B.C. lawyer touts ‘assisted self-representation’

Denice Barrie is taking a unique approach to unbundled legal services at her new law firm in Nanaimo, B.C.

In offering what she calls “assisted self-representation,” Barrie provides coaching to family law litigants at a flat rate of $150 an hour at Waymark Law.

“This is definitely more of a supporting role,” she says, noting she got the idea while helping people at the Nanaimo Justice Access Centre’s family advice clinic.

“What I learned over time is that a lot of them could achieve good results . . . but they needed coaching,” says Barrie.

So in recent months, she took that work a step further with a new private practice aimed at helping people represent themselves. There’s no retainer, and people pay the flat rate whenever they need help on a pay-as-you-go basis. She notes she can do a lot for people during a single visit.

“I’ve drafted entire applications for people in an hour,” she says.

Barrie breaks her services down into six steps starting with simply collecting the many materials people have for their matters to finally preparing the case and presenting it in court. In many ways, the service is about understanding the court process and getting people organized, she notes.

“For the most part, people are happy with the service they get,” says Barrie, who notes access to justice in family law is a big issue in British Columbia given the lack of legal aid assistance.

Barrie has clearly developed a passion for the idea of addressing access to justice through assisted self-representation and notes it fits well with the notion of giving clients more control over their cases. She even wants to start giving workshops on self-representation next year.

“I’m jammed. . . . This is the most exciting thing that I’ve done as a lawyer. I really think this kind of service is the way of the future.”

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