Gillian Hadfield is a professor of law and economics at the University of Southern California and she’s made some back-of-the-envelope calculations about lawyers and those who cannot afford them. Roughly half of all households in America are dealing with about two legal problems each and they cannot afford legal advice. She has some answers, too.
“Increasingly, the only “persons” with access to legal help are “artificial persons” — corporations, organizations and governments. No wonder that in a 2010 New York study, it was shown 95% of people in housing court are unrepresented. The same is true in consumer credit and child support cases; 44% of people in foreclosures are representing themselves—against a well-represented bank, no small number of whom engaged in robo-signing and sued people based on faulty information.
These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. For every person who is unrepresented in court there are probably tens of thousands who didn’t have any legal advice when they did the things that landed them in hot water in the first place. Who can afford $200 to $300 an hour to get advice on local small business regulations, the fine print in a mortgage document, or how not to make mistakes that will cost you in court when fighting over kids and money with your soon-to-be ex-spouse?
Some legal professionals have called for more public money for legal aid clinics and courts to provide free legal help and for lawyers to do more pro bono work. But the demand for ordinary legal help is simply too massive to meet with increased court funding, legal aid or pro bono work.
I believe there is no way to help ordinary people with their legal problems without fundamentally changing the way lawyers and judges regulate the practice of law.
What we need are more efficient ways of delivering legal help and less expensive nonlawyers who can provide legal assistance. Supreme court judges in every state have the authority to accomplish this with the stroke of a pen.
The root of the crisis of access to justice is the scale of the problem. Here’s a little back-of-the-envelope arithmetic. Using data from surveys conducted by the ABA and state bar associations, I estimate that, at any given time, roughly half of all American households are dealing with about two legal problems each– evictions, divorces, bankruptcies, denials of health care benefits, and so on.”
Certainly the use of non-JDs is an easier answer to the question of issues for people who seek legal assistance and cannot receive it, a problem that other countries like the United Kingdom have handled effectively using ‘non-lawyers’.