Court Denies Solo Lawyer’s Last Minute Adjournment Request - Noting Availability of Freelance Lawyers to Assist
Sole practitioners face different challenges than lawyers working at larger firms.
Often sole practitioners must bear the responsibility for all aspects of their client files, while also having to deal with the demanding administrative side of a law practice. They may not have the resources to hire a full-time associate or staff to assist.
Without careful planning, a sole practitioner may quickly become overwhelmed with work and may have to seek extensions for due dates, adjustments to timetables, or adjournments of court appearances. As a recent Ontario Superior Court of Justice case highlighted, there is a right way, and a wrong way, to handle these requests.
In Aganeh et al v. Falconer LLP et al.  the court denied a solo practitioner’s request for an adjournment made the day before a hearing of a summary judgment motion. Despite agreeing to a timetable and hearing date more than seven months in advance, the lawyer claimed that as a sole practitioner, he did not have the capacity to prepare for the hearing as his law practice, and his ability to work, was affected by COVID and other personal circumstances, including taking care of a homeless person.
The court did not agree that the reasons the lawyer put forth warranted a last-minute adjournment as these reasons were present and known to him at the time he agreed to the timetable, which was embodied in an endorsement.
The court mentioned several options that were available to the solo lawyer, including: hiring short term assistance, such as a freelance lawyer to help with his overflow legal work; agreeing to a new timetable; or seeking out a case conference to amend the timetable:
“Although I am not unsympathetic to the challenges of sole practitioners, I note that there are now a wide variety of contracting services available that are designed specifically to provide lawyers for short term assignments to assist sole practitioners or small firms with these challenges.
. . .
Case timetables are court orders like any other and are meant to be adhered to. [The lawyer] had ample time since August 17, 2021, to either seek short term help, agree to a new timetable or seek a case conference to amend the timetable. Having failed to do any of this, I am not inclined to grant an adjournment based on reasons that were known when the timetable was agreed to and when the adjournment is requested the day before the hearing, thereby depriving others of the use of valuable court time.”
The court also noted the serious delays in the civil litigation system, and that a last-minute adjournment request deprived others of the three hours of court time set aside for this hearing:
“Plaintiffs’ counsel submits that there is no prejudice to an adjournment. I disagree. On August 17, 2021, this matter was scheduled for a three-hour motion returnable on March 24, 2022. Since August 17 those three hours have been unavailable to use for other parties waiting for hearings. There are serious delays in the civil litigation system. Those delays are only exacerbated if parties do not adhere to court ordered timetables or do not make timely requests to amend those timetables.”
While having a solo practice has many rewards, it is not without its challenges. Solo lawyers should take note of this case: last-minute adjournment requests will not always be granted. It is important for lawyers to plan ahead if they feel they need to request an adjournment or are overwhelmed with work. Hiring a freelance lawyer for short-term, as-needed assistance, is an affordable way to ensure solo lawyers have the capacity to meet important deadlines.
Looking to delegate your overflow legal work to an experienced freelance lawyer? Reach out to Flex Legal and we can tell you how we can assist:
 2022 ONSC 2037.
 Aganeh et al v Falconer et al, 2022 ONSC 2037 at paras 9 & 11.
 Aganeh et al v Falconer et al, 2022 ONSC 2037 At para 10.
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