Examining the Real Demand for Legal Services
20 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2008
Date Written: October 25, 2008
Legal needs studies repeatedly show that low and modest income Americans obtain legal assistance for only a small percentage of their legal needs. This is taken to demonstrate a failing of the American justice system. However, relying on several older studies and research conducted outside the United States, one finds that there is little relationship between income and obtaining legal assistance once one controls for type of legal problem (and amount at stake). This paper argues that in thinking about legal needs, one must have a realistic baseline and the simple count of legal problems does not provide that baseline; it suggests that future legal need studies should not be limited to low (and modest) income populations but should cover the entire population in order to provide that baseline. The paper further argues that legal needs issues need to be approached not from a blanket perspective but from a problem-specific perspective.
Keywords: Access to Justice, Legal Services
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