Access to Evidence: How an Evidence-Based Delivery System Can Improve Legal Aid for Low- and Moderate-Income Americans
Center for American Progress, June 2011
16 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2011
57 million Americans, one-third of them children, qualify for free legal aid, but half or more who seek help are turned away because providers lack sufficient resources. Tens of millions more moderate-income Americans are ineligible for free legal aid, yet lack reliable access to an affordable lawyer. At the same time, state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and law schools around the country are developing innovative approaches to addressing legal needs in their communities.
This issue brief for the Center for American Progress suggests how the federal government can hasten these developments by promoting legal service delivery models that are backed by rigorous evidence of their effectiveness. Evidence-based approaches in civil legal assistance can help service providers target resources more efficiently and bolster the case for new investments by Congress and other funders to increase access to justice.
With new leadership and initiative in key institutions, we recommend that the White House and Congress seize the opportunity to:
• Establish a "National Access to Justice Institute" in the Justice Department to coordinate legal aid research through a partnership with the American Bar Foundation and the Legal Services Corporation; • Support state and regional centers for legal aid research to catalyze innovation and evaluation through collaboration between the new institute, state access-to-justice commissions, legal services providers, and law school clinics; and • Target federal funds to incentivize evidence-based legal aid delivery systems through competitive grants and market-based mechanisms.
Keywords: access to justice, legal services, clinical legal education
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