Who can represent me in Court?

This article addresses who can represent someone in Court or before a Tribunal in Ontario. The foundational law is Ontario’s Law Society Act which a sections 1(6), 1(7) and 1(8) defines what providing legal services are. The by-laws under the Law Society Act and in particular by-law 4 provides further information.

You – any party in a proceeding can be self-represented, unless they are a minor (under 18) or mentally incapable, in which case they require a litigation guardian privately or the Children’s Lawyer or Public Guardian and Trustee may step in.

Lawyer – a lawyer can represent a party in any proceeding. Due primarily to cost, but also a number of other factors such as control over all decision-making, many parties opt to hire a lawyer on an as needed basis. This is called limited scope or unbundled services. Sometimes it’s for a single step and sometimes it’s for on-going advice and coaching.

Paralegal – a paralegal cannot represent someone in a family law proceeding or civil litigation before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. A paralegal can represent someone in Small Claims Court, Provincial Offences Act matters, summary conviction matters under the Criminal Code, Tribunals and in relation to Statutory Accident Benefits. See section 6 of by-law 4.

Family Member – you can have a family member represent you if the following conditions are met:

  1. They only provide legal services within the jurisdiction of a paralegal (see above); and
  2. They do not charge any fee.

Please see section 30 of by-law 4.

Friend or Neighbour – you can have a friend or neighbour represent you if the following conditions are met:

  1. They only provide legal services within the jurisdiction of a paralegal (see above);
  2. They only provide legal services in up to 3 matters per year; and
  3. They do not charge any fee.

Please see section 30 of by-law 4.

McKenzie Friend – A McKenzie friend is not actually someone who provides legal advice or representation, however, with a Court or Tribunal’s permission, they can provide support to a self-represented litigant before the Court or Tribunal. The National Self-Represented Litigants Project has an excellent article on McKenzie Friends that can be found here.

Corporation – an employee or officer of a corporation can draft legal documents for the company. An employee, officer or director can represent a corporation in Small Claims Court. With a Court order, an employee, officer or director can represent a corporation before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Please see the article here for more information.

There are additional exemptions and details in by-law 4 of the Law Society Act, which should be consulted in all cases, but this article outlines the key options applicable to most people.

Should you wish to speak with a lawyer about limited scope legal services for a single step or coaching, please review our list of lawyer members.

Article by Mick Hassell

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