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April 11, 2011

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Follow on Subscribe to Law Times And receive: • Unlimited access to the Law Times digital editions and to our digital edition archives...FREE • Canadian Legal Newswire, a weekly e-newsletter from the editors of Law Times and Canadian Lawyer...FREE $4.00 • Vol. 22, No. 13 Untitled-3 1 5/5/10 3:55:30 PM Covering Ontario's Legal Scene earlug.indd 1 Windsor lawyers decry reforms Changes not needed as many litigants retain counsel BY MICHAEL McKIERNAN Law Times S tatistics that show wide variations in the rates of unrepresented liti- gants in family court are prompting a backlash against planned legal reforms by some lawyers in one southwestern Ontario city where the overwhelming majority of people still retain counsel. Th e statistics, provided to Law Times by the Ministry of the Attorney General, show that across the prov- ince, 54 per cent of people who fi led applications in the Ontario Court of Justice or the Ontario Superior Court of Justice under the Divorce Act, Fam- ily Law Act or Children's Law Reform Act hadn't retained counsel. But the proportion of unrepresented litigants varies wildly from courthouse to courthouse. According to the most recent available statistics that cover the 12 months between April 2009 and March 2010, 83.9 per cent of appli- cants in Cambridge, Ont., were with- out a lawyer compared with just 15.6 per cent in Dryden, Ont. Two Toronto courthouses were among those with the most unrepre- sented applicants, each recording rates of more than 70 per cent. Data for the city's courthouse at 393 University Ave. was unavailable due to a change in data collection systems. Victoria Starr, chairwoman of the Family Victoria Starr has noticed an increase in the number of self- represented parties in Toronto. Lawyers Association, says she has noticed an in- creasing number of self-represented parties in Toronto, where her practice is based. "Everybody's practice has fi les where they have self-rep on the other side, and they're some of our most diffi cult cases," she says. "I think it's a symptom of a big- ger problem, which is that society seems to think there's something about family law that is not real law. Th ey have this idea that you don't really need a lawyer in family court. It's not true." In Windsor, Ont., the issue is pro- voking a backlash against planned re- forms designed to simplify the process in family court. Some lawyers in that city, where the vast majority of ap- plicants retain counsel, say Attorney General Chris Bentley's so-called Four Pillars program is unnecessary and may actually encourage more people to go it alone in family court. Th e project has been rolled out as a pilot in Milton and Brampton, Ont., but is scheduled to ex- pand across the province later this year. Currently, just 21 per cent of people attempt to navigate the system without a lawyer in Windsor. "Th is project is a make-work project for lawyers," says Windsor family law- yer Deborah Severs. In her view, Bent- ley "needs to understand that we are a unique legal community and are able to help our clients." Samuel Mossman, another lawyer who conducts family law litigation in Windsor, says it's hard to pin- point the reason for the city's low rates of See City's, page 5 most complicated cases in a bid to keep senior counsel accepting legal aid certifi cates. LAO promised to develop a rate LAO to pay $129 per hour for complex cases L BY MICHAEL McKIERNAN Law Times egal Aid Ontario has launched a new special rate for lawyers who handle its rate available under the old three- tier system. Over the next four years, it will rise in stages until it reaches $161.05 in 2015. All fi rst- and second-degree mur- policy for complex cases as part of the memorandum of understand- ing it signed in January 2010 with the Criminal Lawyers' Association and the Ministry of the Attorney General to bring the eight-month legal aid boycott to an end. On April 1, it fi nally launched the pol- icy following months of consulta- tion with the CLA. At $129.81 per hour, the tariff is 16-per-cent higher than the top der cases are automatically complex cases, but to get the higher rate, lawyers must fi rst become mem- bers of a new panel established by LAO. Panel lawyers will be able to apply to receive the rate for other complex cases, such as drugs and gang prosecutions, as well as those involving multiple defendants. Heather McArthur, a member of the CLA's complex case rate committee, says she hopes the move will lure back experienced defence counsel who had given up on legal aid after years of concern about a lack of funding. "Th e lawyers who were best suited to do these kinds of cases and to do them properly were es- sentially voting with their feet and walking away from the legal aid plan," she says. "It was so ineffi cient they simply could not aff ord to do these cases. Th e whole idea of hav- ing the enhanced funding is to try to get back those very experienced, very skilled counsel. And counsel at that level want to be able to assist in these complex cases because it's where the stakes are the highest." In 2008, a report on large and complex criminal cases highlighted the same issue. It recommended a new legal aid tariff "that provides for 'enhanced fees' and for 'exceptional fees' as the anticipated length and complexity of the case increases." McArthur says the higher rate may even save costs in the long Great Businessman 8 Election Special 19 Focus On Class Actions Quote of the week "Women have indicated to me at the courthouses that they can't drop their kids off at school and make it to court at 9 a.m. The law society needs to address the concerns that are raised by women." — Bencher candidate Katherine Henshell, See Should, page 9 April 11, 2011 11/10/09 11:20:32 AM Inside This Issue 4 run because LAO will only admit the most effi cient defence lawyers to the new panel. All lawyers on the LAO's existing extremely seri- ous criminal matters panel will be eligible to apply to join, but LAO's new policy says applicants must be able to demonstrate a track record of "the eff ective and effi cient use of public funds" and "declining to pursue issues or proceedings that have no real prospect of success." LAO also reserves the right to make "discreet and confi dential inquiries within LAO and the justice system" to assess the qual- ity of the lawyer's outcomes and asks members to reapply for their position on the panel every four years. In addition, they must commit to a mentoring program See Policy, page 5 FEEDS LEGAL LegalFeeds_Cl_Jan_11.indd 1 A daily blog of visit LT Digital version.indd 1 6/25/10 12:59:47 PM Click here to subscribe today to LAW TIMES Canadian Legal News 1/6/11 11:44:49 AM Includes a FREE digital edition! canadianlaw legalfeeds Go to:

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