Dec. 21, 2020

Law alumni drive change in legal profession

New services provide business solutions for social problems
Computer code on a screen
Computer code on a screen Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

Changing the ways people can access justice in Canada is no easy feat. For two UCalgary Law alumni, new legal services are hoping to make the system a little friendlier.

Michael Jackson, JD’06, had a desire to make things easier in his own legal practice, which fuelled the creation of Prolegis Solutions.

“As a sole practitioner, and someone who is inherently lazy, I’m always trying to find better ways to do things,” says Jackson. “I wanted to make my little corner of legal practice — real estate law — easier, and also find a way to make practitioners and their clients happier.”

Prolegis Solutions is an online tool that helps everyone involved in residential real estate transactions become more engaged by making information easily accessible, providing a system that makes processes automated, augmented and reportable, making sure clients have the right information early and often, and allowing staff to work wherever they are, easily and securely. 

Using tech to augment lawyer’s genius

“We’re not looking to replace lawyers,” says Jackson. “The genius that exists in the legal profession is still required. We’re using technology to augment that genius through memory, process retention and automation, and helping legal assistants, paralegals and lawyers do their jobs better.”

Marcus Sixta, JD’11, a Vancouver-based family law lawyer, saw an opportunity to improve access to justice from a service his firm already provided — legal coaching.

“When I started my firm, Crossroads Law, I wanted to find a way to address the access-to-justice gap, to help people who are representing themselves in family law cases, trying to navigate the court system, and often getting into trouble,” says Sixta.

His firm offered a legal coaching service, but few people knew about it and didn’t totally understand the concept behind unbundled services or limited scope retainers. He knew he had to find a way to provide the service to people only when they needed it, and to be mindful of their budgets.

Service will help clients navigate system

Coach My Case, which will launch in January in Alberta and British Columbia, is a completely online service that empowers self-represented litigants with legal assistance in the background while they run their case. A range of service levels provided by paralegals and lawyers allow clients to use only what they need, from help with drafting and editing documents, providing information on where to file their claim, conducting research, to receiving legal advice on what to do in court or mediation.

“Our goal with Coach My Case is to meet clients where they are," says Sixta. "Clients can access a lawyer no matter where they are in the province, and in whatever way is comfortable for them, whether that is over Zoom, through email, over the phone — whatever medium is most accessible and makes the most sense.”

Both Jackson and Sixta agree that the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge driver in revealing the changes needed in the legal profession and the justice system, and has shown the need for technology and services like the ones they both provide.

“We can’t replace the ingenuity that exists in a living, breathing lawyer,” says Jackson. “But we can take technology and allow that lawyer to provide more cost-effective services, to allow that lawyer to communicate instantaneously with their client, and to track important processes along the way.”

“Because of the pandemic, lawyers and the justice system have had to adapt to forced changes,” says Sixta. “Systems and technology have evolved along with social expectations, and lawyers need to evolve their practices or they risk being left behind. We have created a business solution to a social problem, which will help improve access to a system that is often out of reach for those who need it most.”