31 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2007 Last revised: 14 Aug 2009
Date Written: February 1, 2008
In this essay, we introduce the concept of Microjustice as an approach to tackle the problem of access to justice for those with limited resources. In addition to existing perspectives, we propose to analyze the justice sector as a 'market' with its corresponding chain of supply and a demand. The challenge is to develop processes that are affordable to users with limited resources, whilst making it attractive for the providers of justice to act as suppliers. Microjustice allows the demand for justice and the supply of justice to meet by using tools of the modern services economy: information technology, economies of scale, cheaper labor at the place of delivery, flexible adjustment to local circumstances, self-help and empowerment of the user. The analogy to microfinance is instructive.
We first explore how the market for justice works and why justice does not reach the poor. Next, we proceed to the development principles for Microjustice, drawing on the work of Prahalad and Hart regarding markets at the 'Bottom of the Pyramid.' We also show that legal systems are surrounded by knowledge that has an enormous potential for innovation, but are not yet open enough to use this potential. We give some examples of how Microjustice could look like in practice. Then we investigate the limitations of the market perspective and possible other objections to the Microjustice approach. We conclude by inviting the legal sector service providers, NGO's and other institutions working on access to rights to consider the development of innovative services in the spirit of microjustice. Moreover, we urge governments and donors to think about access to justice programs in terms of creating a climate for innovation and a business climate that stimulates legal service providers to deliver their services at the bottom of the pyramid.
Keywords: access to justice, legal services
JEL Classification: D63, D73, D74, K41, K42, O17, O31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
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