BC’s Legal Services Society is breaking ground in Canada, and even world-wide, with its use of interactive online technology to help solve legal problems. The ‘guided pathways’ used in MyLawBC represent a significant shift in the way legal organizations approach the public and deliver legal information. Find out how this new tool works.
A new approach
The legal system is intimidating - it’s big and complicated and seems overwhelming if you don’t have any experience with it. When the average person has to work through the legal system, learning how to manage it is the last thing they want to do. They’re focused on the consequences of their legal problem and the stress it causes. And it’s tough to figure out what legal information applies to your problem when there’s so much available.
The Legal Services Society, BC’s legal aid provider, has created a new tool to help people use the legal system effectively. MyLawBC helps people solve common legal problems - divorce and separation, wills and personal planning, and mortgage foreclosure - as efficiently and painlessly as possible.
Follow your own path
MyLawBC takes a new approach to getting people the help they need. To simplify the process of finding legal information, the site uses a concept called “guided pathways”. It’s a way to engage the user and provide only the information they need - no more and no less.
MyLawBC asks you questions about your situation, and then uses your answers to diagnose your legal issue. As you answer questions, the system learns more about your problem and tailors the information you receive to your situation. In the end, what you get is a personalized action plan.
Your own to-do list
When you walk away from MyLawBC, you get a custom action plan you can download. This plan lays out the steps you need to take to resolve your problem. Your action plan gives you only the information you need — when you need it.
Each action plan contains:
- Basic background information about your legal problem that is essential to understanding how to resolve it.
- A clear set of first steps you can take immediately. You can start these steps as soon as you download your action plan.
- The next steps you need to take after that, which may be longer-term. Many legal processes take more than one sitting.
- A list of resources that can help you along the way, including in-person services.
Legal problems, like divorce, for example, aren’t just legal. There’s social and emotional fallout as well. The action plans also address these issues with practical resources. For example, for people who are separating, MyLawBC provides a Coping with Separation Handbook that deals with the emotional toll - communicating with your ex, how to talk to your children about your separation, ways to help your children cope with their emotions, and more.
Helping with common legal problems
MyLawBC covers three areas of law: divorce and separation, wills and personal planning, and foreclosure.
For those going through a separation, the MyLawBC pathways can help in four ways. One pathway helps you find the best way for you and your spouse to work through your separation. It sets out the in- and out-of-court options available and recommends one based on your answers. It can also help you get a court order if you can’t work together to reach agreements. If you’re being served with a court form, it can help you respond to a court application.
MyLawBC also features a unique new tool for divorce and separation. The Dialogue Tool helps you create a fair and lasting separation agreement. This online negotiation platform allows both you and your spouse to set out your initial thoughts on what your agreement should look like. MyLawBC then gives you a chance to compare your responses and see how close you are on the issues. Using your initial ideas, it creates a template of a possible separation agreement. You can then work with your spouse on the platform to customize this template and create your own agreement. Along the way, the Dialogue Tool gives you the resources and information you need to make informed decisions. It’s important to get legal advice before signing a separation agreement, so the Dialogue Tool recommends this once you have a draft agreement.
If you’re facing foreclosure, the Missed mortgage payments pathway is the one you want. As you progress through this pathway, MyLawBC gives you practical information on how to avoid foreclosure and where to find financial and legal help. At the end, your action plan tells you what your options are to keep your house and what steps you need to take next. Your plan also includes tips, checklists, and sample letters.
The Make a will pathway does exactly what it says. With this pathway, you can write a simple will. You’ll learn about the decisions you need to make first and receive a simple form to fill out that will be your will when you’ve finished. This pathway also provides information about personal (end-of-life) planning and links to the legal documents you might need to put in place as you age.
MyLawBC’s innovative approach to helping people solve their legal problems uses interactive online technology to deliver legal information. Moving forward, the Legal Services Society is looking for opportunities to branch out and expand MyLawBC.