In 2019, Lisa Feldstein noticed that part of her practice felt like something out of Groundhog Day. As a sole practitioner in family health law, she often represents caregivers who look after someone — typically a relative but sometimes a friend or neighbour — with a physical or mental disability. Such clients have to confront a wide range of legal challenges. For instance, consider the parent of an adult child with schizophrenia. Those who suffer from this condition often lack insight into their illness and fail to seek medical care. Feldstein might help the parent advocate for the assessment and possible hospitalization of the child. “That part of the job tends to be very educational,” says Feldstein. “I had virtually the same meeting over and over again.” In each case, she would walk the client through the same sections in the Mental Health Act and make the same kind of recommendation.
Feldstein runs her practice alongside Sahithya Uruthirakumaran, her indispensable legal assistant. Together, the duo tries to abide by the following ethos: if you find yourself repeating something numerous times, look for a way to automate it. In that spirit, Feldstein and Uruthirakumaran have created Kinkeeper, a low-cost series of online courses (with some free components) that empower family caregivers with legal information. The idea is to give people a choice between full-service legal advice and informed self-representation. “Caregivers are overwhelmed, stressed and paying for legal services out of their own pocket,” says Feldstein. “It’s really nice to be able to give those people an affordable choice.”
Lisa Feldstein, who created a series of online courses that helps family caregivers, is pictured in the American Room of the Great Library at Osgoode Hall.
A lawyer working to drive down the cost of legal services may sound unusual. But it’s in keeping with Feldstein’s modus operandi. “Lisa runs her practice in a way that does genuine good for the community,” says Uruthirakumaran. “It makes me happy and proud to come in to work every day.”
As Feldstein anticipated, Kinkeeper has become a modest source of passive income as caregivers purchase the courses. To her surprise, however, it’s also become a lead generator. When potential clients locate the platform online, they see Feldstein as a clear expert in the field. In the two years since Kinkeeper launched, Feldstein has enjoyed a marked uptick in full-service caregiver files.
Barbara is one client who, after using Kinkeeper, decided to hire Feldstein outright. Barbara’s adult family member has schizophrenia, but she doesn’t acknowledge she has the condition and refuses treatment for it. Worried about her relative’s deteriorating mental and physical state, Barbara desperately wanted to compel her to seek medical care.
In March, she purchased a $113 course called “Family Caregiver Rights.” (She later bought a few other courses, too.) A combination of graphic diagrams, text and video recordings — in which Feldstein sits in front of a bright background and speaks in a friendly, personable manner — walked Barbara through concepts ranging from the legal definition of capacity to how to submit the necessary forms. “The laws are complicated,” says Barbara (whose last name we’ve omitted to protect her family member’s privacy). “But Lisa organized the course in a way that made them easy to understand.”
Barbara had the confidence to navigate the situation and to communicate with other concerned family members. Ultimately, though, she decided to retain Feldstein when the file became too difficult to handle on her own. The situation has yet to be fully resolved, but Barbara is glad to have found Feldstein and to have taken the online course: “It helped me feel confident enough to take action in a heartbreaking situation, after so many sleepless nights.”