Time to assess your legal health

Flu season’s over, now it’s time to take your legal temperature

Time to assess your legal health and act in your best interest

Flu season’s over, now it’s time to take your legal temperature.

Sometimes people don’t realize they have a legal issue; sometimes they do realize it, but don’t know where to turn for help, says John Sims, Chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee, and former federal Deputy Minister of Justice.

The committee has developed a series of cards or “legal health checks”  for people to use to gauge their legal health in certain situations, and decide whether they need to look for more information or legal help.

The six cards released on April 16, which is Law Day in Canada, deal with issues ranging from writing a will, to your rights as a non-unionized employee, to deciding whether some form of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, might be appropriate if you’re going through a divorce.

An earlier set of six cards, released last year, alerted those buying their first home to questions they should be able to answer; offered up some advice on basic steps to take for legal wellness; talked about things to think about when you’re out on your own for the first time, among other topics.

A report published by the Access to Justice Committee in 2013, titled Reaching Equal Justice, stressed the need for the general public to be better equipped to identify legal problems and know when and where to go for help.

These checks are intended to be an important step in that process.

“People need to have a better idea of what their legal rights are, and when they could be heading into legal trouble – because it’s not always as obvious as, say, a criminal matter,” John Sims says. “And having an idea early on that you might need legal help – and then finding it – can save a lot of time, trouble and money down the road.”

Wondering where to find help?

Provincial law societies can help you find lawyers in your area.

As well, legal aid plans, public legal education groups, community organizations or staff at local courthouses can often point you in the right direction to get legal help and information.

All 12 legal health checks  can be found on the CBA’s Equal Justice website.