Ethical Requirements and Practical Tips for Litigating with Self-Represented Parties

  • November 14, 2023
  • Katherine T. Di Tomaso

The system of civil justice in Canada is predicated on the expectation of equal access to justice, including procedural justice, and equal treatment under the law for all persons. This includes self-represented parties. A self-represented party is a person who is handling their legal matter without a lawyer or paralegal.

Representing a client in litigation where there is a self-represented party can be challenging for lawyers. Generally, the self-represented party does not have the awareness or understanding of substantive and procedural law that a lawyer has, which can lead to protracted proceedings and additional legal fees spent.

When litigating with a self-represented party, it is helpful for a lawyer to remind themselves of the relevant Rules of Professional Conduct, case law setting out what the court expects of counsel in this context, and how to use the Rules of Civil Procedure to navigate smoothly through the civil litigation process. In 2006, the Canadian Judicial Council issued a Statement of Principles on Self-represented Persons to foster access to justice and equal treatment under the law. It is helpful to review same here.