How Legal Coaching Can Help if You Are Representing Yourself in Court

By Marcus M. Sixta

Gaining in popularity, legal coaching is an unbundled legal service that allows you to hire a legal helper to do a specific job for you.

With Legal Aid services chronically underfunded and the average cost for a lawyer steadily increasing, it is no wonder more and more people are representing themselves in court. An average 2-day trial in Canada can cost over $30,000, and that is just for the trial. If there are steps to take before trial, like court applications, this will increase the costs. Most people cannot afford this.

In fact, in some Canadian jurisdictions, over 60% of court cases involve at least one person who is self-representing. Many in the legal community have recognized this shocking statistic as an access to justice crisis.

Fortunately, legal coaching services are now available to help those representing themselves in court.

What is legal coaching?

Legal coaching is a form of legal assistance that provides support in the background for someone who is representing themselves in court. Coaching is a type of “unbundled” legal service. This means you are hiring a legal helper to do a specific job for you, rather than to take on every part of your legal matter.

With legal coaching you can hire a lawyer to help you draft a letter or affidavit, to help you prepare for a trial or mediation, or even to explain the basics of filing and serving court documents. What a legal coach will not do is attend court for you. With legal coaching you are representing yourself in court or at mediation.

Legal coaching has been gaining in popularity over the last 10 years. Now, there are many lawyers and even paralegals who provide legal coaching in Canada. Legal coaching is available for many different areas of law including family law, estate Law, employment law, small claims court, debtor creditor issues, residential tenancy, and many more.

Why should I consider legal coaching?

Representing yourself in court is tough. The forms are confusing and hard to find, and filing processes are often strange and outdated. You may not know how to find the law you need to support your case. You may not know how to present your case to the judge. Without any legal help, your chances of getting a successful outcome are much lower, especially if the other side of the case has a lawyer.

With a legal coach, you are able to get help in the background when you need it. You decide what help you need, and you decide what help you get. If you only have funds for one meeting, you can meet with a legal coach for advice in one meeting. If you have funds to hire a legal coach to draft your court documents, you can hire a legal coach to do this as well. With legal coaching you control your spending as you decide what assistance you get.

Legal coaching is client centered. This means the client retains control over their case and how it proceeds. With legal coaching you drive the bus and the lawyer acts as the navigation system. You can follow the path set by the navigation system or you can choose a new path. Ultimately, the path you take is up to you, and the lawyer will advise you on the consequences of this.

Who should use legal coaching?

Legal coaching is for people representing themselves in court. Some people choose legal coaching because they cannot qualify for Legal Aid. Some people choose legal coaching because they cannot afford to pay a lawyer a big retainer. Some people choose legal coaching because they believe they can successfully represent themselves with some help in the background.

Court clerks and judges often will assist people who are self-represented in court by providing them with direction on legal processes. However, they cannot provide legal advice. Often, they are under pressure to be efficient and will not have time to explain much. A legal coach can provide advice and direction. They can help draft and edit documents. Most people recognize that everyone is better off with some legal assistance than none at all.

However, self-represented individuals must have the capacity to represent themselves in court. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. If you have an extreme fear of public speaking or are suffering from mental health difficulties, legal coaching may not be for you.

Can I be successful with legal coaching?

Many people have achieved successful results with legal coaching. However, the outcome in any court case is never guaranteed. A judge ultimately has to choose between two sides and only one side is successful. That being said, you are more likely to have a successful outcome if you have some legal assistance.

With legal coaching, you are provided with the tools for success. But, as you are representing yourself in court, it is up to you to use those tools for a successful outcome.