The Alberta Limited Legal Services Project


About the Project

Over the last ten to twenty years, lawyers, judges and others involved in the justice system have become increasingly worried about the ability of Albertans and other Canadians to hire lawyers to help them with legal problems. Research shows that when people can't afford to hire a lawyer, they are less likely to engage in the legal processes that will help them right a wrong, or defend themselves when they have been sued or accused of a crime, and are more likely to represent themselves in court. Reports by the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family say that people involved in court cases without lawyers tend to have problems with court processes, problems with the law that applies to their situations and tend to achieve results that are worse than the results achieved by people with lawyers.

In 2013, Professor Julie Macfarlane, of the University of Windsor, published a study showing that many people who can't afford or don't want to hire a lawyer to help them for all of a legal problem do want to hire a lawyer to help them with part of their legal problem. However, Professor Macfarlane also found that "relatively few" of the people she spoke to "were successful in accessing legal services on this basis."

We believe that providing limited legal services, rather than the usual sort of legal services in which a lawyer is hired to handle a problem from beginning to end, can help people access justice. The Canadian Bar Association and the Law Society of Alberta agree.

The Alberta Limited Legal Services Project promotes the use of limited legal services, in the expectation that short legal services like these are more affordable than hiring a lawyer on a full-service retainer, and intends to increase the number of Alberta lawyers who are willing to work on this basis. But we also want to find out how satisfied people are with limited legal services, how helpful this sort of service is, and whether accessing limited legal services really does improve people's ability to resolve their legal problems. A report on the outcomes of the project is being prepared by the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family and will be available on the Institute's website by the end of August 2018.

The Limited Legal Services Project has been developed by a group of Alberta lawyers led by Rob Harvie QC, of the Lethbridge firm Huckvale LLP, and John-Paul Boyd, of the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family in Calgary, and is generously supported by grants from the Law Foundation of Ontario and the Alberta Law Foundation. We are grateful for the Law Foundation's support and committment to improving access to justice for all Canadians.

Click here to learn more about the Limited Legal Services Project. Visit the limited legal services page to learn more about the sort of legal work participating lawyers in the project can do for you, and the participating lawyers to find a lawyer providing limited legal services in your neighbourhood.



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