Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Bringing Justice to the Poor: Bottom-Up Legal Development Cooperation

52 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2009 Last revised: 4 Nov 2013

Benjamin van Rooij

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: March 25, 2009


In the last decade bottom-up approaches to legal development cooperation have become increasingly popular. Examples are reform ideas and programs using concepts including "access to justice", "micro-justice" and "legal empowerment". These approaches share a common concern that legal interventions should benefit the poor, and that their needs and preferences should form the basis for legal reforms. Proponents of these approaches argue that they are important alternatives to ineffective pre-existing legal reform practices which were based on "the rule of law orthodoxy". This paper critically discusses the content, context and merits of such bottom-up approaches. It concludes that while these approaches offer advantages, they should not substitute but complement pre-existing legal development cooperation practices and the rule of law paradigm they are based on. The sudden popularity of these new approaches shows how much legal development cooperation is a field of trends, where doubts about effectiveness force legal reformers to regularly shift from one paradigm to the next, enthusiastically applauding the seemingly new, while sacrificing the caricaturized old.

Keywords: law and development, access to justice, legal empowerment

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

van Rooij, Benjamin, Bringing Justice to the Poor: Bottom-Up Legal Development Cooperation (March 25, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Benjamin Van Rooij (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views