University of Denver

Self-Represented Litigants in Canada Find Less Success in Court According to New Data

Director of Special Projects

The National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP) recently released Canadian data on case outcomes for self-represented litigants (SRLs). These new figures come shortly after NSRLP published research showing that in cases where a self-represented litigant faces a motion for summary judgment brought by a represented party, 95% of SRLs will have their cases dismissed. 

This new analysis looked at cases between January 1, 2012, and April 7, 2016, in which one party was represented by an attorney and the other party was self-represented.  Broadly speaking, the results show that “SRLs do not fare well against represented parties.”  Specifically, NSRLP (working with Loom Analytics) found that almost three-quarters of SRLs who participated in hearings lost; only 14% actually won.  Additionally, only 12.5% of SRLs won in motions court—half the success rate at trial. 

These preliminary data points (NSRLP will release more in the coming months) raise a number of access to justice questions, and the NSRLP hopes the data will enable “a vigorous and better-informed debate about how the justice system is treating SRLs.”

The NSRLP builds on the National Self-Represented Litigants Research Study conducted by Julie Macfarlane and on which the IAALS Cases Without Counsel study builds.