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Is the answer to access to justice better marketing by lawyers?

By Inga Andriessen

In the Province of Ontario, there is a lot of talk about access to justice and concern about how many self-represented litigants there are in the courts.

One of the solutions has been to increase the number of lawyers in the province. Not surprising to me, this has not resulted in more people being represented by lawyers in court.

There are competitions to see how technology can improve access to justice. Not surprising to me, this has also not resulted in more people being represented, nor better prepared for court.

The same people who claim that lawyers are too expensive to retain for their family law matter are driving around in expensive cars and taking a sun-drenched vacation. It’s not that people cannot afford lawyers, per se, it’s that they choose not to spend their money on retaining lawyers. Why? They don’t see the value in retaining a lawyer.

This leads me to believe that a possible solution to access to justice is to educate people why retaining a lawyer is worth the money. Maybe the year you’re getting divorced, you spend your vacation dollars on a lawyer and get an enforceable custody agreement?

Maybe when you’re starting a new business, you buy some clothes at Winners, instead of Saks and talk to a lawyer about what you need to do from a legal point of view. That will save you a tonne of clothing money in the future when you’re not spending money on litigation or bankruptcy trustee fees.

There is value in paying a good lawyer. Unfortunately for us good lawyers, the bad apples are dominating the news and the public is jaded. It’s time for us to step up and explain how retaining a lawyer IS the answer to access to justice.

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