One of the important questions for mediators to ask as legal aid funding has been removed from mediation advice services, and as duty and advice counsel become more limited, is how will clients receive independent legal advice, both before during and after mediation (if they want to develop a separation agreement). One new option to consider is the new Family Law Limited Scope Services Project.  On their website www.FamilyLawLSS.ca, the project offers a directory of lawyers who offer limited scope services. These lawyers have had training to help them understand and navigate different types of limited scope services for family law clients.

Now in its second year, the Family Law Limited Scope Services (FLLSS) Project aims to improve access to justice for middle-income Ontarians by increasing the availability of unbundled legal services, including limited scope retainers and legal coaching. Unbundled legal services offer an affordable option between full lawyer representation and no help at all.  The project is funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario.

About Unbundled Legal Services

Unbundled services can help people get the legal assistance they need, within a budget they can afford. A common feature of unbundled family law services is that a client is charged a flat fee for a particular service or is quoted an hourly rate with an estimate of the total cost. Either way, there should be no surprises regarding what the client is expected to pay.

What Unbundled Legal Services are Available?

Limited Scope Retainers

Under a limited scope retainer, a lawyer provides services for part, but not all, of a client’s legal matter. For example, the lawyer might be retained only to:

  • Assist with drafting documents
  • Help to begin or respond to a case
  • Help in a particular step in a case, such as a motion or case conference
  • Provide advice regarding settlement
  • Attend with the client at mediation.

Family Law Legal Coaching

With legal coaching, the client is responsible for all the tasks and steps in their legal matter; the lawyer provides advice, feedback and other support to assist the client in completing those tasks and steps. The client drafts documents and represents themselves, with the assistance of a legal coach “in the wings” who advises, educates and empowers the client along the way.

What can the Family Law Limited Scope Project do for you?

Current or potential mediation clients can go to the project website to access a roster of trained family law lawyers who are willing to provide unbundled legal services in family law matters.

The project website also provides easy-to-understand, step-by-step information on limited scope services and legal coaching in family law matters. The website is designed to:

  • Help people decide if limited scope services may be an option for them
  • Provide practical tools such as checklists, flowcharts and a guide on how to find and hire a lawyer who will provide limited scope services
  • Provide resources and referral information for family law services in Ontario for both potential clients and lawyers.

More information about the Family Law Limited Scope Services Project is available at the project website or by emailing info@FamilyLawLss.ca

Helena C. Birt, Senior Program Director, Family Law Limited Scope Services Project.  Called to the Bar in 1985, Helena joined Legal Aid Ontario in 1999 to manage the Family Duty Counsel program after 14 years in private practice.  Helena then moved on to the Ministry of the Attorney General, where she was the Deputy Legal Director of the Family Responsibility Office from 2010 to 2015.  She left MAG and returned to a private family law practice in 2017 and is the Senior Program Director of the Family Law Limited Scope Services Project. Helena may be contacted at helenabirtlaw@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply