Matthew Dylag

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Dissertation Title: Access to Civil Justice: An Empirical Study of Ontario’s Reform Initiatives

Dissertation Topic:

Access to civil justice is currently in a state of crisis where most people are unable to have their legal problems resolved in a fair, timely, or cost-effective manner. Many institutions have attempted to remedy this perceived crisis through initiatives that seek to either bring reform to the civil justice system or provide alternate methods of accessing justice. Yet to date there is little empirical evidence to show whether such initiatives have achieved their intended goal. Noting the lack of empirical data directly relevant to Ontario, my doctoral dissertation asks whether the proliferation of access to civil justice reform initiatives within Ontario over the last decade has actually improved access to civil justice for Ontarians. In order to address this question, my dissertation will first examine the normative claims surrounding access to civil justice by placing access to justice into the theoretical framework of legal consciousness theory. The second stage of the study will look to identify measures that can be used to determine the effectiveness of access to justice initiatives by examining Ontario based organizations that have been involved with access to civil justice initiatives over the last decade. By comparing the institutional goals of these organizations with the normative claims of legal consciousness theory, objective standards for measuring access to civil justice will be determined. Finally, I will interview lay persons who have experienced one or more legal problems in recent years to identify how they utilize access to civil justice initiatives and what they believe is still needed to improve access to civil justice. In doing so, this paper intends to provide an empirical foundation for future research on access to justice that can be used for not only Ontario, but also Canada and the international community.


  • Master of Laws - Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, Toronto, Ontario (2016)
  • Bachelor of Laws - Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario (2008)
  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours) with Distinction - University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario (2004)
  • Member of the Law Society of Upper Canada -

Teaching Experience

  • Instructor, Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, Toronto, Ontario (2016-Present)
  • Adjunct Professor, Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology, Toronto, Ontario (2014-Present)

Professional Experience

  • Barrister & Solicitor, Dylag Law (2013-2015)
  • Barrister & Solicitor, Henshell Law Office (2009-2013)
  • Student at Law, Henshell Law Office (2008-2009)


  • “The Resolution of Legal Problems in Ontario” (May, 2016) Canadian Forum of Civil Justice, online:
  • “Canadian Civil Legal Needs Surveys: A Brief Comparison” (December, 2015) Canadian Forum of Civil Justice, online:
  • “The Negotiability of Promissory Notes and Bills of Exchange in the Time of Chief Justice Holt” (2010) 31:2 The Journal of Legal History 149.


  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Doctoral Award (2017-)
  • Ontario Graduate Scholarship (Declined) (2017)
  • York University Graduate Fellowship Doctoral (2016-)
  • Hon. William Z. Estey Teaching Fellowship in Legal Research & Writing (2016-)
  • Res Ipsa Loquitur Award (2006)


  • “Informal Justice: An Examination of Why Ontarians Do Not Seek Legal Advice” (Paper Presentation at the Law and Society Association Annual Conference, Mexico City, MX, June 2017)
  • “What Do We Know, What Don’t We Know and What Should We Know About the Cost of Civil Justice in Canada?” (Panelist at the Law and Society Association Annual Conference, Mexico City, MX, June 2017)
  • “Discussing the Future of Access to Justice Research” (Panelist at the Law and Society Association Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA, 3 June 2016)
  • “Civil Needs Amongst Middle Income Ontarians: An Examination of the 2014 Cost of Justice Project” (Research Presented at the Osgoode Hall Graduate Student Conference, Toronto, ON, 18 February 2016)