Bridging the Gap: Rethinking Outreach for Greater Access to Justice
Posted: 19 Apr 2017
Date Written: April 8, 2015
This paper reviews findings from recent studies of how ordinary Americans think about and handle their civil-justice problems, analyzing these findings in search of insights into why people do not usually take these problems to lawyers or to courts. Building on this research, this paper identifies three principles that should be present in future efforts to connect people who may need services with the services they need. Each principle is illustrated with examples of already-existing programs or practices that employ it.
• Americans do not take their justiciable problems to lawyers because they do not consider these problems to be legal, frequently feel that they are quite capable of handling these problems on their own, and often do not believe that anything can be done about them-by anyone.
• Americans' descriptions of how they do handle their justice problems reveal that the kind of assistance that they would appreciate would likely have three qualities: it would be timely, appearing at a moment when they recognize that they have a problem; it would be targeted, specific to their actual needs; and it would be trustworthy, coming from sources that they believe are responsible and working in their good interests.
• Some programs already exist that embody these qualities. Different kinds of problems and different populations will require different strategies.
Keywords: Legal Needs, Civil Justice, Legal Profession
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