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Steps to Justice website a great resource for family law clients: Silbert

A new website the provides people with simple legal information gathered from reputable sources in the Ontario justice sector will help those going through separation and divorce, says St. Catharines family lawyer and mediator Sharon Silbert.

Steps to Justice recently launched by Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) with input from the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice, the Social Justice Tribunals of Ontario, Legal Aid Ontario, the Law Society of Upper Canada, and the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario. The website provides step-by-step information on common issues people experience in such areas of law as family, employment, and criminal.

While the site may benefit those who don’t have a lawyer, there are also many ways it could complement the work of legal counsel, says Silbert, principal of Sharon B. Silbert Professional Corporation.

“If a lawyer can refer their client to this site to get that big picture perspective it could be very helpful to everyone and assist the client in keeping their costs down,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“They may review the site while preparing for an appointment with a lawyer and get ideas of questions they had not thought to ask before, so they are prepared to efficiently maximize the value of the time they’re spending with the lawyer.”

Silbert says after reviewing the content in the area of family law, she is satisfied it provides an excellent quality of information in an easy-to-follow format. An embed function on the site allows non-profit groups to easily link to its data, preventing unnecessary duplication and allowing details to stay up to date.

While there typically is a plethora of family law material available online, finding the more reliable content from reputable sources can sometimes be challenging, Silbert says.

“This website streamlines the information-gathering process, allowing someone to find as much good material in one place as possible,” she says.

Specifically in the area of family law, the site has sections on property and debts for both married and common-law couples, child custody, support, out-of-court options, and domestic abuse.

Silbert says she is not concerned the website would unnecessarily encourage self-representation. Instead, she says lawyers need to become more open to finding ways to create efficiencies in the family law system — and this is one of them.

“As lawyers, we need to get better at thinking about and articulating what it is we provide in terms of value to clients, and that it’s not just about knowing what the legal principles are. Yes, you can find much of that information online but providing specific expertise tailored to an individual's’ circumstances is not something you’ll get from a website.”

Steps to Justice and other resources can help with lawyer/client relationships, she adds.

“If a client can have some of their most basic questions answered for free, and they’re being billed for services recognized as being valuable and necessary for a lawyer to provide, that may be able to assist with client satisfaction as well.”

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