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What does it take to win at a small claims court trial?

What does it take to win at a small claims court trial?

As someone who has represented at probably more than a thousand small claims trials at the Toronto Small Claims Court and other small claims court ontario, I can tell you preparation is the most important thing.

Other important aspects are making sure you have all the witnesses you need, and documents necessary to prove your case. Make sure the evidence comes out through your witnesses in a logical way that the judge can follow.

Preparation starts with the writing of the Plaintiff’s Claim or Defence. You will be limited to the facts you have plead in these documents.

The most important hearing to get ready for trial is the settlement conference. You read that correctly. Settlement Conference is the most important hearing to obtain necessary orders to get ready for trial, to obtain information from the opposing side that will assist you in trial preparation.

You cannot tell the trial judge what was said at settlement conference. That does not stop you from using information you heard to help you prepare for trial.

You also need to know and be able to present to the judge what the law is. I know it is small claims court and you think the judge knows the law. You are thinking I don’t need to present statute or case law to the judge.

Maybe your case involves an area of the law the judge is very familiar with. Then again, maybe the judge isn’t familiar with the law regarding your case. The judge may not be aware of case law that helps your case. Presenting law to the judge during closing submissions can only help your case.

What else do you need to know? Some knowledge of evidence law is helpful. This is especially so if expert reports or expert witnesses are to be presented to the court. Knowledge of the small claims court rules also helps.

You will need to prepare for asking your witnesses questions. These questions cannot be leading.

You will need to prepare to ask the opposing witnesses questions. This is called cross-examination. Many cases are won or lost on the strength and experience of the person asking the cross-examination questions.

If you do not have the time, patience, or knowledge to prepare for trial I urge you to hire a paralegal ontario or a lawyer.

Our paralegal firm, Civil Litigations has 22 years experience we can help you. Our phone number is 416-229-1479. Our website is CivilParalegal.com

Be Prepared for the Unexpected Before the Small Claims Court

There are many types of witnesses. At one recent trial I had before the Toronto Small Claims Court I had the opposing paralegal seek to have a witness declared as “an expert.” In another case before the small claims court Ontario I had the opposing representative seek to declare a witness as a “hostile witness” or “an adverse witness.”

In both cases I was given no advance notice that these requests would be made. If you were self-represented, would know how to respond? Would you have consented or opposed these requests?

This week I was retained shortly after settlement conference by a party who had learned at the settlement conference hearing that a Defendant’s Claim had been issued against them. They had already been noted in default. This means that they are prevented from filing a defence without a judge’s order or the consent of the opposing side. They hired me to take the necessary steps to set aside the noting in default and allow them to file a Defence.

“Did you ask the judge at the settlement conference for an order allowing you to file a late defence?” I asked the client. The client responded by saying “The judge never said I could do that.”

It is not the judge’s job to give you legal advice or explain the Small Claims Court Rules. Had this client known a settlement conference judge has the power to make a variety of orders they could have saved money.

My point today is that any number of things can happen during Small Claims Court proceedings that you will not expect and will probably not know how best to respond to protect your interests.

You need an experienced licensed paralegal ontario representing you at all stages of an case; someone with a solid knowledge of the Small Claims Court Rules, Courts of Justice Act and the rules of evidence. We can help you.

Will the new Standard Lease Form reduce Landlord Rights Ontario?

Starting April 30, 2018 every new residential tenancy (with a few exceptions) entered into in Ontario must use the government’s new Standard Lease Form.

The new 13 page Standard Lease Form is supposed to provide both landlord rights Ontario and provide tenants information about their rights and responsibilities. Reduce the illegal terms in leases and misunderstandings caused by verbal tenancy agreements, and reduce the need for Landlord and Tenant Board hearings to resolve disputes.

The Standard Lease tries to address all landlord and tenant relationships. It does this poorly. There are many sections which are confusing or likely to confuse.

Does the 13 pages cover all issues needed to protect a landlord? Not even close. At least a landlord is permitted to add an appendix to the Standard Lease to cover issues to protect the landlord. The appendix cannot include any illegal terms.

There are appendixes a landlord can purchase to add to the Standard Lease. I highly recommend that landlords add an appendix with additional terms.

How do I collect my Small Claims Court or Landlord and Tenant Board judgment?

The Toronto Small Claims Court deals with thousands of cases a year. It is part of the small claims Ontario system.

There are many advantages to be represented by a paralegal Ontario, however many people represent themselves.

A question I am asked several times a week is “How do I collect my judgment?” There are several methods to do this.

First, does the debtor own a house, condo or any land in Ontario? If the answer is yes, you may choose to issue a Writ of Seizure and Sale of Lands, and file it with the sheriff in the jurisdiction where the debtor owns property.

This acts like a lien. The debtor will not be able to sell the property or obtain a mortgage from a new lender without paying off the judgment in full, including daily interest. The writ expires in six years. It can be renewed before or after expiry, if necessary.

If you don’t know whether your debtor owns lands, our firm can do a search to find hidden properties owned by the debtor in Ontario.

Often the quickest method to collect a judgment is to issue a Notice of Garnishment. In order to do this you need to know where the debtor works or where they bank. To garnish a bank account you must know the bank and branch location where account is located.

If your debtor is a business you may consider garnishing accounts receivable, or rent paid to the company.

Another choice is to have the sheriff seize and sell personal property of the debtor. This may be a worthwhile method if the debtor is a business, and you know exactly what assets the business debtor owns. You must be willing to put up a large cash deposit with the sheriff. You also need to do searches to prove that there are no liens against the property.

There is a lot of false information out there about the powers of the sheriff to seize items under a Writ of Seizure and Sale of Personal Property. The sheriff can only enter a business address. It has no proper to enter a residence. The Execution Act lists a number of things a sheriff has no power to seize.
The Creditors’ Relief Act, 2010 sets out how money is to be paid out by the sheriff if there are multiple creditors.

If you want the sheriff to seize and sell an automobile, you need the make, model, and VIN number. In addition to the large cash deposit you will have to provide the sheriff, you will also be required to do searches proving the vehicle is solely owned by the debtor, and there are no liens on the vehicle.
If you have no information about the judgment debtor’s assets, you will probably choose to issue a Notice of Examination. This enforcement method is usually a last resort as it has its share of drawbacks. You will need to serve the debtor with the Notice of Examination either personally, or if served at the debtor’s residence it can be left with an adult member of the household, provided you mail another copy within 24 hours.

The debtor may show up for hearing. If they do that is great. A skilled paralegal Ontario knows how to get the debtor to answer questions about their ability to pay the judgment. They will spend some time asking questions of the debtor. Afterwards, the creditor or their representative may ask the judge for an order for monthly payments. There are both advantages and disadvantages to obtaining such an order.

The paralegal Ontario may also ask the judge for an order for the debtor to produce documents.
If the debtor does not attend for the hearing, a Notice of Further Examination Hearing or Contempt Hearing may be ordered. The process varies across the province. At some point if the debtor fails to attend a Contempt Hearing, a warrant for their arrest may issue.

This has been a brief overview of the major judgment enforcement options. There are many books that have been written about the art of judgment enforcement. This is not intended to be legal advice.
If you need help collecting your judgment, contact us at 416-229-1479 or visit our website at http://www.civilparalegal.com/home_services/judgement-enforcement/

How to evict a tenant in Ontario has gotten harder.

Residential landlords have fewer rights in Ontario since the Wynne government passed the Rental Fairness Act last year. The changes have been coming in stages.  Some of the changes include:

Rental units built after 1991 are no longer exempt from rent control. This includes many condominiums in Toronto. Previously, a landlord in Ontario could increase the rent as much as they wanted at the end of a lease provided they used the proper form and gave notice.

Changes were made to the eviction process in Ontario regarding a landlord requiring the property back as they or an immediate family member requires the property for their own use. First, the landlord bringing this application must be an individual. Prior to the change a corporation with one shareholder could bring this application.

The landlord must now pay the equivalent of one months’ rent to the tenant as compensation for serving the tenant with notice to vacate. The landlord must pay this compensation to the tenant before the eviction date set out in the notice. If the landlord is unsuccessful at the hearing in obtaining an eviction order, the act now states the Landlord and Tenant Board may order the one month’s compensation to be returned to the landlord.

The person who intends to move in now confirms in an affidavit that in “good faith” they intend to live in the apartment for at least one year. Previously, the Residential Tenancies Act was silent on how long the landlord or family member was required to live there.

The law has changed to give a former tenant more rights. If a tenant moved out because they received the proper form stating that as the landlord or their family member planed to move in, and the landlord or their family member didn’t move in, the tenant can file an application.  At the hearing it is now the landlord’s onus to prove that the notice to vacate was given in “good faith.” Previously it was the tenant who had to prove bad faith.
Lease terms no longer matter. New section 134(1.1) effectively takes away a landlord’s right to sue in small claims court for the balance of the lease term. If a tenant vacates prior to the end of the lease, a landlord can now only sue for unpaid rent up to the date the tenant vacated.

Starting April 30, 2018 all new tenancies will require prior to the beginning of the tenancy for the landlord to use the new standard lease form. If not provided prior to the start of a tenancy, the tenant can demand the landlord provide this standard lease form. If the landlord fails to do so within 21 day of the demand, the tenant can withhold up one month’s rent.

If the landlord does eventually provides the standard lease form within 30 days of when the rent was first withheld, the landlord may require the tenant to re-pay any rent withheld. However, if the landlord takes longer than 30 days from when the rent was withheld to produce the standard lease, the tenant may keep the money.

Why would the Wynne government make these dramatic changes favoring tenants? It is simple really. There are more potential tenant voters in Ontario, then potential landlord voters.

Paralegals in family law

Legal Report \ Family Law

|Written By Michael McKiernan   

Paralegals are poised to have more of a role in family law disputes despite resistance from the bar.

For Marshall Yarmus, the end of a decade-long journey is finally in sight.

The former vice president of the Paralegal Society of Ontario says the Law Society of Ontario let down the public when it took on responsibility for regulating paralegals in the province only to ban them from practising in the area of family law.

Unsatisfied by the lack of progress on the issue, he instigated public campaigns urging the regulator to complete the job it started in 2007. In 2010 and 2013, Yarmus transformed the traditionally sleepy annual general meeting of the LSO into essential viewing events for the profession as part of a team tabling motions to expand the scope of paralegal practice to include family law.

Both motions were ultimately withdrawn at short notice in exchange for assurances of further study, but it wasn’t until December 2017 that Yarmus felt his efforts were finally vindicated. That was when benchers of the LSO committed to the creation a special licence for paralegals to offer limited services in family law, including process navigation, form completion and uncontested divorces.

In addition, the regulator’s governing body endorsed a plan to study what other services should come under a further expanded licence, including the possibility of courtroom advocacy by paralegals, as part of its response to the Family Legal Services Review by former Ontario Court Chief Justice Annemarie Bonkalo.

“One of the reasons I started this campaign was because I kept getting calls from litigants looking for services at a lower price, so I’m excited that we’re finally going to get access to justice for people with family law problems who can’t afford a lawyer,” says Yarmus, who runs Toronto-based Civil Litigations Paralegal Services.

“This time it’s actually going to happen. The law society and the attorney general are determined to implement this, and people will at last have a choice of legal service provider,” he adds.

Although he hasn’t yet decided whether to personally train up in family law once the new licence is available, Yarmus says he supports the move to mandate extra requirements before paralegals can begin practising in the area.

“Education is very important. We don’t want anyone who’s unqualified to be doing it,” he says.

But as paralegals inch toward regulated family law practice, a group of familiar foes stands in their way: the family law bar. Many lawyers in the area argue that anything short of a law degree is inadequate preparation for the complexities of family law.

Orillia, Ont. lawyer Fay McFarlane says the law society is making a mistake by giving paralegals an entryway to family law.

“It may be disastrous. Even us, as family law practitioners, have issues sometimes dealing with clients and their emotions,” she says. “I don’t think paralegals can handle it.

“If they had the training that lawyers have, maybe they could, but that’s why we’re lawyers,” McFarlane adds.

“Family law is complicated enough, but I don’t know how you can solve the problems associated with that by lowering the standards for people to be able to practise,” says David Harris-Lowe, president of the Simcoe County Law Association and partner at Barrie, Ont. firm Barriston Resolution Services.

He says the LSO proposal won’t directly affect him because his family law clients are unlikely to consider hiring paralegals even if they had the option.

“I recognize that there is an element of self-interest, at least to some lawyers,” Harris-Lowe says. “But when I hear that judges are saying this is a problem, that’s more concerning to me, because they don’t have that self-interest. Their interest is in having cases resolved fairly and expeditiously in the court system.”

Members of Ontario’s family law bench upped the volume of their objections after Bonkalo’s March 2017 report recommended paralegals be allowed to provide legal services, without supervision by lawyers, in the areas of custody, access, simple child support cases, restraining orders, enforcement and simple divorces without property.

A program of lawyer supervision would have no impact on the access to justice crisis in family law, she wrote, adding that “only licensed and independent paralegals can offer meaningful competition to lawyers.”

Despite initially favouring a blanket ban on courtroom appearances by paralegals in family law matters, Bonkalo explained that her mind changed during the consultation process.

“As I continued to explore the issues and hear from different communities, it became clear to me that precluding paralegals from appearing in court would be a disservice to clients,” she wrote, noting that demand for help among unrepresented family law litigants peaks when they are called to appear in court.

Provincial Court Justice Marion Cohen voiced her concerns with Bonkalo’s conclusions to the Toronto Star, warning that “paralegals will squeeze the lawyers out and the quality of justice in the Ontario Court of Justice will suffer” if they are implemented.

In his submission to the LSO, Justice George Czutrin, a senior judge of the Superior Court’s family branch, said it was “unfortunate” that Bonkalo’s report gave so little weight to the concerns “experienced [by] family justice participants,” adding that allowing paralegals to provide family law advice was not the answer to challenges in the system.

“In fact, it is much more likely to cause its own set of problems without adding real value,” Czutrin wrote.

Kavita Bhagat, a family lawyer in Brampton, Ont., says any attempt to hive off parts of family law as acceptable for paralegals to practise is doomed to failure because of the dynamic nature of disputes. In any case, she says, Bonkalo’s report put too little emphasis on alternative methods of dispute resolution.

“Paralegals are attractive to the attorney general because it’s a very easy solution to propose,” she says. “But it’s also a Band-Aid solution that ignores the real problems of family law.”

At the law society, Howard Goldblatt, chairman of its access to justice committee, won’t be tied down to any deadline for implementing the new paralegal licence or reporting back on its possible future expansion. But the process will give paralegal critics another chance to make their case.

“We want to ensure that those who have views and voices are heard,” he says. “Ultimately, the law society’s job is to regulate in the public interest, and that is what will prevail, as opposed to any stakeholders on either side of the debate.”

Julie Macfarlane, a law professor at the University of Windsor and director of the National Self-Represented Litigants Project, says Ontarians are lining up to use paralegals in family law. She’s frustrated both by the glacial pace of developments and the arguments of family lawyers, which she calls “elitist.”

“There has been a lot of bad talk about paralegals, which I think is unfair. It seems disingenuous to suggest that nobody but lawyers can do this work,” Macfarlane says.

Still, she’s puzzled by the vociferousness of the bench’s opposition to Bonkalo’s recommendations.

“I would have thought that it would be better for them to have someone representing a party than nobody,” Macfarlane says.

“The underlying problem is the culture that says lawyers have to have their hands around everything. There’s a tremendous resistance to loosening the grip,” she adds.

Even in jurisdictions that have embraced family law paralegals more openly, Macfarlane says, there is evidence of lawyers and law societies inhibiting their progress.

For example, the Law Society of B.C. allows designated paralegals to offer family law services under the supervision of a lawyer. However, the law society was forced to abandon a pilot project allowing paralegals into the courtroom when only three lawyers took advantage of the rule by sending paralegals under their supervision before a judge over a two-year period, producing insufficient data for assessment.

Michele Ross, a designated paralegal at Quay Law Centre in New Westminster in B.C. who was one of the few paralegals to make it into court as part of the project, says it was a missed opportunity.

“Some lawyers would benefit from some education about what we can do and how we can help clients save money,” she says.

Macfarlane says there are Ontario family lawyers who support a bigger role for paralegals, but she worries they feel forced into silence because of the overwhelming consensus against them.

In Vancouver, Leisha Murphy, partner at Connect Family Law, feels no such pressure. She says her firm’s designated paralegals are well equipped to deal with many aspects of clients’ cases and would love to see the law society offering them more independence in practice.

“I prefer to go to the higher-level aspects, like the strategic direction of the file,” she says. “We need to loosen the reins. With so many people unrepresented, it’s inevitable in the long run anyway, and we as lawyers need to adjust to that reality.”

http://www.canadianlawyermag.com/author/michael-mckiernan/paralegals-in-family-law-15386/

GUEST COLUMN: Paralegals in family court

BY MARSHALL YARMUS, SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It only took seven years of fighting with the Law Society of Upper Canada to get it to take the first steps towards allowing paralegals to offer some family law services.

The Law Society is the regulator of lawyers and paralegals in Ontario.
It is required to regulate in the public interest and to facilitate access to justice.

Most people wouldn’t pick a fight with their regulator; an organization that has the ability to suspend or revoke their licence.

I am not like most people.

On Dec. 1, 2017, the Law Society’s board of directors approved an action plan which included developing a specialized licence for paralegals with appropriate training to offer some family law services.

This licence will support training in such areas as navigating the court process, form completion, investigating forms, motions to change, uncontested divorces and possibly other areas outside the courtroom context.

At the same time, the Law Society will assess what additional family law services paralegals can offer, including advocacy inside the courtroom, and consider how to develop a further expanded licence.

What led to this announcement?

I and other paralegals were receiving calls from people who had family law disputes, but did not have the money to hire a lawyer.
In 2010, I scheduled a motion to be heard at the Law Society’s annual general meeting.

It asked the Law Society to study the barriers to allowing paralegals to offer some family law services.

I debated family law lawyers on this issue on radio and television.

Ultimately, the motion was withdrawn prior to being heard based on a commitment to study the issue.

In February, 2011 the elected leader of the Law Society announced she would undertake a study to determine if paralegals should be allowed to do family law work.

Only one report was released before the initiative was abandoned.

In 2013, I again led a group of paralegals who scheduled a motion to be heard at the Law Society’s annual general meeting.

Hundreds of lawyers showed up to oppose this non-binding vote, only to find the motion had been withdrawn hours earlier.

Since 2013, I have written a number of newspapers articles criticizing the Law Society for failing to address this issue.

Some family lawyers argued family law was too complicated for paralegals to handle.

They said paralegals could handle small claims court, landlord and tenant board and provincial offences cases, and represent people in other courts and tribunals, but not family law where the stakes were too high.

In 2016, the Attorney General and the Law Society appointed Justice Annemarie Bonkalo to study the issue and write a report.

Justice Bonkolo made 31 recommendations to improve the family court system, including having paralegals with a special licence being allowed to prepare forms and do some family court advocacy work.

Following Justice Bonkalo’s report the Law Society and the Attorney General began to develop an action plan.

The Dec. 1, 2017 approval of this action plan marked the beginning of the path towards the public having an option of legal providers for family law matters.

It will take time to develop the curriculum and train paralegals in family law.

However, I am proud to have been one of the main motivators for the Law Society to address this lack of access to justice issue.

Yarmus is a licensed Toronto paralegal at the firm Civil Litigations.

GUEST COLUMN: Paralegals in family court

Published in the Toronto Sun January 6, 2018

North York paralegal ‘excited’ services could expand to include family law

A North York based paralegal is ‘excited’ that his seven-year fight to have his profession be allowed to offer some family law services to clients is one step closer to fruition.

The Law Society of Ontario, which regulates lawyers and paralegals, voted last month to commit to develop a special license which would support training for paralegals in dealing with some family law services.
“I’m excited,” said Marshall Yarmus of Civil Litigations Paralegal Services. “Finally – it’s been seven years working at this.”

The special licence will support training in navigating the court process, form completion, investigating forms such as financial, motions to change, and uncontested divorces, and possibly other areas outside the courtroom, he said.

“(Family law) is the one area I get the most phone calls about,” said Yarmus, a paralegal for the past 21 years who currently works near Bathurst Street and Lawrence Avenue. “People can’t afford lawyers or can’t afford to keep lawyers on their case.”

The Dec. 1 decision followed a report from the former chief justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, who was tasked by the law society and the Attorney General to consider whether a broader range of service providers could deliver certain family legal services.

The report prepared by Justice Annemarie Bonkalo noted 21 recommendations, including a special licence to allow paralegals to provide certain types of family legal services such as custody and simple divorces without property.

In 2014 to 2015, more than 57 per cent of Ontarians did not have legal representation in family court, according to the Law Society of Ontario.

Currently, paralegals can act in small claims court, on non-criminal provincial offences, in criminal matters where the maximum penalty doesn’t exceed six months in prison and/or a $5,000 fine, and before administrative tribunals.

Details remain vague and a timeline has not been set, but Yarmus estimates it will be a “couple years” before paralegals are allowed in family court, adding he’s in favour of specialized licenses.

“If we can pass the special test, then we should be allowed (to deal with family law),” he said.

by Fannie Sunshine
Fannie Sunshine is a reporter for Metroland Media Toronto

https://www.insidetoronto.com/community-story/8038272-north-york-paralegal-excited-services-could-expand-to-include-family-law

Published in the North York Mirror January 16, 2018

Questions commonly posed to paralegals

In this article I will address some frequently asked questions paralegals who specialize in small claims court representation receive.

I have a judgment. How do I collect my money?

The small claims court does not collect a judgment for you. You must take steps to collect. There are four methods available through the court. They are: writ of seizure and sale of lands, a writ of seizure and sale of personal property, a garnishment and a judgment debtor examination. How much information you have on the debtor will determine which is the best method for your case.

A writ of seizure and sale of lands effectively acts as lien against real estate owned by the debtor. You are allowed to force the sale of the property. However, the cost to you to do that is so much that forcing a sale is rarely pursued.

A writ of seizure and sale of personal property is, in my opinion, a last resort. The sheriff is not allowed to enter a person’s home to seize anything. In the case of an individual debtor this method is usually restricted to seizure and sale of a car. To seize a car you will need to do searches to prove the debtor owns the car outright. It cannot have a lien against it. The sheriff will want between a $1,000 and $3,000 deposit before seizing and selling a car.

A garnishment is a court order forcing either an employer, a bank, or a company who owes money to be a business debtor for accounts receivable to pay the money to the court. If you have the necessary information, this is the best tool to force payment of the judgment.

A judgment debtor examination allows you to ask almost any questions of the debtor regarding their past, present and future ability to pay. Used properly by someone who knows what to ask this is powerful method to collect information to help you enforce the judgment. However, since debtors don’t always show up for the scheduled hearing, you should only use this if you don’t have information on the debtor.

How much does a paralegal charge for a small claims court case?

Like every profession, different people charge different rates. You usually get what you pay for. The lowest priced paralegal may not be the best choice. Some of the factors paralegals consider in determining their price are: their years of experience, whether they specialize in that area, the difficulty of the matter and importance of the matter to the client, and special circumstances, such as the loss of other retainers, postponement of payment, uncertainty of reward, or urgency.

Paralegals may charge based on an hourly rate, a flat fee for a particular portion of the case or the entire case, or on a contingency basis.

An hourly fee seems straight forward. However, small claims court cases often do not proceed as planned. There could be unexpected motions to the court, an amendment of a claim or defence, the need to defend a claim by brought by the Defendant, or more than one settlement conference.

In a flat fee also known as a block fee arrangement, the paralegal may take the risk by changing a known and agreed fee in advance that unexpected things don’t happen that require more of their time than expected.

A contingency fee is where a paralegal’s fee is based on a percentage of the amount recovered from the debtor. The paralegal is entitled to request the client pay the out of pocket expenses in advance. Since the paralegal is taking the risk here and delaying payment of any fees until money is recovered, you could pay the most fees though this method.

Paralegals able to help during court matters

Individuals and businesses use the small claims court to sue for money owed for a wide variety of reasons where the amount owing is $25,000 or less. The court also has the power to order return of property not exceeding that value.

The government just announced starting a new court action can now be done online for all types of claims province-wide, through a secure government website.

The Ontario government wants to make the court more accessible, by offering this new online filing service. However, just because it is easier to file documents doesn’t mean the small claims court procedures are easy to navigate.

Many people attempt to represent themselves in the small claims court. They have that ‘do it yourself’ attitude. They mistakenly believe the small claims court is like American courtroom reality television. Nothing can be further from the truth. Forms must be filed correctly. Procedures must be followed. A trial in Ontario looks nothing like television.

Court staff can give you general information procedures on how to complete forms, but they are not supposed to give legal advice.

This doesn’t stop people from asking court staff for legal advice when the case becomes complicated. A staff member may even give advice which they shouldn’t. Since court staff are not legally trained, the advice given, although well meaning, may be wrong. Unless the person gets professional legal advice the error may prove costly.

When your case becomes complicated, or you need someone who has knowledge of the rules of the court, the evidence and witnesses needed, and the particular law concerning the facts of your case you should turn to a licensed paralegal or a lawyer.

Ontario is the only jurisdiction in North America where a paralegal is a trained and educated professional, who is licensed, insured, and regulated. Paralegals are authorized to provide legal services directly to the public. A paralegal in Ontario can represent you with your legal matter by offering you legal advice, filling out forms, and representing you at trial in certain courts (including small claims court) and tribunals.

The small claims court process starts out by completing and issuing a Plaintiff’s Claim. The party being sued must file a defense with the court within 20 days of service. If this is done, the matter will be scheduled for a settlement conference before a judge or a mediator. This, in my opinion, is the most important hearing. Selfrepresented litigants may not recognize its significance.

A judge at a settlement conference has the power to make a number of orders, including dismissing a claim which has no merit, and to order the opposing side to produce documents which helps your case. If you don’t know to ask the judge to make a specific order, this may hurt your case.

The settlement conference is a great opportunity to allow the parties to come to an agreement on their own. It is a much better outcome than having a trial judge impose a decision. You could go to trial and get an order the other side owes you money. It is then up to you to collect through the process available through the court.

If the case is not settled, you will end up at trial. Here, you must present your case to the judge in an organized and understandable manner. Licensed paralegals and lawyers who specialize in small claims court representation know how to prepare a case for trial. They know how to question the opposing side’s witnesses. Cases are often won or lost based on this skill which can take years to learn properly.

Do you have a general question about small claims court procedures? Fax or e-mail your questions to info@getlegal-resultsca 1-877-931-1011. The best questions will be answered in the next edition of this article.