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Virtual Law: Navigating a Case Remotely

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do things in the short-term, and likely in the longer term as well.

As the lawyers at the Shulman Law Firm, the manner in which we provide our services to clients has also been adjusted, starting with the fact that – in this time of social and physical distancing – all staff in our offices have migrated to remote-work arrangements, to protect their health and safety and that of our valued clients.  Safety is our prime concern.

This does not mean that we have reduced the capacity or willingness to serve you – far from it.   

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To the contrary, we are taking many extra measures to address the requirements and restrictions that have been made necessary in the current crisis, while not compromising on our goal to continue to manage cases expeditiously.

For more information on our remote operation mode and the measures being taken to protect the health and safety of our clients and staff, click here.

Here are some of those measures:

Our Physical Locations

In keeping with the recent province-wide shutdown order issued by the Premier, the Shulman Law Firm is among those businesses considered to be an “essential service” that is permitted to stay open. As such, we remain fully operational and poised to continue serving your Family Law needs.

However, our three physical office spaces in Toronto, North York, and Concord, have all been closed to the public, in favour of various remote-access arrangements described below.  In short:  We remain open for business, but in remote operation mode.

Making Appointments

Our team of lawyers and staff are still available full-time to assist our existing and new clients.  All of them are available during normal business hours (and by pre-arrangement, after-hours) both electronically, and by phone.  Each staff member can still be reached by phone (including direct extensions) and by email for fax. 

Appointments can still be scheduled, but there are no in-person meetings being held at this time.  Instead, both initial consultations and “virtual” multi-party meetings can be arranged through Microsoft Teams for both video and telephone conferencing.  Clients can use this option to have “face-to-face” remote connection with any member of our firm, both lawyers and staff alike.

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Along with the migration to remote operations, we have also taken specific steps to continue to safeguard the privacy of our clients and the confidentiality of their information.  This is achieved through specific investments in technology, and through reinforcement and clarification of our Human Resources policies and emergency procedures.

File Work by Lawyers

Our lawyers and staff continue to work full-time on client files and matters, and to communicate with each other regularly by video conferencing, email and phone.

Again, as always, lawyer and staff are fully available to discuss client matters and to participate in video conferences as needed.

Moving Court Matters Forward

At present, all Ontario Courts are closed to the public and regular sittings have been suspended until further notice.  This means that for the short term, regular Family Law matters (including trials, motions, and case conferences) will not be proceeding as originally scheduled.

There is an exception for what are considered “urgent matters”.   We are aware of a very small number of urgent Family Law motions that have been argued before specially-empaneled courts in a “triage” capacity.  The first was Ribeiro v. Wright[1]on March 22, 2020.  The urgent motion was heard in the Hamilton Superior Court of Justice, and involved a request by one parent to suspend in-person access to the child by the other parent, due to fears relating to COVID-19 exposure.  On the specific facts, the court declined to authorize the matter to proceed further on an urgent basis.

In contrast, a second very recent decision is Smith v. Sieger[2]heard on March 18, 2020.  In that case, the court granted an urgent motion to have the separated parents’ 16-year-old son immediately returned from Utah where he was studying, mere days before the closure of the U.S./Canada border in response to the COVID-19 crisis.  The court added a term of the order to stipulate that the child was to be self-quarantined in the father’s care, for 14 days after arriving home.

As these unique cases show, even with the Family Court closures, we may be able to assist you in addressing your urgent legal needs.  For those issues that cannot be resolved using traditional processes and strategies, we will continue to work with our clients to find alternative solutions.

Beyond the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the mandated Ontario court closures that it prompted, has revealed how vulnerable and fragile the Canadian justice system can be.  Once the current crisis is brought under control, there will likely be many improvements made, including greater reliance by courts on technology to improve public access to justice process, and innovations like electronic document filing, and remote court and tribunal hearings by video conference.

Once these improvements are put into place, our firm will continue with its progressive approach towards serving clients, by taking advantage of all measures that foster a speedy and fair resolution to every case.

Remember: Despite these difficult times, we are here for you.

If you require any help, reach out.

[1] 2020 ONSC 1829 (CanLII), <http://canlii.ca/t/j60jj>

[2] 2020 ONSC 1681 (CanLII), <http://canlii.ca/t/j5xxp>

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