Paul Stordy

Paul Stordy

Summary Advice Counsel (AKA Family Duty Counsel) – Halifax Regional Municipality. Supreme Court Family Division – Nova Scotia Legal Aid.

Paul Stordy set some specific goals as a teenager:

  1. Obtain a business degree, majoring in accounting.
  2. Obtain a law degree and
  3. Become a corporate lawyer in a major Atlantic Canada law firm.

Paul accomplished those goals.

BUT soon after completing his articles with a large Atlantic Law firm, Paul realized that the goals and priorities had changed when working in the “real world”. This happened after assisting a corporate client with a Family Law matter.

“I wanted to make a difference in the world and get out into the community and see what I could do to help families at the grass roots level.”

The new goal became to work with Legal Aid to help families struggling through life’s changes.

While working at Legal Aid, Paul has seen the negative impact the adversarial system has placed on families and the soaring costs of hiring lawyers to represent people in family law matters. He has also observed the impact of self-represented parties in contributing to court delays.

“The adversarial system in the Canadian Judicial System is not the best way to help parents/ guardians and children going through these stressful and expensive life changing situations!” Paul saw the benefit of ADR (Alternate Dispute Resolutions) methods to assist along with the development of services and programs to assist self-represented parties navigating the Courts.

Almost twenty (20) years ago with the support of the Management Team at Nova Scotia Legal Aid, the Judiciary and the NS Department of Justice, Paul was tasked with establishing a free family law advice service for any self-represented person going through a family law issue at Halifax Regional Municipality, the largest Family Court in Nova Scotia. The first Summary Advice Counsel (SAC) started in 2003.

Over the years, with continued support, Paul was able to expand the scope of the Summary Advice Counsel (SAC) service. Today all the Family Courts across the entire province of Nova Scotia have access to the Summary Advice Counsel. (SAC)

What can the SAC do for people? The SAC can help with legal terminology, how to start and respond to a court application, implications of agreeing or not agreeing to a court order, court processes, legal documentation and many other aspects of the area of family law. Some specific examples would be as follows: advice on how to separate from a spouse or partner, common law rights, domestic violence issues and concerns, review and answer questions about completing court forms (applications, motions, affidavits, income statements, settlement briefs, divorce), process of contested and uncontested divorces, preparing for settlement conference, preparing for contested court matters, property and pension rights and division, legal definitions, interpreting court orders and other documents, variation of orders, emergency and urgent matters, alternatives to court, etc.

“More people are impacted by Family Law that any other area of Law”, states Paul. “Navigating the Court system can be very daunting. More people are looking for not just legal advice but also information about family law. The development of technology and the use of collaborations have been one of the key ways to achieve this. One such example in NS the website for a Family Law hub developed by a collaboration of a dozen organizations: It is the go-to starting place in NS in Family Law situations!”

The Summary Advice Counsel (SAC) is a Court-based Legal Aid service and is only one of the many innovative services offered by NS Legal Aid in addition to the traditional staff lawyer representation system.

Paul concludes: “In my 30 plus years working in Family Law, I have seen many positive changes. I am invigorated about the movement away from the traditional adversarial legal system and the direction to assist families in resolving their own issues. The addition of resource tool kits, ADR and free/low-cost legal services can only continue to help families!”

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© 2021 Legal aid plans of Canada. None of this material may be commercially reproduced, but copying for other purposes, with credit, is encouraged.