As of January 1, lawyers, judges, businesses and the public are being asked to adopt a new approach to settling disputes. In the event of a dispute, lawyers must now be guided by the principles of cooperation, negotiation, and solutions adapted to the specific needs of the parties.

The Quebec government has introduced substantial reforms to civil procedure following extensive consultations with people involved in the court system and with citizens and various groups involved by the management of cases before the courts. The legislator’s intent with this reform is to emphasize dispute prevention and resolution processes, such as negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and settlement conferences presided by a judge. Previously, litigants worked within an adversarial system, where they would submit their arguments to the court for its decision. Today, the parties must focus on settlements, cooperate in managing their disputes, conduct their cases according to target time limits, and comply with different rules governing the kinds of evidence they might use.

More efficient case management

Lawyers must now raise the possibility of a negotiated solution to their client’s problems. The parties are asked to cooperate actively to find a solution before turning to the courts. Assisted by their lawyers, the parties can seek the court’s intervention if they fail to reach an agreement.

The progress of cases is now subject to various measures that seek to strike a balance between the parties. The parties should only use means that are required and necessary and should always bear in mind the new procedure’s cardinal principle that rights should be exercised in the spirit of cooperation. Furthermore, litigants must now agree in writing on how their case will be managed and on their undertakings and the means they intend to use.

One of the pillars of the civil procedure reform is an increased role for judges in case management. Judges are now active participants in the proceedings, and ensure the orderly progress of the cases to which they are assigned. They can issue various orders on their own initiative to simplify or expedite the proceedings. For example, judges may ask the parties to circumscribe the issues they intend to submit before the court, or to agree on admissions. Moreover, the court may, on its own initiative, limit any steps the parties wish to take and assess the usefulness of any expert opinion.

Lawyers: your partners in business!

Lawyers should now be perceived as vital partners when seeking any type of legal solution. By contacting a lawyer as soon as a problem arises, you will secure their help in finding the preferred solution.

The days are gone when lawyers were the sole masters of the proceedings! Your lawyer can now explore several options with you and recommend different avenues to resolve your dispute quickly and efficiently. Numerous means adapted to the needs and circumstances of each situation are available to lawyers to help you achieve your objectives.