Going to court is expensive and often unnecessary. In many cases, if you have the right tools and information, you can avoid taking the adversarial approach. This can save time, money, energy, and frustration. MyLawBC, a new tool from the Legal Services Society, helps people solve common legal problems as efficiently and painlessly as possible.
While MyLawBC helps people solve common legal problems, it can also be a useful tool for legal professionals to use with their clients.
Finding the information you need
MyLawBC doesn’t take the usual approach to helping people. It focuses on interactivity to engage users and provides curated information that gives the user just the information they need, when they need it.
MyLawBC asks you questions about your situation, then uses your answers to diagnose your legal issue. As you answer questions, the system learns more about your problem and, in the end, gives you an action plan specific to your situation. The action plan helps you solve your legal problem.
Finding information about legal issues online usually isn’t that difficult. Applying that information to your specific situation, though, can be intimidating. That’s why MyLawBC’s main goal is actionable information. MyLawBC gives you a custom action plan that lays out the steps you need to take to solve your problem. You can download your action plan for future reference.
Each action plan contains:
- Basic, essential background information about your legal problem.
- A clear set of first steps you can take immediately. If you’re determined, you can start on these without even leaving your computer.
- The next steps you need to take, which may be longer term.
- A list of resources, including in-person services that can help you along the way.
These action plans are not strictly about legal processes; the law can only be half the picture. They also cover practical issues you might experience. For example, for people who are separating, MyLawBC provides a Coping with Separation Handbook that deals with the emotional toll: communicating with your ex, how to talk to your children about your separation, ways to help your children cope with their emotions, and more. MyLawBC also focuses on directing people to alternative solutions, such as mediation, when appropriate.
Helping with common legal problems
MyLawBC helps with a range of issues from writing a will, to dealing with foreclosure, to family issues. For mediators, the family section is probably of most interest.
MyLawBC helps people determine the best way for them to work with their spouse as they separate. This looks at the couple’s issues, sticking points, and their self-assessment of their personal dynamic and then suggests the most appropriate options for them to work together. As they answer the website’s questions, MyLawBC helps to put the user in the right mindset so that they can see where options to stay out of court can work for them.
There are also sections to help you get a family order when you do need to go to court and how to respond if you’ve been served with court documents.
The Dialogue Tool
MyLawBC also features a tool specific to divorce and separation. The Dialogue Tool helps you create a fair and lasting separation agreement. Both you and your spouse set out your initial thoughts on what your agreement should look like. MyLawBC then gives you a chance to compare your responses and see how close you are on the issues. MyLawBC uses your initial ideas to create a template of a separation agreement. You then work with your spouse on the platform to customize this template. Along the way, the Dialogue Tool gives you the resources and information you need to make informed decisions.
While this is a great tool, it may not be appropriate for everyone. It requires a level of cooperation that isn’t always there. Couples who cannot complete the process by themselves may still find it a useful tool though. In cases of mediation, it might be considered good homework: by working through the tool, clients can come to the table with a better perspective of what they want and can expect. This head start can put everyone on the same page — or, at the very least, in the same chapter.
MyLawBC represents a shift in the way the Legal Services Society delivers legal information to the public. As with any new project, feedback is essential to refine and improve the site. While the Legal Services Society created the site with the input and work of mediators, we’re interested in hearing more from alternative dispute resolution professionals as we move forward.
Nate Prosser is the Online Outreach Coordinator at the Legal Services Society. You can follow the latest from the Legal Services Society on Twitter @LegalAidBC.