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Common Questions

I'm doing my own legal research as a self-represented litigant
Last reviewed in May 2022 by the Clicklaw Editors

Doing your own legal research for your court case can be intimidating, especially if you have no formal legal training. However, there is help out there for self-represented litigants (SRLs) like you. 

Am I a "self-represented litigant (SRL)"? Yes, if you do not have a lawyer and have to represent yourself. This means you have to: prepare your case and do your own legal research, learn about the court system, learn what documents to file, find the specific laws that apply to your case, and so on.

Good starting points are:
  • Beginner's Guide to Finding Legal Research, from Courthouse Libraries BC, explains how to find legal information in British Columbia. It also provides links to many more self-help resources and guides. This guide is a starting point and is not meant to be exhaustive. It explains the law and legal procedures in general, and is not intended to give legal advice on your particular legal problem.
  • The CanLII Primer: Legal Research Principles and CanLII Navigation for Self-Represented Litigants. CanLII is a free legal database that can be accessed by anyone on the web. It contains federal and provincial case law, legislation, and more. The CanLII Primer, from the National Self-Represented Litigants Project, helps SRLs use CanLII to prepare for the presentation of their cases - in court, chambers, or as part of a negotiation or mediation. The primer also gives a brief overview of the Canadian legal system.
  • Reading and Understanding Case Reports, from the National Self-Represented Litigants Project, helps SRLs with reading and using case law in their legal research. It is a companion to the CanLII Primer above.
  • If You Have to Go to Court, from Legal Aid BC, has a section called "Researching other family law cases." It explains how to research family law cases using CanLII.
  • Court rules, forms and self-help guides to court procedures is a flowchart that helps you find the court rules, forms and self-help guides you may need when going to court.
Also see:

Need more help?

  • Courthouse Libraries BC provides legal information service to the public via a network of libraries throughout BC. Librarians can help find legal information but cannot offer legal advice or interpret legal material.
  • If you cannot afford a lawyer, check the HelpMap for organizations that can provide you with legal information, advice, and/or referrals to other services in your community.

See our related common questions:

self-represented litigants, SRL, SRLs, defending yourself, representing yourself, legal research, legal resources, case law, presenting your case in court