Below are excerpts from an article written by Maurits Barendrecht, A Professor of Private Law and Academic Director Tilburg University and Hague Institute for Internationalisation of Law: Online Courts Imminent.
“In Canada and the US, the trend towards online platforms rides on a wave of indignation about the fate of self-represented litigants. A very large proportion of users of courts cannot afford a lawyer. Others do not want to hire a lawyer, because they want to stay in control of the process themselves, needing guidance instead of directions. A well-received study by Julie MacFarlane also shows that court forms are complex, lengthy and difficult to understand, even for trained professionals. Most of these litigants end up being disillusioned about the court experience.”
“Dutch courts developed a prototype for a platform for neighbour disputes supporting diagnosis, negotiation, legal information and adjudication. Judges will be accessible online, but can also go to people’s homes in order to help implement solutions on the spot. More generally, the trend is towards a combination of online information sharing, replacing the need for repeated intake of the same problem by many professionals, in combination with more close and more human interaction.”
Below are excerpts from Julie MacFarlane’s study mentioned above:
“All the SRL’s [Self-Represented Litigants] interviewed spoke about their experience with completing court forms, and often numerous subsequent procedural aspects of their case. In many cases, these process issues dominated their experience and thus the interview; in most interviews, the process dimensions of the SRL experience – both negative and positive, but often negative – were talked about a great deal more and at greater length than their outcomes. In the 25% of cases which were concluded by the time of the interview, it was evident that the procedural aspects of the experience – – including the completion of court forms, which was often the first time a SRL realized the scale of the challenge they faced – were at least as important to the individual, as they recalled their experience, as the actual outcome.”
“Many SRL respondents described how difficult they found court forms to complete. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that, as one court clerk put it, “there a million forms out there.”135 Sometimes the clerk as well as the SRL is also seeing a particular form for the first time.”
” Virtually every SRL in the sample complained that they found the language in the court forms confusing, complex and, and some cases, simply incomprehensible – referring to terms and concepts with which they were unfamiliar. This reaction was the same across all types of litigant no matter what court or province they filed in (although there were somewhat fewer complaints about small claims court forms and procedures, these were not devoid of criticism either)…In every case, significant time and effort is required to complete court forms.”