Often times when a client has a legal issue, the will come to you with forms. Whether it’s a capacity issue, language issue, or they don’t understand what it’s asking for, they just need your help! Often times, there are time constraints and they need help right away. So, what should you do? Do you help them fill out their forms?
In the paper, The Cost of Uncertainty: Navigating the Boundary Between Legal Information and Legal Services in the Access to Justice Sector, the authors explore the boundaries between providing "legal information", "legal advice", and "legal services". Using a case study involving a refugee settlement organization in Ontario, they examine various challenges faced by some of the workers, who were seen as stepping into the world of providing highly-regulated "legal services".
As identified in the paper, there is uncertainty about whether helping a client out with forms is considered giving legal advice. There are also other potential issues such as:
- What if the client doesn’t understand the form
- Where to record facts
- What happens if there are challenging terms
- What happens if the terms are not in the client’s first language
- What if the client is not literate and needs help recording their narrative
You should be aware that forms are a grey area. There are various opinions across organizations and jurisdictions (and even within organizations) about how much help is too much help with forms.