PBSC is pleased to report that our National Director, Nikki Gershbain, has returned from a one-year research leave. Nikki received a 2017 Community Leaders in Justice Fellowship from the Law Foundation of Ontario, to research and refine the concept of legal coaching in family law. Legal coaching is a form of assisted self-representation where a lawyer works behind the scenes to support, mentor and advise the client as they make their way through the legal system.
With the support of the University of Windsor Faculty of Law, Nikki designed and developed a curriculum that will be used to train family lawyers who are interested in delivering legal coaching services safely, effectively and profitably.
Nikki recently shared her research with students at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law, at a workshop organized by the Career Development Office and sponsored by Thomson Reuters. She told the students: “Legal coaching can be a professionally satisfying and profitable form of practice, either on its own or as a supplement to a full-service practice. For lawyers who want to help fill some of the gaps in the justice system, legal coaching is a particularly attractive model”. As part of the program, students also heard from two limited scope lawyers, Renatta Austin and Lisa Eisen, and journalist Randi Druzen, who is representing herself in an employment law matter set to go to trial next year.
Law student Benjamin Miller, who attended the workshop, said: “It’s so important to teach students about alternative practice models, and the challenges and future of the profession they’re going to be entering. I learned a lot from the speaker and panelists, and would recommend that law schools start integrating these kinds of materials into the core curriculum.”
Nikki continues to participate as an active member of an Ontario-wide working group formed to lead the expansion of legal coaching in the family bar, and is co-editing a guide book for lawyers interested in integrating limited scope representation into their practices. She plans to use her Fellowship experiences to inform and deepen PBSC’s work in family law, and to make sure that PBSC volunteers have an appreciation for the significant challenges faced by people who have to make their way through the system without the benefit of a lawyer.
PBSC is grateful to Alison Symington for her contributions to the program in 2017, when she served as Acting National Director. Under Alison’s leadership, PBSC worked to expand services to Indigenous communities, street-involved individuals, and survivors of domestic violence. Alison has returned to her role as a Program Manager, and is responsible for a number of our flagship projects including our ID Clinics and Wills Projects.