A few weeks ago the newspapers were buzzing with the decision of the Honourable Mr. Justice Nordheimer to halt criminal charges against an individual until Legal Aid paid the bill for his lawyer. The basis for this is that the $ 11,000.00 income limit before you are no longer eligible for Legal Aid was too low in the Judge’s opinion.
In family law matters, many people represent themselves rather than hiring a lawyer because they cannot afford the legal fees.
Both the criminal and family law areas are frequently discussed in the “Access to Justice” articles that frequently circulate these days. What is infrequently discussed, however, is “Access to Justice” in the Business Law Context.
Many new businesses choose to avoid incurring legal fees when they start out because they believe they cannot afford them. The rationale is often, if I make money, then I’ll spend money on legal fees. Yes. Yes you will. A lot more than had you retained a lawyer to begin with.
What can change this? How can we improve Access to Justice for businesses starting out?
The blanket solution of flooding Ontario with more lawyers is not improving Access to Justice in Criminal and Family Law, so that is not the solution.
Legal Aid for Business Law is never going to work: we need to fund those whose liberty is at stake before we fund businesses.
So. Where does that leave us?
In our firm, it leaves us with offering work on a flat fee basis. New business owners can save and budget for the expense. Additionally, by working on a flat fee, the new owners can relax and take their time learning about their legal obligations, rather than worrying about an hourly rate being charged to them.
Access to Justice matters: as lawyers, we need to get creative on how to make that happen.
Inga B. Andriessen JD