Key goals of this project are to help self-represented individuals: understand their issue(s) and options, gain confidence with making a decision for conflict resolution, be satisfied with the process, less frequently using formal court processes if appropriate, have proper documentation where proceeding with court-based action.
Why is this project needed?
The need for this service was identified when LISNS travelled the Province in Spring 2014 and held meetings with the regional justice centres and community groups. There are many people who have conflicts and do not know what options exist for dealing with them aside from going to court. Most people cannot afford the cost of hiring a lawyer. Conflicts that are unresolved take a huge toll on individuals, their families, friends and communities. There are few supports for people self-representing outside of Halifax.
Best Practices have Guided the Development of this Innovative Project
LISNS undertook research to determine national and international practices that could support this need. A pilot underway in the Housing Court in New York State has provided the basis for our ground-breaking initiative which involves training non-legal community volunteers to provide basic legal information to people thinking about going to court who cannot afford a lawyer This initiative appears to be the first of its kind in Canada.
The Public Navigator Project is an innovative approach to addressing a significant problem affecting many Nova Scotians (and Canadians) - dealing with legal conflict and not knowing where to turn and not being able to or know whether to engage a lawyer. Over 1 in 3 Nova Scotians will experience a legal conflict in a 3 year period. Unresolved conflicts take a huge toll not just on individuals, but on families, friends and communities. The model is focused on training community volunteers to deliver legal information to assist people in conflict who are not represented by a lawyer. This initiative is designed to provide support particularly to the regional areas of the Province where few supports are available.
The focus is on assisting people – helping them understand their options and building confidence – our experience through the LISNS Legal Information Line – a toll free anonymous service which provides legal counselling and a lawyer referral where warranted – serving over 100,000 Nova Scotians so far, indicates that almost 85% of conflicts can be addressed through the provision of legal information and only 15% actually require legal advice through a lawyer referral. There is a significant body of national and international research that supports our experience.
LISNS has been receiving national recognition for the initiative. We launched a first pilot in Bridgewater with volunteers in April 2016.
The materials which we have developed (without the benefit of a budget) to support self-represented individuals and the public navigators are available on our website: www.legalinfo.org/public-navigator/representing-yourself.html Feedback from volunteers, primarily retired seniors in Bridgewater, has been very supportive and we are being told this is an important need which volunteers recognize and wish to help support.
Download the Innovation and Access to Justice Conference (Montreal) October 2015 (Powerpoint) about the Project.
Training Materials have been Developed and Tested
LISNS has developed training materials (www.legalinfo.org/public-navigator/representing-yourself.html) for non-legal community members who will be trained to provide legal information support to self-represented individuals considering going through to Small Claims Court. Identification of issues and exploration of alternate methods of dispute resolution are key components of this program. A partnership with mediators in NS will support the diversion aspect away from the court-based process where appropriate. It is expected that the model, if proven successful, can be applied to all levels of court and adjudication processes and used across Canada.
First Pilot Launch in Regions
The first pilot was launched in Bridgewater in the Spring 2016 with volunteers trained through the test phase. LISNS is working with a variety of organizations in an effort to promote awareness of the initiative.
Recognition for the Public Navigator Project
Representing Yourself Video Series
Public Navigator Videos
Disclaimer: These legal information materials are prototypes which have been developed for the Public Navigator Project. These materials will be further developed as the project continues. Please provide your feedback below.
Table of Contents
- Options before a lawsuit
- Considerations before action
- Options for defence
- Considerations for defendants
- What is mediation?
- Introduction to the videos
- Difference between legal information and legal advice
- Additional helping resources
2. Options before a lawsuit
3. Considerations before action
4. Options for defence
5. Considerations for defenders
6. What is mediation and who may consider it?
- Who might consider mediation
- Existing resources in NS
7. Filing Notices
- The purpose of notice
- The rules defining notices
- The difference between a Notice of Action and a Notice of Defence
- What are pleadings
- The rules
9. Lawyers and you
- What is a contingency fee agreement
- What are unbundled services
For further information about this project please contact [email protected] or (902) 454-2198 (administration only, not for legal information)
Interested in being a Volunteer Navigator?
The program places trained volunteer members of the public (Public Navigators) in a regional courthouse to help people who are without lawyers (self-represented individuals), navigate and understand options available to them inside and outside the court system for resolving their legal issue. Public Navigator volunteers may also, under supervision, help people who are considering starting a legal action and assist with form-filling.
This program is designed to help people without a lawyer get meaningful information about the legal system that otherwise would be difficult to find or access. LISNS has developed training materials available through LISNS website at “representing yourself”
Public Navigators will provide legal information only, not legal advice. Although Public Navigators are not a replacement for legal advice, we believe that the Public Navigator Program will help people make better decisions about their legal problems.
This program relies upon community members in the area of the respective regional courthouse who are willing to volunteer a small amount of time to act as a Public Navigator at the regional courthouse.
Who are we looking for?
- People living in or with transportation access to the regional courthouse in your area
- Reliable participants who will commit at least one afternoon a month
- Schedules will be flexible to meet a volunteer's work and personal commitments.
- People willing to learn:
- There will be an information session to explain the materials to volunteers and answer any questions.
- Ongoing teaching sessions will take place to adapt to the feedback we get from people being helped by the program.
- People interested in helping others, law, the legal system, or access to justice. Whatever the reason to help we welcome the support and effort.
We appreciate your help and look forward to hearing from you.
Please contact [email protected] or 902-424-2198 if you are interested in learning more about volunteering with the public navigator pilot project.
Please contact Legal Info Nova Scotia at li[email protected] or (902) 454-2198 for further information about this Project.