Final Report of Mediate BC’s BC Family Justice Unbundled Legal Services Project Now Available

As many of you know, unbundled legal services help to fill the gap for people who do not qualify for legal aid and cannot afford full representation. Law Societies in many jurisdictions have formally approved unbundling (also called limited scope legal services) but few lawyers were offering these services to the public. The purpose of Mediate BC’s BC Family Justice Unbundled Legal Services Project (the “Project”) was to find ways to encourage more lawyers to offer these services.

After an 18 month process, I’m pleased to advise that the Project’s final report and the report of the independent evaluation of the Project are now available.

The Project has been highlighted in various Slaw posts during that period including here and Nate Russell’s excellent post here. While the final report details the Project’s activities, observations and deliverables during its 18 month life, the unbundling movement is far from over. In fact, the report acknowledges that, at most, it attempted to nudge an existing movement and that much more still needs to be done.

Unbundling is not the silver bullet for access to justice. However, it is an important piece of the access to justice puzzle. The Project used the term “unbundling” to include “legal coaching” and has collaborated the National Self-represented Litigants Project and Nikki Gershbain who are working to promote that important approach. We also shared information with JP Boyd’s Alberta Limited Legal Services Project.

The Project’s research and engagement phase identified both concerns/barriers and successful practices which led to the creation, in collaboration with others, of four major deliverables:

The Toolkit is open and available to anyone. While it focuses on family matters, the contents were designed to be adaptable to other practice areas. Tools address the major concerns expressed by lawyers: claims and complaints to the Law Society and reputational concerns.

Many lawyers are already providing unbundled legal services, although they may call them something different and, due to their concerns, may refrain from promoting or advertising those services. Unbundled legal services can come in many different forms and in a variety of practice areas. When he first learned about unbundling, one lawyer from the Okanagan was excited to announce that he was providing unbundled services to small claims litigants using a flat fee. We also encountered a number of BC lawyers who are focusing their practices on unbundling in creative and satisfying ways. We hope that the Project results will provide more lawyers with the incentive and reassurance to examine their own practices and consider how they could offer unbundled services to existing or new clients.

The report was also drafted with other change-makers in mind. It includes observations, principles and learnings that were designed to assist those who are supporting unbundling and related initiatives in other jurisdictions.

The Project evolved over time (as is expected when dealing in a complex environment) and focused on some key principles including:

  • Acknowledging that the Project attempted to intervene in a complex (justice) system and that change-making in that environment requires a different approach;
  • Embracing a “learn as you go” approach;
  • Gaining inspiration from other jurisdictions (which were also encouraging unbundling);
  • Collaborating with a wide variety of stakeholders including the public;

The report concludes with observations about unbundling and the change process, a vision for the future and some critical next steps. It urges stakeholders (in particular, the Law Society of BC, CBA BC Branch, Courthouse Libraries of BC and Access to Justice BC) to assume a joint stewardship role to continue to nurture the unbundling movement. The CBABC has already confirmed creation of a new province-wide Unbundled Legal Services section and A2JBC is in the process of forming an Unbundling Working Group. We are optimistic that the momentum created for unbundling will continue.

The Project evaluation report confirms the growing interest of lawyers in unbundled services and tangible support from the BC judiciary (which is encouraging). It also confirms perceived barriers to lawyer involvement plus strategies to address them, all of which were taken into account in designing both the Toolkits and Roster. The evaluation report also points out areas needing further research (including more robust input from clients who have used unbundled legal services). The report concludes with:

Across the board, there was concurrence that there is a crisis of legal affordability and that unbundled legal services are needed as one way to address a lack of access to justice and lack of access to legal services.

It is still early days in this journey and we hope that evaluation activities will continue as unbundling expands.

A key point emerging from both reports is the urgent need for a focused effort to raise public awareness of unbundling. Now that the profession is stepping forward to offer these services we need to let the public know they are available and how to find those who offer them.

We are extremely grateful to the Law Society of BC, the Law Foundation of BC, Courthouse Libraries of BC, CBABC and Mediate BC for their ongoing support (financial and otherwise) of this initiative and to the many other stakeholders who have stepped up to champion unbundling.

Please take a few moments to review the final report and evaluation report and consider how unbundling is or could be a more prominent part of your practice. While my official role in the Project has concluded, I would be happy to receive your thoughts and ideas and to support this important initiative as it moves forward.

[Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on Slaw: Canada’s Online Legal Magazine. Mediate BC is grateful to have been allowed to re-publish Kari Boyle’s post here. See all of Mediate BC’s posts on this project and unbundling.]

Kari D. Boyle
Kari D. Boyle

Kari D. Boyle is the BC Family Unbundling Roster Project Manager. She is also the Coordinator of the BC Family Justice Innovation Lab, a Knowledge Engineer with the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal, Board member of the Courthouse Library Society of BC and member of Access to Justice BC. Kari served as Mediate BC’s Executive Director and then Director of Strategic Initiatives for ten years. She enjoys using her legal, mediation and leadership experience to collaborate with others to improve BC citizens’ access to justice.

Photo by Mari Helin-Tuominen on Unsplash

Standing Up, Standing Out:
Show Up, Follow Through

Welcome back, if you’re joining us again from last week and if you’re just tuning in now and haven’t read Part I and II of this series, I strongly recommend that you click here and here to do that before going on.

Last week we talked about how your professional brand is a natural extension of the personal. This week we’re concluding by discussing how and where you can leverage your brand and how you can check in to see if your efforts are paying off.

We’ve looked at how to develop a strong brand, but a strong brand isn’t worth much if it isn’t out and about, getting you the clients you want and the work you enjoy. There are many ways to share your brand with the world – you get to decide which ones will work best for you.

Brand Pillar Three
Ready to Launch!

Once you’re clear on your personal and professional brand, you need to give some consideration to where you want to express it and how. Even though we’ve talked about starting with you, minimizing cognitive dissonance and helping people see you clearly, you still get to decide how much you get to share and where.

This is especially important in today’s overly connected world. It’s tough to maintain credibility as a level-headed mediator if you tend to comment loudly and profanely on Facebook posts or Twitter. People can and will Google you. This doesn’t mean you should hide your personality online or off, but it does mean you need to raise your awareness of how things might be perceived by others.

Here’s what to consider for building this pillar, through the lens of your personal and professional brand:

  • Where do you want to be seen, online and off? Think of where your best clients, resources and support sources might be found. Find ways to get there, whether through networking, online posts or social avenues.
  • How do you want to show up? Before you go, think about how you’ll be when you get there. How is your brand getting reflected in all that you do? Is it consistent with who you are?
  • How much do you want to share? If you’re a more private person, then you will naturally want to be a bit more reserved online and off. If you’re quite open, then you’ll share more freely. However, you’ll want to consider the effects of both. Too private and it will be hard for people to relate to your humanity. Too open and it will be hard for people to relate to your expertise.

Ideally the way you show up will be matched to your brand. For example, if you’re a quiet and sensible person, show that in the places you’ve chosen to go. You might spend time listening and say only one or two things to someone who seems interesting. Your comments on social media are likely to be thoughtful. Your website will be full of useful content but likely not flashy. Cliché it might be, but keeping it real works.

Brand Pillar Four
Systems Check

The last and arguably most significant pillar once you get into space is the systems check. When it comes to brand, we’re always operating with incomplete information; we’ve usually got a pretty good idea internally of how we’re feeling about what we’re doing, but the only way to be sure of how well your brand is working for sure is to get external feedback.

Whatever information you get, incorporate it and adjust when and if necessary. Sometimes that means adjusting your brand expression and sometimes it means adjusting your environment, but keep adjusting. As much as we love to get things finished, brand is an evolving thing, rarely static for more than a year or two before shifts need to be made.

Here are the things to consider for getting checked in:

  • Do you feel good about how you look and how you’re showing up?
  • Are people responding well when you meet them?
  • Is having an aligned brand leading you to more work and better connections?

For many people, seeking out external feedback can be tricky, so we’ll finish with some important safety tips.

First, remember to consider the source and choose carefully. You won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, so sometimes no adjustments need to be made, if you’re good with the first and third points above.

Second, if the response isn’t good and you think it should be, check back to see if how you’re showing up is appropriate for the audience in addition to being appropriate for you.  Sometimes people err on the side of individualization and fail to fully consider the impact of their environment.

Third, remember that response is a subjective thing and only you can define the response you’d like to get. For example, if you’re a challenger then the desired response might be for people to get mad at you and go away. Think carefully about the kind of response you want your brand to get.

The feelings you have internally and the response you’re getting externally should match up. If you feel capable and confident and are getting treated as someone who is those things, then great. If that’s not happening, refer to pillars one two and three.

Happy Branding!

Have a thought? Agree? Disagree? Let us know, comment below!

Katherine Lazaruk

Katherine Lazaruk, AICI, CIC is an image and professional branding consultant in Vancouver. In addition to being the force behind ICU Image Consulting, she is a sessional instructor in the Image Consulting Program for Langara College and serves as Secretary for the Canada Chapter Board of AICI.

Standing Up, Standing Out:
Personal vs. Professional Brand

Welcome back, if you’re joining us again from last week and if you’re just tuning in now and haven’t read Part I of this series, I strongly recommend that you click here to do that before going on.

Last week we talked about some of the necessary things to consider when developing a strong personal brand and introduced the idea that a professional brand is an extension of the personal. One of the biggest misconceptions about professional presence or professional brand is that it must be separate from your personal; how many times have you heard someone say, “Leave your personal life at the door.”

With the advance of the wholehearted living movement and the blurring of the personal and professional on social media, we’re starting to see a shift in the concept of professional presence and branding that marries the two in a tangible way. People work best when they get to bring their whole selves to work; this kind of alignment between the two is more important than ever.

Brand Pillar Two:
You Might Be at the Center, but What’s in Your Orbit?

Once you’ve given some consideration to who you are and how you want to express that, it’s time to think about the what’s around you. For people to know, like and trust you, the biggest key is minimizing the potential for cognitive dissonance.

Ideally you want people to think, when you tell them what you do, that it makes sense, that it fits with what they’re seeing of you. The first pillar is about centering you. This pillar is about centering your audience.

Here’s what to consider when thinking of your orbit:

  • What are the services you provide? Do you do civil, family or child protection mediation? Each one requires a different level of formality and your brand needs to reflect that.
  • Who is your client? Whether you work with kids or adults or both, you’ll need to create a sense of harmony visually to make it easier to build rapport.
  • Where do you work? Do you live in an urban, suburban, or rural community? Expectations of formality vary city to city and community to community.
  • Do you work in an office or are you solo? If you’re working in or for an organization, then their guidelines must be considered, since you’re representing the company wherever you go. If you’re a solopreneur, then you’ll have a bit more latitude.
  • What do people expect a mediator to look like? If organization and order is part of your job, then looking like you’re organized and neat and tidy will help build trust with clients.
  • How might people expect a mediator to behave? Your verbal and non-verbal signals need to line up with your level of professionalism and your presence (online and off) speaks about your ability to successfully mediate tricky disputes.

In the end, matching your personal brand and visual expression of it to the kinds of things you do and to your audience helps people see you clearly as a professional and be more likely to hire you. You can’t afford not to be strategic.

Stay tuned – next week we’ll have Brand Pillars Three and Four, all about showing up and checking in for the conclusion of our branding series.

Have a thought? Agree? Disagree? Let us know, comment below!

Katherine Lazaruk

Katherine Lazaruk, AICI, CIC is an image and professional branding consultant in Vancouver. In addition to being the force behind ICU Image Consulting, she is a sessional instructor in the Image Consulting Program for Langara College and serves as Secretary for the Canada Chapter Board of AICI.