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Legal Services for the Poor: Access, Self-Interest, and Pro Bono

ACCESS TO JUSTICE: SOCIOLOGY OF CRIME, LAW AND DEVIANCE, Rebecca L., Sandefur, eds., Vol. 12, pp. 145-166, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2009

American Bar Foundation Research Paper No. 09-02

34 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2009  

Stephen Daniels

American Bar Foundation

Joanne Martin

American Bar Foundation

Date Written: March 11, 2009

Abstract

Purpose
Decreasing governmental support means access to legal services for the poor depends on the interests of private actors controlling the needed resources. Law firms are a major source of resources for non-profit entities providing legal services. This paper examines the nature of that support.

Design/Methodology/Approach
Law firms are guided by self-interest. How this influences their pro bono activities is explored through a case study of legal services in Cook County, IL (Chicago). The study draws from: documentary research on over fifty private legal service providers in Cook County; interviews with thirty-one lawyers involved in legal services; and a focus group with ten lawyers involved in legal services.

Findings
The interests driving law firm support for legal services do not match the demonstrated areas of greatest legal need or the stated purposes of the non-profit entities receiving that support. Instead, they reflect reasonable firm self-interest in such goals as lawyer training and marketing. Consequently, non-profits receiving support must accommodate themselves to those goals.

Research limitations/implications
This study points to the need for more empirical research into the consequences of the privatization of legal services.

Originality/Value
Privatization means that some crucial legal needs will never be met, and this study provides an empirical context for the debate over "civil Gideon" - whether there should be a constitutional right to legal representation in civil matters akin to the constitutional right in criminal matters.

Keywords: Legal Services, Pro Bono, Law Firms, Civil Gideon

Suggested Citation

Daniels, Stephen and Martin, Joanne, Legal Services for the Poor: Access, Self-Interest, and Pro Bono (March 11, 2009). ACCESS TO JUSTICE: SOCIOLOGY OF CRIME, LAW AND DEVIANCE, Rebecca L., Sandefur, eds., Vol. 12, pp. 145-166, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2009; American Bar Foundation Research Paper No. 09-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1357680

Stephen Daniels (Contact Author)

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Joanne Martin

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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