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Ontario Superior Court of Justice Trials

Who Can Represent Me in Court?

This article addresses who can represent someone in Court or before a Tribunal in Ontario.

The foundational law is Ontario’s Law Society Act which at sections 1(6), 1(7) and 1(8) defines what providing legal services are. The by-laws under the Law Society Act and in particular by-law 4 provides further information.

You – any party in a proceeding can be self-represented, unless they are a minor (under 18) or mentally incapable, in which case they require a litigation guardian privately or the Children’s Lawyer or Public Guardian and Trustee may step in.

Lawyer – a lawyer can represent a party in any proceeding. Due primarily to cost, but also a number of other factors such as control over all decision-making, many parties opt to hire a lawyer on an as needed basis. This is called limited scope or unbundled services. Sometimes it’s for a single step and sometimes it’s for on-going advice and coaching.

Paralegal – a paralegal cannot represent someone in a family law proceeding or civil litigation before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. A paralegal can represent someone in Small Claims Court, Provincial Offences Act matters, summary conviction matters under the Criminal Code (but not indictable offences and probably not hybrid offences unless the Crown elects to proceed as a summary conviction matter), Tribunals and in relation to Statutory Accident Benefits. See section 6 of by-law 4.

Family Member – you can have a family member represent you if the following conditions are met:

  1. They only provide legal services within the jurisdiction of a paralegal (see above); and
  2. They do not charge any fee.

Please see section 30 of by-law 4.

Friend or Neighbour – you can have a friend or neighbour represent you if the following conditions are met:

  1. They only provide legal services within the jurisdiction of a paralegal (see above);
  2. They only provide legal services in up to 3 matters per year; and
  3. They do not charge any fee.

Please see section 30 of by-law 4.

McKenzie Friend – a McKenzie friend is not actually someone who provides legal advice or representation, however, with a Court or Tribunal’s permission, they can provide support to a self-represented litigant before the Court or Tribunal. The National Self-Represented Litigants Project has an excellent article on McKenzie Friends that can be found here.

Corporation – an employee or officer of a corporation can draft legal documents for the company. An employee, officer or director can represent a corporation in Small Claims Court. With a Court order, an employee, officer or director can represent a corporation before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Please see the article here for more information.

There are additional exemptions and details in by-law 4 of the Law Society Act, which should be consulted in all cases, but this article outlines the key options applicable to most people.