Written by: Stuart Foxman

You don’t need to have a lawyer to win in court – but you do need the right advice. That’s the idea behind LawHero (lawhero.ca/#/), an online platform that connects litigants with legal coaches at a fraction of the cost of hiring a lawyer.

“With a little help and guidance, people can represent themselves,” says Grace Saati, founder of LawHero.

When Saati started practicing law, she saw what she describes as an “access to justice crisis”. She says as many as two-thirds of litigants would appear in court without the assistance of a lawyer. They simply couldn’t afford it. This happened with important matters like evictions, mortgage foreclosures, child custody and support proceedings, and debt collections .

Typically, Saati says self-represented litigants (SRLs) would do a terrible job. They just didn’t have the basic legal knowledge that could make a difference. But what if they could easily acquire it?

After four years as a civil litigator, Saati found herself itching for a career change. In 2014, she began to work in business development for a software company. Still, she had the entrepreneurial bug. “I always knew I wanted to run my own show, always had that spark.”

In 2018, she lit it. Saati thought about what she had seen as a lawyer. She decided to create a virtual marketplace where SRLs could find lawyers for help with specific tasks.

Via LawHero, SRLs can upload documents for a lawyer to review, and get answers to legal questions and procedural advice. The LawHero coaches can assist with things like drafting pleadings, case assessments, legal research and courtroom preparation.

SRLs only pay for the support they need and time they use (by the minute), usually at a reduced hourly rate. On average, LawHero rates are 60% less than traditional fees. There’s no need for a retainer or face-to-face meetings. With LawHero, SRLs can go to court informed and prepared, and achieve better legal outcomes.

Supported practice areas include criminal law, family law, business disputes, employment law, contractual disputes, landlord and tenant issues, bankruptcy and consumer rights.

While the service helps SRLs, Saati says that LawHero serves the roster of lawyers too. The work they do for SRLs through this platform doesn’t involve the same level of overhead as usual, and they don’t have to do the marketing.

“Client development and business development for lawyers costs a lot and doesn’t always bear fruit,” she says. “LawHero is about filling the spaces in between.”

When Saati was building LawHero, one of the most valuable pieces of assistance came from LaunchYU (launchyu.ca/). That’s York University’s entrepreneurship unit, which supports people and their ventures at the school and in the community.

Through LaunchYU, which is part of Innovation York, entrepreneurs become better positioned to develop and scale their businesses. They learn about entrepreneurship, get help with practical business questions, network, and have the chance to collaborate with university and industry partners.

Saati appreciated the opportunity to be mentored and learn more about raising money, business structures and intellectual property. “I really enjoyed the program,” she says.

Having outside parties validate you is invaluable for entrepreneurs, says Saati. The verdict for LawHero or any venture can be unclear in the early stages. She says that when people have a business idea, they can often talk themselves out of going for it. There can be a “what makes me think I can solve that problem?” mentality.

Her advice for would-be entrepreneurs: “Most people hold back a bit. Give yourself permission to do it,” says Saati.

 Photo credit: Zlatko CetinicImages Made Real