Well, it seems pretty simple. If we can make it less expensive to hire a lawyer, more people should be able to afford the legal help they need. That will narrow the gap, right?
We believe that a four-pronged approach is the only way to really address the challenges in the access to justice problem:
- Making courts more accessible
- Increased funding for nonprofit and public legal services
- Modernized regulation and ethics rules to incorporate representation of underserved communities
- Championing new law firm business models that are scalable and client-centric
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The Cost of Legal Services
The Federal Reserve investigated savings in the US in 2014, and found that half of Americans couldn’t come up with $400 in an emergency. And a substantial portion of the rest would probably need to borrow that $400. So any legal services that cost more than $400 are unaffordable for half of Americans.
If that’s right, you can’t nibble away at the access-to-justice gap by making legal services just a little bit cheaper or providing alternative pricing options like a sliding fee scale. You would have to get your fee below $400 for any given legal service.
Value, Not Affordability
On the other hand, ABA Staff Counsel Will Hornsby has argued that affordability isn’t really the only problem.
When we predicate our solutions to improving access to legal services on the presumption that those services are unaffordable, we misdirect our resources from solutions that are better applied to increasing engagement. The research clearly indicates the crisis involves the recognition, or lack of recognition, by people that their problems have legal solutions and decisions need to be made determining when it is of value for people to pursue those solutions.
If that’s true, we should expect to see people who are willing to pay once they are made to appreciate the value of legal services.
In his former practice, attorney Sam Glover gave away a simple, easy-to-use template to help defendants in debt collection lawsuits answer and serve discovery requests. But a lot of people who downloaded the template paid his firm to help them prepare the documents anyway.
So maybe people just don’t understand what they are paying you for until you show them. Even if you give away good, easy-to-use documents for free, people want to know they are doing it right, or that the form they have is the right one to solve their problem. And they are willing to save the money to pay for it. That’s basically what Hornsby’s research says, too.
Pro Se by Choice?
Here’s another data point. About 80% of the parties in family court are pro se. Most lawyers look at that number and see a big pile of potential clients. Jordan Furlong has a somewhat different perspective. Maybe we should understand that number to mean that 80% of the parties in family court don’t need a lawyer. Or don’t think they need a lawyer, at least.
So if 80% don’t need a lawyer or are getting along okay without one, why is the court system still constructed on the assumption parties will be represented? Even those who are represented suffer because pro se parties bog down the court. After all, if there’s one thing that really could disrupt the legal profession, it is the judicial system.
Maybe, in addition to people who don’t yet appreciate the value of a lawyer and people who actually can’t afford one, there are some people who don’t want to hire a lawyer at any price. Not all 80% of those in family court, surely, but some percentage of those probably just aren’t interested in hiring a lawyer.
Who Really Wants a Cheap 律师
考虑关于可承受性的另一件事。我们真的认为人们想要 花钱少的 律师我们认为公众真的认为律师是任何有法律执照的傻瓜都能做的事情吗？这当然不是我的经验。根据我的经验，公众知道有好律师和坏律师，好律师比坏律师贵。毕竟这很有道理。
因此，即使获得法律帮助的成本降到人们能够负担的水平以下，那些提供帮助的人如何让公众相信他们正在提供帮助呢 质量 以这些价格提供法律帮助？
Access to Justice Statistics
Usually, when people outside of the legal profession talk about the legal system being imperfect, it is about a criminal justice system that is so suffused with racial bias as to be untenable.
Lawyers know, however, even if they never discuss it, that the civil system is also critically damaged. Half of Americans aren’t able to come up with $400 in an emergency, which almost certainly means they aren’t hiring a lawyer when trouble arises. Legal Aid is criminally under-resourced and underfunded, which means even people that qualify for representation through a legal services organization aren’t getting assistance. That said, outside of certain pernicious civil problems that plague many individuals who fall into the access to justice gap—domestic violence, evictions, debt collections, foreclosures—even lawyers likely generally assume that the remainder of the civil system runs relatively smoothly, with both sides of a dispute having access to an attorney. It turns out that isn’t even remotely true.
Richard Zorza looked at some of the data from the National Center for State Courts’ Landscape of Litigation in Civil Courts. After playing with a data set of 650,000 cases from a random selection of ten urban counties, Zorza figured out that nearly 70% of all civil cases only have an attorney on one side of the equation, and that side is usually the plaintiff. Here’s Zorza’s chart in all of its not-at-all-really glory:
This isn’t a gap. It’s a chasm. Basically, if most people get sued, they are going to court without a lawyer. Period. Put another way, the users of the court system aren’t primarily lawyers and judges like we tend to think. The primary users are unrepresented parties, and nothing about the system is designed for that.
律师有真正的机会成为这里变革的驱动者。不，这不能用更多的解决 无偿的 工作或应用程序。律师需要对该体系施加压力，以实施佐尔扎提议的那种改革。我们还需要重新思考我们是否对案件的整个生命周期都是必要的。