How to Use Consumer and Debt Law to Help Your Clients

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While this manual is about identifying and solving problems, it is important to keep client problems in perspective. The law outlined in this manual governs millions of consumer and credit transactions made in the province every year. The vast majority of those transactions are carried out without any problems. Overwhelmingly, society accepts the rules that govern these transactions, and follows them.

Being realistic about solving clients’ problems is also important. Often, solving a problem means making the best of a bleak situation. It means, in many instances, that you may not be able to assist clients to make the kind of fundamental changes in their circumstances that will help them avoid similar or other problems, particularly financial problems, in the future. It also means appreciating that the facts provided by clients cannot be changed.

How to find answers to client questions

Every section follows this format to help you understand and work through your client’s problem.

  • Client problems: Sample client problems to help you decide if the section is about a law that affects your client.

  • Summary of the law: An overview of the relevant law to help you understand the legal context.

  • Information gathering: What information you need from your client to help solve the problem.

  • Solving the problem: Suggestions for solving your client’s problem.

  • Related topics and materials: Suggestions for further reading on a problem, and some cross-references to other sections that may help or give you more information on a topic.

Step 1. Understanding the law

This manual attempts to explain the basic legal principles that advocates need to understand to assist clients who have consumer or debt problems.

Step 2. Gathering relevant facts from the client and other sources

The most important initial step in fact gathering is the client interview. Good interviewing skills come from a combination of experience and realizing that, as with any other skill, proper training, practice and reflection on the skill can make you a more effective interviewer.

Step 3. Identifying the client’s problem or problems

A client’s problem will not always fit neatly into the topics outlined in this manual. It is up to you to understand the facts presented by the client and to apply the law to solve the problem. In some instances, a client’s problem can be quickly identified. In others, it may take considerable fact gathering, investigation and research to identify the issues.

Step 4. Applying the law to the problem

Applying the law to a client’s problem involves explaining to the client the basic principles of the law and how the law governs their circumstances.

Step 5. Outlining client options

In most instances, there is more than one approach to solving a client’s problem. You will serve your clients best if you present a range of options to them. In this way, clients can make informed decisions rather than having solutions imposed on them by you.

Step 6. Carrying out the client’s option

In carrying out the client’s option, you and the client should draft an initial plan of action. This plan should include who is to carry out the initial steps, how to carry out those steps, and the time frame in which to carry out the steps.