UPDATE: The hyperlink to the study was changed by the Project and has now been updated here. The hyperlink to the executive summary remains broken. (September 12, 2013)
The National Self Represented Litigants Project headed by University of Windsor prof Julie Macfarlane has released its report, "Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants.". There is also available an executive summary of the report.
The Project interviewed 283 self-represented litigants from Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, as well as 107 providers of advice or other legal service.
Despite the presence of a large amount of online information relevant to their legal issues, a large number of the litigants became confused and overwhelmed by the tasks involved in self-representation, finding the online material not helpful in addressing the particular practical steps they faced in the legal process. The executive summary concludes, generally:
The study data illustrates a range of negative consequences experienced by SRL’s as a result of representing themselves. These include depletion of personal funds and savings for other purposes; instability or loss of employment caused by the amount of time required to manage their legal case; social and emotional isolation from friends and family as the case becomes increasingly complex and overwhelming; and a myriad of health issues both physical and emotionally.
The 150 page report contains a fair number of detailed "preliminary" recommendations, addressing such matters as the filling of court forms, the nature of online information, the re-examination of the current distinction between legal information and legal advice, and the unbundling of legal services.
The study was financed by the Law Foundations of the three provinces involved.