Five steps to deal with a legal problem

Graphic of five steps to deal with a problem, including illustrations of people

Every legal problem is unique. So when you face one in your own life, there are plenty of factors to consider as you try to decide if and how to take it on. Things like the seriousness of the issue, and the motivations and means of the people involved, all figure in. Whether you’re hiring a legal professional to help, or going it alone, we walk you through the steps to tackle a legal problem.

Step 1. Be clear on your problem

“This was the second time I’d been passed up for a promotion. I was qualified — more so than the person who got it. And I nailed the interview. Everyone I work with was puzzled as well. I like my job, but I feel like something is off here. Someone told me I should sue. But to what end? I worry it’d make things worse. And isn’t this just how life works sometimes? I’m just lost on what to do next.”

– Fatima, Victoria, BC

Step 2. Do a gut check

“Mom died a few weeks ago. I was named executor in the will. Good thing I’m pretty comfortable with filling out forms and dealing with bureaucracy. I figured I could handle probate. But I’ve got two young kids and work full time. After spending a week researching and understanding the process, I decided to hire a lawyer to help. It wasn’t cheap — and I know not everyone has the luxury to get professional help in these situations — but for me and my family, it was the right choice.” 

– Rob, New Westminster, BC

Step 3. Know the law and the process

“Two thousand bucks and one week later, and still my car won’t start! The mechanic came recommended by a friend, but surely they messed something up. It’s almost a new car! Trouble is, I already paid the mechanic. Can I get my money back? Maybe they’ll agree to do the next repair for free? Or can I make them pay for the repairs at a different mechanic?”

– Hien, Sicamous, BC

Step 4. Make contact

“I did my research: I reviewed the law on trees, I called the municipality for backup. I even read past cases on overhanging branches. I know I'm in the right. Their trees need to be cut back. But my neighbour is a tough cookie. They’re not unreasonable, but they’ve got a strong personality and don’t back down when they’re called out. To be honest, I’m terrified about having a ‘talk’ with them. But I don’t want to get a lawyer involved (yet) or start a formal legal case.”

– Amber, Prince George, BC

Step 5. Try formal steps

“Honestly, I thought I was going to give up on my complaints about my strata when I realized I had to go to court. But then I learned that my dispute would be handled through the CIvil Resolution Tribunal, which didn’t feel like a court at all. I could navigate the whole process easily without a lawyer (everything happened online and in writing). It was so unintimidating.”

– Don, Kelowna, BC

  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in May 2022
  • Time to read: 8 minutes

Reviewed for legal accuracy by

David Kandestin, People's Law School

David Kandestin

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