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Self-Help, Reimagined

53 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2015 Last revised: 16 Jul 2016

D. James Greiner

Harvard University - Center on the Legal Profession; Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Dalié Jiménez

University of Connecticut School of Law; Harvard Law School - Center on the Legal Profession

Lois R. Lupica

University of Maine School of Law

Date Written: February 15, 2016

Abstract

We will never have enough lawyers to serve the civil legal needs of all low- and moderate-income (LMI) individuals who must navigate civil legal problems. A significant part of the access to justice toolkit must include self-help materials. That much is not new; indeed, access to justice commissions across the country have been actively developing pro se guides and forms for decades. But the community has hamstrung its creations in two major ways. First, by focusing these materials on educating LMI individuals about formal law, and second, by considering the task complete once the materials are available to self-represented individuals. In particular, modern self-help materials fail to address many psychological and cognitive barriers that prevent LMI individuals from successfully deploying their contents.

This Article makes two contributions. First, we develop a theory of the obstacles LMI individuals face when attempting to deploy professional legal knowledge. Second, we apply learning from fields as varied as psychology, public health, education, artificial intelligence, and marketing to develop a framework for how courts, legal aid organizations, law school clinics, and others might re-conceptualize the design and delivery of civil legal materials for unrepresented individuals. We illustrate our framework with examples of reimagined civil legal materials.

Keywords: access to justice, low income, pro se, self-help, financial distress, debt collection, adult education

JEL Classification: K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Greiner, D. James and Jiménez, Dalié and Lupica, Lois R., Self-Help, Reimagined (February 15, 2016). Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 92, No. 1, 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2633032 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2633032

Daniel James Greiner

Harvard University - Center on the Legal Profession ( email )

1585 Massachusetts Avenue
Wasserstein Hall, Suite 5018
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
(617) 496-4643 (Phone)

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics ( email )

124 Mount Auburn Street
Suite 520N
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Dalié Jiménez (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States
860-570-5114 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.dalie.org

Harvard Law School - Center on the Legal Profession ( email )

1585 Massachusetts Avenue
Wasserstein Hall, Suite 5018
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Lois R. Lupica

University of Maine School of Law ( email )

246 Deering Avenue
Portland, ME 04102
United States

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