University of Denver

NSRLP Publishes Report on Costs Awards for Self-Represented Litigants

IAALS Intern

The National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP) recently published a paper that looks at costs awards to self-represented litigants (SRLs) in Canadian courts. The paper notes the leading Canadian cases in which SRLs have been ordered costs awards and analyzes the development of these principles in family law matters. Generally, the report concludes that Canadian courts have broadened SRLs’ ability to obtain costs. 

In a move to consider SRLs more fairly when they succeed in their cases, courts are starting to look at an SRL’s work quality instead of a quantification of how much the SRL’s time is worth. SRLs are therefore advised to keep a detailed list of the work they complete for each stage of their case to help determine what might be eligible for counsel fees should they win. The information in this paper could be useful for a number of different parties, including successful SRLs wanting to ask for costs for the time they spent on their case, attorneys opposing SRLs on cases (so they can better estimate the costs their client could be ordered to pay for the SRL's work), or pro bono counsel being compensated using the same "time value" principle. 

This is the first NSRLP paper in a series based on the SRL Case Law Database, which tracks the emerging jurisprudence at all levels of courts across Canada as it relates to self-representation and presents findings that highlight patterns and themes evident within decisions. Earlier SRL research by Dr. Julie Macfarlane, NSRLP Project Director, provided the basis for IAALS’ Cases Without Counsel study, which explored factors driving self-representation, experience in family court from the litigants’ perspective, and the impacts of self-representation. A research report was also accompanied by a recommendations report that included ways for court communities, legal communities, and broader communities to improve the experiences of SRLs.

Heather Buchanan is a third-year law student at the University of Colorado Law School and contributes to IAALS Online. Please direct inquiries about this post to