What is Legal English exactly?

A great, new innovation! Can a PLE/self-rep based program be in the works? #A2J

Law & Language

Legal English is a new concept, relatively unknown even in the world of English learning. And Grammatika is not the typical legal start-up that you might think of when you hear about ‘alternative law careers’ or ‘legal innovation’ (if there is a typical legal start up! Still such early days). So in preparing for the online workshops launching next month, I broke it down further. We made this short introductory video to explain what Grammatika is all about, what we offer, who we work with, and what we mean by “Legal English.” As much as the content, it was important to convey the attitude towards learning that we hold at GI and I think (hope) this video captures it well.

The video was shot in Delhi, in between case prep and curriculum development, a typical workday for me now. I love that it could be anywhere and the backdrop is somehow at once familiar and exotic. Unexpectedly, speaking in…

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Introducing the “Self-Rep Navigators”

Some great innovative work! #a2j


A Toronto-based lawyers group has launched the “Self-Rep Navigators” to direct legal services towards self-represented litigants. Described as “a hub for connecting self-represented litigants to supportive lawyers and high quality resources both online and offline”, Self-Rep Navigators is spearheaded by long-time NSRLP volunteer Heather Hui-Litwin and trial lawyer Michael Hassell.

The Self-Rep Navigators aim to publicize the availability of unbundled and fixed-fee services for those unable to afford or uninterested in full representation, but who want assistance with their legal matter. Self-Rep Navigators have established a website at www.limitedscoperetainers.ca and list lawyers who will take clients on a limited scope retainer/ at fixed fees for civil and criminal matters, and those offering the same types of services to family clients. One of the family lawyers is Joel Miller, whose website www.thefamilylawcoach.com is featured in “Small Steps towards Big Goals” below, along with other important news about movement towards offering more…

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Wait a Minute: Has the Federal Election Campaign Been About Access to Justice All Along?

An interesting analysis of #elxn42 issues in the #A2J paradigm. However, I think it is a bit of wishful thinking: The legal community has failed to engage the public we serve to this issue for the past few decades. #A2J was a concern long before this election. We need to take a strong, critical look at ourselves, in particular, how we interact with the public so that we become more proficient in communicating and engaging with them.


In last week’s blog, I bemoaned the fact that we had made little progress this election season in raising the desperate issue of access to affordable legal representation for the huge numbers of self-represented litigants in our courts.

In that blog I compared the characterization – and demonization – of the “Other” which has been so dominant in this election campaign with the way that many see SRLs . This blog obviously struck a chord with many, both SRLs and those working in the justice system.

And then it occurred to me…

Is the Election Campaign All About Access to Justice?

While this assertion risks the accusation that if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail…

This weekend I thought again about the “absence” of Access to Justice issues in the federal election campaign.

And I realized that in fact the hardest and scrappiest debates in…

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Federal Election Issues, Self-Represented Litigants, and Fear of the Other

Great article on self represented litigants as the other and the Legal Ego. #A2J #whataboutalex


Since I have returned to Canada this week from a month “Down Under” (for my reports from Australia see “Access to Justice Down Under” and “Political Pressure and Federal Politics The View From Australia”, I have read and watched a lot of federal election coverage that shouts “fear of the Other”.

“Other” is women wearing niqab, Syrian refugees, and sometimes Canadian Muslims in general.

“Other” is scientists who challenge the government line on climate change, or academics who contest the so-called “Terror Bill” C-51.

“Other” is missing and murdered indigenous women, and First Nations communities without access to clean water.

Once we see another group as having a worldview or an experience very different from our own, it seems pretty easy to distance ourselves from the Other. That’s not us, our subconscious tells us. We don’t need to care about that.

In an election campaign, going one step…

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Ditching Facebook 4: Being and Doing


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My tumble off the Facebook limitation wagon last week sparked some questions:
1) Why did I log in? and
2) Why did I feel compelled to join in the first place?

The simple answer to the first question is that it was my mother’s birthday and I wanted to post a message on her wall. However, I wondered whether my intention was only to please my mother (I had already sent an e-card and was going to her party in the evening), or if it was really about others approving of me. If you do something but no one sees it, is it worth doing?

The answer to question 2 is complex, but here’s my attempt at (a part) of it: Everyone else was on Facebook and I didn’t want to miss out. Sometimes, we follow the crowd without first assessing its direction.

Facebook’s function is to help people expand and maintain social connections (or at least names in an address book). If no one joins a social media platform or app, it becomes (or always was) redundant. When we spend a large amount of time on Facebook we increase its value (I will discuss algorithms in a later post), we spend more time on it, and we engage in a social positive feedback loop.

“Early” Facebook joiners like myself may find that their frequency of use has increased over time. I think that when I got caught up in the usage cycle, I stopped searching for or doing things that made me happy for their own sake as I spent more time on Facebook. Reading articles and “connecting” with others in enjoyable, but so is drawing or taking an aimless walk. In hindsight, I think that I saw solitary activities as having diminished significance in comparison to virtual “group” activities, which we ironically do alone in front of a screen. While time spent on Facebook can be valuable, at one point we reach diminishing returns.

I think the diminishing returns are reached when we spend so much time “connecting” that we loose loose depth of connection and time pursuing activities that are we enjoy for their intrinsic qualities. Our constant connection to technology can cause us to isolate ourselves while simultaneously spending the time doing things for others’ approval. The whole arrangement is pretty crazy if you stop to think about it. However, many continue charging ahead.

In the second article of this series, I discussed the cultural lauding of busyness. I think that the busyness process goes something like this: we communicate our busyness to others, we are reinforced by others, we reinforce others for their busyness, repeat. We have equated busyness with worthiness. What are you if you are not busy?

In “Excellent Sheep“, William Deresiewicz tries to determine why so many of his privileged Ivy-League students are miserable. He describes Ivy League admission processes and policies as being primarily focused on ranking students according to how busy their schedules are and rewarding those who make it to the top of the list. The current zeitgeist of “being anything you want to be” while simultaneously being everything at once dovetails with these processes.

To give you an idea of the intensity of the sought busyness level, the current Ivy League admission committees consider 5-6 extracurricular activities as insufficient, notwithstanding the qualities or progress made on any such project, 7-9 extracurricular activities are considered standard. Grades, of course, are also a variable but act as a numerical cut-off: The quantification of students’ academic vigor acts as the qualification. The most disturbing variable, “legacy”(applicants whose parents donate to the school), is worth discussing but is out of the scope of this blog post.

The accepted overuse of Social Media Platforms is a social embodiment of the fantasy of keeping options open while making progress or gains.  They allows us to keep our social options open even during commitments: you can have dinner with a friend while posting, tweeting or ‘gramming to the everyone else (there’s more of “them” then the person to which one is physically proximal: quantity wins). While this might be efficient in one sense, it is extremely wasteful in another: we do not experience things as fully when we do not put all of our attention on them. When we don’t examine what we are doing with our time we can spend a lot of time on autopilot which can lead to  neglecting do things for their own rewards. While we have found a way to increase our nominal connections, we forgot to assess the substantive costs.

Since I have limited my Facebook use, I have more time to write, draw, walk, bike and do things that I find enjoyable for no one but myself. Disconnecting has allowed me to consider how I spend my time and to make more meaningful choices. It’s been completely worth the risk: I’m loving the returns from the investment in myself.

Ditching Facebook 3: Disolving Resolve


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For over a month, I happily stuck to my Facebook limitation commitment and enjoyed the benefits. Then, on my mother’s birthday, which was this past Tuesday, I slipped. I sent her an e-card and bought her a gift, but I also wanted to post a birthday message on her Facebook wall.

I logged on with the best intentions: 1)quickly go to her page, 2)post a birthday message, and then 3)log off. As you can probably guess by now, I had a detour.

Once I logged in, I saw that my stepfather had already posted a very lovely message to her, so of course, I had to read and “like” it. Then, after I scrolled down to “like” the message a subsequent post caught my eye. I was so excited by this that I immediately posted it to my wall with a comment and also commented on the original post. Then, I saw that some people had private messaged me and since I was already on Facebook I decided to respond to them. What was supposed to have taken a few minutes took me about 15.

What’s worse, is that the next day, I logged in again to check the ongoing conversations about the post I saw the day before. However, once I did, I noticed that more than one of my friends had caught me logging in when it wasn’t Sunday and told me to “make like a banana”.

The next day, I had a revelation: If I want to contact my friends who live far away from me, I can call them on the phone! I called a friend whose voice I haven’t heard in months. We had a great conversation and I put down the phone not only feeling connected, but having a better understanding of how things are going for her (and her for me) than if I had posted to her wall.

There are 2 lessons here:

  1. Your friends on Facebook will keep you accountable to your Facebook limitation pledge; and
  2. I need a better long-distance phone plan.

Miller v. Jackson [1977] QB 966: A Found Poem


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A Found Poem is a poem in where the author inserts line and stanza breaks into a piece of prose to create a poem. Here is my handiwork on a Lord Denning favourite.

Now after these 70 years
a judge of the High Court
has ordered that
they not play there anymore.

He has issued
an injunction
to stop them.

He has done it
at the insistence of a newcomer
who is no lover of cricket.

This newcomer has built,
or has built for himself,
a house on the edge
of the cricket ground which

Four years ago was a field
where cattle grazed.
The animals did not mind the cricket.