive regional support.

What do we do?

RSTP addresses information and ongoing training needs of private sponsorship groups (PSGs), and the initial information needs of sponsored refugees.

RSTP provides training to sponsorship groups via:

  • Webinar presentations
  • Workshops
  • Information sessions
  • Training manuals and guides
  • Online-based training courses

RSTP keeps sponsors informed about policy updates via:

  • Information sessions
  • E-mail distribution lists
  • the RSTP Website (rstp.ca)

RSTP assists sponsors with their case-specific questions by:

RSTP in Western Canada

The RSTP Trainer in Vancouver, BC works closely with PSGs in Alberta and British Columbia. RSTP’s activities in Western Canada include:

Workshops and Training Sessions

RSTP offers trainings and workshops to ensure that PSGs understand the requirements of the program and the level of commitment needed, assist them with preparing application packages and guide them through the sponsorship process. RSTP emphasizes post-arrival issues that private sponsors may encounter and make sure that they receive the necessary assistance with providing settlement support to sponsored refugees.

Support with case-specific inquiries

RSTP responds to e-mail and telephone inquiries from sponsorship groups in Alberta and BC requesting: assistance with completing application forms, clarification of eligibility requirements, obtaining application updates, and seeking support with finding necessary settlement resources.

Updates and Information Sharing

RSTP keeps abreast of policy developments and changes, including provincial initiatives in BC and AB, and informs sponsorship groups via an e-mail distribution list.

Networking and Outreach

RSTP takes part in community events, networking meetings, roundtable discussions, and other events that focus on refugee protection and resettlement issues.

When and how can I contact RSTP?

Please do not hesitate to contact RSTP if you:

  • Are interested in learning more about Private Refugee Sponsorship program;
  • Would like assistance with completing application forms;
  • Have a case-specific question related to a refugee individual/family whom your group is sponsoring;
  • Would like to get connected to a settlement service provider organization;
  • Have questions about preparing for the long-term and ending sponsorship period; and/or
  • Would like to learn about upcoming workshops, webinars, and other training events offered to private sponsorship groups.

RSTP is funded by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and administered by Catholic Crosscultural Services (CCS).

RSTP office in Ontario:

55 Town Centre Court, Suite 401 Toronto, ON M1P 4X4 Canada
E-mail: info@rstp.ca
Tel: 416.290.1700; Toll-free: 1.877.290.1701

RSTP Trainer in Western Canada:

Tel: 604.254.9626 ext. 517

 

 

Stay informed with RSTP:

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What is “Unbundling”? An Introduction to the BC Family Law Unbundling Roster

New on the Clicklaw HelpMap is the BC Family Law Unbundling Roster, filled with legal professionals across BC, who offer “unbundled” services.

This listing is managed directly by Roster Staff. To see full profiles for professionals on the list, which contains information about fee structure, supported languages and more, visit the Roster website here.

What are Unbundled Services?

In short, unbundled legal services means clients pay for some assistance depending on: (1) what they want help with and (2) what they can afford.

Most people would like to have the advice and assistance of a family lawyer, but hiring a lawyer to represent them from beginning to end is often too expensive and makes it difficult to predict total costs.

Unlike the traditional full-representation model, a lawyer providing unbundled legal services works on, and charges you for, only those tasks that you agree to in advance. You start by meeting your lawyer and, as a team, make a plan to address your legal problem. The entire matter is broken down into tasks and you choose which tasks you want help with and which ones you will handle on your own. This approach is flexible, and can be adapted to meet your needs including your budget and your comfort level with managing your own legal affairs.

Unbundling is not for everyone. The Roster website has a questionnaire that will help you decide whether it is for you.

What are some examples of Unbundled Services?

For example, if you are representing yourself in court you may want a lawyer’s help with drafting a document or pre-trial advice. If you are resolving your dispute through an out-of-court process like mediation, an unbundled lawyer can provide legal advice before mediation or draft a binding agreement after mediation.

Related Help

Do you know a lawyer or paralegal who is interested in joining?

Send them to this page on the Courthouse Libraries BC website, which offers a Sign Up link to join the BC Family Unbundling Roster, and a toolkit to assist and guide in the provision of unbundled family legal services in a safe and effective way. These core documents have been prepared with the assistance of the Law Society of BC.

Stay informed:

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