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I want to sue my old landlord. The amount wouldn't be too much so I could do it in small claims court.

I had searched the internet and found some free legal advice from the Legal Service Society. I booked a meeting with them and got a bad feeling and abruptly told them I wasn't interested and left. I don't mean to sound prejudice but the girl in the meeting was very young (early 20s) and emphasized how she couldn't give me legal advice so I was a bit confused as to why I was there. I think her job was to collect information and then give it to the actual lawyer. Is this normal?

Also she had me sign something saying I expressly waive any right to legal action I may have against the people advising me and their organization. Is this normal?

She had asked me if I wanted to communicate through mail or e-mail and I thought that was and I had been under the impression this was a one time visit. I'm having trouble finding the right words, but how can I find out what to expect from working with them?

I feel really bad as I basically told the girl I didn't want to work with her and she almost started crying. Did I over react?

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Legal Services Society is a non-profit organization created by the BC Legislative Assembly through this act, created in order to serve the legal needs of certain classes of society, defined vaguely with reference to "a reasonable person of modest means". Accordingly, they have rules regarding who they can and cannot serve. and they are constrained financially. With vast demands on their resources and little by way of resources, prudent triage is called for. That is, when you show up, you shouldn't expect to talk to a senior attorney (or an attorney). From what I can determine, you cannot expect to get your problem solved right away. It is also not clear that your problem is within the scope of what they do (criminal, incarceration, serious family matters, immigration).

"Giving legal advice" is something that only a few people are legally allowed to do – lawyers, who have you as their client. If the person were an attorney, they still couldn't give you legal advice until the appropriate relationship is created (and they have the relevant facts). The person you met with may be a paralegal or a law student. Under the law (sect. 8 of the act), you cannot sue them for damages because of their actions, except if carried out in bad faith. The waiver might be a bit redundant, but it is a wise idea to tell people that you can't sue them.

If you want to know what you can expect from the lawyer, this publication will be helpful, though it is generic and not specific as to your particular issue.

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This mostly sounds very normal. You probably overreacted.

Legal service societies are overwhelmed by the demand for their help. They do not have the capacity to serve everyone who comes to them, and they therefore establish screening procedures to figure out who they can help quickly, who requires more attention, and who they cannot help at all.

To do that, they hire and train non-lawyers to handle "intake," the process of gathering basic information about potential new clients and their cases. It is basically the same process you might expect if you went to the emergency room. There isn't a team of doctors waiting for you when you walk in the door; you have to talk to staff first, and they'll figure out whether you need to wait or be seen right away, and they're not going to write you a prescription while you wait.

The only thing that sounds out of the ordinary to me is the waiver of liability, but I don't know enough about Canadian legal malpractice law to comment on it.

  • The waiver of liability sounds reasonable (depending on the local laws). The organization is going to give guidance to the best of its ability, which means it's going to slip up now and then, and they have no control over what the client does with the information. They can't afford to get into lawsuits about this. It's similar to how open source software licenses normally disavow all liability. – David Thornley Nov 26 '18 at 18:49
  • Creators of open-source software don't have a fiduciary relationship with their client. I don't know of any jurisdiction where the waiver as described would be honored. – bdb484 Nov 26 '18 at 21:53
  • In my experience, fiduciary duties tend to need payment. People offering help for free tend to be operating on something of a financial shoestring, and they can't afford to defend themselves in a lawsuit. If you want someone to take responsibility for you, pay them. I wouldn't expect the waiver to help against deliberate attempts to harm a client, but something needs to cover mistakes or misunderstandings. – David Thornley Nov 30 '18 at 3:43
  • I'm of course unaware of the scope of your experience, but it is not representative. "Fiduciary" definitely does not imply payment, though there are many types of fiduciaries who will typically receive payment. The courts would generally approach your analysis from the opposite direction: If you can't afford to defend yourself from allegations of violating your fiduciary duties, you should not take them on; if you want to take responsibility for someone, do it right or pay for your mistakes. – bdb484 Nov 30 '18 at 4:01

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