Murray takes leap of faith to help everyday people
By AdvocateDaily.com Staff
Ottawa paralegal Amri Murray has always felt an affinity for the underdog.
“I just want to help normal people who are struggling with everyday legal problems,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.
But unlike many who tout their passion for access-to-justice issues, Murray, principal at AJ Murray Legal Services, is not afraid to put her money where her mouth is, as she proved when she opened her own legal practice.
After a number of years in the Ottawa office of one of Canada’s largest law firms, she found herself "yearning to reach out to those caught up" in a few too many David and Goliath contests.
"I felt this constant urge to use my talents in other ways that could greater benefit the public. So one day, I made a conscious decision to just quit. No job to go to, no benefits, no guaranteed income. Without a cushion, I took a leap,” says Murray, who has never looked back.
“I learned so much working with a huge law firm, but I found that a wide cross section of people are not in a financial position to retain large firms to handle their day-to-day legal issues,” she adds. “There’s such a need for affordable legal advice and representation, and I’m now in a much better position to provide it.”
Murray actually considered qualifying as a lawyer in Ontario as she holds an LLB from a university in the U.K., but opted for the less costly and time-consuming process of paralegal accreditation.
“From an access-to-justice point of view, I'm very satisfied serving Ontarians in this capacity,” she says. “I’m happy knowing that I’m providing services to people who might not necessarily be able to afford a lawyer while helping to alleviate some of the stress on our court system.”
Murray operates a wide-ranging practice touching on such areas as human rights complaints, landlord and tenant matters, small claims court matters and summary criminal offences.
Murray says the flexibility that comes with running her own practice allows her to charge clients mainly on a flat-fee basis, as opposed to by the hour. She also embraces unbundled services, breaking down matters into their component parts, so that self-represented litigants can get professional help from a trained professional for parts of their case.
“If they can’t afford to pay for me to represent them at trial, I can do the preparation and walk them through what they need to do to act for themselves, so they’re not losing a winnable case simply because they don’t understand the process,” she says. “My aim is to make things simple for people, keep it laid back and make them feel comfortable navigating their way through our legal system.”
In addition to running her own practice, Murray also tutors paralegal candidates who are preparing for licensing by the Law Society of Ontario and is an active member of the County of Carleton Law Association, where she assists with their professional development offering to paralegals.