TORONTO – Luke Halsted recently found himself in desperate need of a legal help and found help with a unique service from a law firm.
He was hoping to represent himself against his former partner in court when a letter made him rethink his decision.
“I got a letter in the mail from a lawyer I’d never heard of, “ said Halsted, “My ex-partner had qualified for full legal aid.”
Halsted recalls feeling panicked at the thought of representing himself against a trained lawyer.
“I wasn’t in the position to pay for full representation,” he said.
He sought help online and found the law firm of Gelman and Associates, a law firm that offered piecemeal work.
“This gives individuals the opportunity, who normally couldn’t, [to] hire full-time lawyers,” Lisa Gelman, a family lawyer said.
The firm started offering free webinars and online advice five years ago and are now offering piece by piece service.
Some of Gelman’s associates were hesitant at first, and questioned the new method of business.
The principle in the firm however said the choice to offer piecemeal work was about increasing access to justice – and those that can afford to pay for lawyers, “still hire lawyers.”
Gelman’s piecemeal work allows clients can choose from a list of offerings, ranging from just one part of a service to the full package.
“Clients or potential clients can represent themselves at court, for instance,” Gelman said.
For less complicated cases, there are websites that offer full DIY packages.
Toronto-based site mylegalbriefcase.ca was founded by lawyer Monica Goyal. The site describes itself as the Turbo Tax of legal representation, offering pre-made forms for wills, and small claims, as well as services for business clients.
One of the sites paralegals, Trent Knackstedt, said the savings can be extreme. A form for small claims can start as low as $79, if a lawyer were to offer full services for small claims, it could be as high as $2,000.
“The forms are really easily edited.” says Knackstedt, “none of them require the document to be signed by a lawyer or paralegal.”
The documents can be amended if something needs to be changed and the price includes fees to retain files.