By Julius Melnitzer | December 17, 2021
While still a law student, Heather Hui-Litwin, founder of Litigation-Help.com, found herself and her husband, a banker, involved in a lawsuit with a contractor. The proceedings dragged on for more than ten years – – – during which legal costs became unaffordable.
The couple decided to represent themselves, and won – – – but only in a manner of speaking.
“Going to court was a waste of time,” Hui-Litwin says. “We should have just asked the other side to sit down and settle. The whole thing left me shocked and wishing I had known a whole lot more about the process.”
Still, Hui-Litwin says that the experience of hiring a lawyer was “torture” in itself.
“Having a lawyer on full retainer made our lives even worse, because we had no control even as our wallets were haemorrhaging,” she said.
On graduation, Hui-Litwin set up her own practice. Quickly, she discovered that “law school does not teach you enough to be a fully effective lawyer”. Soon, the experience convinced her that her future lay in helping self-represented litigants, what she calls “my career in access to justice “.
“I just identified with that group,” she said. “I couldn’t accept that legal education should be reserved for people who can pay $100,000 in tuition fees.”
With the help of Heather Douglas of Heather Douglas Law in Toronto and other like-minded young lawyers, Hui-Litwin created Litigation-Help.com. The site is dedicated to public legal education. In bestowing a “Best Innovative Project” award on the site in 2020, the Canadian Law Blog Awards (Clawbies) noted the “remarkably robust website and accompanying You Tube channel as a public education resource for litigants in Ontario.”
“From decoding legalese to how to Cerlox bind a document (really!), this project addresses the need for clear, practical guidance and information for anyone navigating the civil justice system,” Clawbies added.
So far, Litigation-Help.com’s You Tube channel features some 80 videos produced by Hui-Litwin and Douglas.
“Our original focus was on the Rules of Civil Procedure, but we’ve also dealt with motions for contempt, pleadings, and the role of precedent, among other things,” Douglas says. “We’re now working on a series about legal concepts – – – things that self-represented litigants need to bear in mind when building their case.”
Litigation-Help’s product is so good that it has even attracted positive feedback from lawyers and law students.
“We’ve even heard from practising lawyers who found themselves in one-off litigation that didn’t engage their normal area of practise, and used the videos as a refresher to get them on their way,” Douglas says.
As Hui-Litwin sees it, the fact that Litigation-help.com is not a law firm site makes it more effective.
“If this was on a lawyer’s site, people would think it’s only for marketing purposes and filter the content,” she says. “Our goal is to make legal education legitimate as something valued in its own right.”
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Julius Melnitzer is a Toronto-based legal affairs writer, ghostwriter, writing coach and media trainer. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or https://legalwriter.net/contact.