Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Paradox of Access to Civil Justice: The 'Glut' of New Lawyers and the Persistence of Unmet Need

I have often been bothered by the fact that there are many unemployed lawyers, but there is also a vast unmet need for legal services by the poor and disadvantaged.  (e.g., here and here)  Now Dean Emily Spieler has written an important article on this paradox.  (here)

Abstract: This Article, written for a collection of essays by law school deans, reviews the existing data on unmet needs for legal services for both poor and moderate-income people, the distribution of lawyers in the U.S., and current efforts to fill the needs. It then explores possible roles for law schools and argues that access to civil justice and economic survival for law school graduates are intertwined. We know that the vast majority of lawyers in the U.S. work in small community practices where individual and family legal needs are most often addressed. At the same time, there appears to be a market failure between the growing supply of lawyers and the unmet need for legal services in these communities. Current efforts in law schools to expand experiential education, encourage pro bono activities and develop incubators are important, but law schools also need to focus on the costs of legal education, reforming curriculum, engaging fully in access to justice discussions, addressing gaps in our knowledge regarding legal practice and unmet needs, and assisting in developing scalable models to expand access to justice. We might then be able to develop solutions that simultaneously expand the availability of legal services and help to create meaningful work for our graduates.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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