Walmart LawAb Currie, PhD, Senior Research Fellow, CFCJ
Monday, April 28, 2014
A recent article in the Toronto Star  reported on three law offices that have recently been opened in Walmart stores in the Toronto Area. These law offices, called “Access Law”, concentrate on transactional matters such as wills, real estate, powers of attorney and notary services. Complex legal matters are referred to other firms, although plans are in place to add uncontested divorces in the future. This is a welcome development — let’s call it an experiment at this point — in the provision of low cost and accessible legal services. Progressive thinking about how the public experiences legal problems and how to expand legal services to Canadians  encourage us to view legal issues as arising from the normal activities of everyday life, not only as the complex legal problems that must be settled in the courts. This view of legal problems as part of everyday life encourages people to seek advice and to deal with legal issues early, in a preventative way, thus avoiding costs and additional legal problems later on. It is, as is often said, better to build an inexpensive fence at the top of the cliff than to place a costly ambulance at the bottom. To take this preventative approach, it is necessary for people to change their understanding of legal issues, viewing them as a part of everyday life. Looking at legal problems broadly in that way, people should have enough basic knowledge to at least recognize the potential legal implications in the normal transactions and transitions of life and know when to seek help and where. However, sources of assistance may not be well known. There are web sites that provide legal help similar to Walmart Law. However, Walmart is, if anything, a part of everyday life. Legal services located visibly in places such as Walmart make legal assistance more accessible and, moreover, convey the right message to the public about legal issues and about dealing with them before they become legal problems.
“Time to go see the lawyer . . . at Superstore?” (25 March 2014), CBC Radio Edmonton AM.
- Interview with the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta.
“Supermarket ‘law shops’ to sell legal services” (6 October 2011), BBC News UK.
- England and Wales implement the new “Legal Services Act”, opening up the market for legal service providers.
“Law Society to launch consultation on alternative business structures” (27 February 2014), The Law Society of Upper Canada.
- In the footsteps of the UK and Australia, LSUC will be holding a consultation on the use of alternative business structures (ABS), which provide more choices for consumers seeking legal services and thereby improve access to justice.
”Walmart Law Already Here” (28 April 2014), Law Times.
- The debate continues around the four models proposed by the Law Society’s alternative business structures working group.