86 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 80 PART 1 JANUARY 2022
Family law can be complex, and for most people without a lawyer, it is
unfamiliar territory. It is important to understand your legal rights and
options regarding parenting arrangements, child and spousal support, and
division of property. That is not easy.
LawCoachBC is a free service that includes a range of assistance. Clients
receive three hours of personalized coaching to help them move forward
with their separation or divorce. Clients have access to free mediation services
and a six-month subscription to coParenter (a popular coparenting
application). Referrals are provided to B.C. family law resources and services.
LawCoachBC also includes a referral for one hour of free assistance
from a family law lawyer.
CONNECTING CLIENTS AND LAWYERS
Surveys of judges, lawyers and other family justice service professionals
indicate that between fifty and eighty per cent of parties to civil/family
actions are self-represented.2
One of LawCoachBC’s priorities is to connect clients with a lawyer. Separation
requires people to make decisions about the most important things
in their life. From our perspective, all family law clients should have access
to legal advice.
LawCoachBC clients are referred to a B.C. lawyer that provides unbundled
family law services. Participating lawyers provide one hour of legal
advice, mostly by phone. This connection begins a lawyer–client relationship,
and many LawCoachBC lawyer referrals result in new business opportunities
“It’s really working very well,” says Jamie Fitzel, a law coach who has
worked in family law for over five years. “LawCoachBC works with clients
at the early stages of separation, providing targeted assistance for clients to
access online resources, worksheets, courses and B.C. family justice services.
We listen to clients and provide information and resources so that they
know their options. We help them take the first steps.”
HELPING CLIENTS PREPARE TO MEET A LAWYER
LawCoachBC does not provide legal advice. The service provides baseline
legal help information about the process of separation and divorce. Clients
learn about their basic legal rights and receive coaching to take steps to
gather necessary documentation and move forward. Then, when clients
have done some of the initial work to prepare, they are referred to a lawyer.
“Our goal is to help our family law clients make more informed decisions,”
says Fitzel. “We want to help them resolve their issues with the assistance
of a lawyer, hopefully without going to court.”