One thing we all struggle with when facing potential legal issues is defining that moment when we need professional assistance. When we seek assistance beyond ourselves, when we need another human being, we are vulnerable. So, frequently, we turn to those we trust most. Our family. Our friends. Our coworkers. People we already have share trust with. Emotionally, this is a safe decision. Intellectually, we know it is probably not the correct decision.
As technology advances and we become more and more specialized in what we do, it becomes maybe a little easier for each of us to understand the value of knowledge. Once Lawyers, Doctors and Judges were held in awe. Now we know that they merely hold knowledge the rest of us do not, and that knowledge has value. It allows the mechanic to fix our car, the hairdresser to cut our hair and the more important the issue is in our lives, the more important it becomes to obtain that knowledge.
Thankfully, we live in the age of information. At our fingertips, frequently in our pockets, we have computers capable of summoning vast stores of knowledge. And we can take our potential legal issue and look up what we believe are the relevant laws and find them, without issue. In a google search or two, we can receive all kind of advice on how to proceed. Some of it may sound helpful, some not at all. Some may be correct. And that is where we begin our journey, many of us, to wisdom. How do we know what’s right and what isn’t? Who would know? And that elephant in the room, what is this going to cost, can we afford it? Can we not afford it?
GOOD NEWS! finding out is NOT going to cost us anything. Depending on our issue, and our knowledge, we may already know the type of legal professional we need. If we have a matter with a tribunal, with Small Claims Court ($25,000.00 or under, not so small, I know!) with a Tenant or Landlord, with a Traffic Ticket or with your license, it is a paralegal that likely fits the bill for a free consultation. If it is a family law matter, a real estate matter or a will, we need a lawyer. Maybe we aren’t sure. So we can contact the Law Society of Upper Canada, where they run a free referral service that will assist. (https://www.lsuc.on.ca/lsrs/) First, they will figure out who we need, is it a lawyer or a paralegal? Then they will set us up with a recommendation for local service provider to give us a free twenty minute consultation. And, knowing who we need, paralegal or lawyer, we can phone around and arrange our own consultations as well. We can now find someone whom we feel comfortable with.
Elsewhere on this website there is an article about what to do to prepare for your consult, it is older but valid, regardless of your legal issue. The more prepared you are, the better the advice you can receive. You may need representation. You may only need some assistance. You may be fine acting on your own. It is important that you know, with certainty, what your legal rights and options are. You should NEVER feel pressured to sign up during an initial interview with a legal service provider, paralegal or lawyer. You should receive clear information on your rights and options. You should feel comfortable with your choice of legal representation, always.
Professionally, I operate in three advocacy areas. Small Claims, Landlord/Tenant, and Provincial Offences, primarily Highway Traffic Act matters, which folk generally think of as traffic tickets. I don’t cover all practice areas paralegals do, and I do not accept all clients within my chosen sphere, the fit has to be both ways. As I have practiced and grown in the profession, I find that a certain amount of emotional investment in my client’s situation works best for me. That’s a personal thing, it doesn’t show in correspondence or in court, but it helps me feel that I have accomplished something I believed in at the end of any given day. So I take those files I am comfortable with and pass on those I do not to my colleagues. Many of my colleagues feel professional detachment is important and this is a valid and, I believe, important position for legal professionals.
I do refer potential clients out to other paralegals and lawyers I know personally. I don’t take referral fees from those files, that, again is a personal thing. If I refer you, I think of you as my client and I am sending you to where I believe you will receive great service. Where I don’t have a personal referral, I direct clients to the Law Society referral service.
When should you choose to seek legal assistance? Early. As soon as you identify a potential problem. You can get a free consultation, most legal professionals will offer one. It is available through the Law Society Referral Service. Use it. Give yourself the peace of mind that comes with knowledge. It is a gift beyond measure, and, truly, this is the age of information.