Reinventing the Rules

Discover the Latest Innovations and Lessons Learned in Rule of Law and Legal Empowerment Projects

Identifying and Remedying Flaws in Access to Justice Research

A new publication in the Wisconsin Law Review provides some intriguing insight on ways to improve access to justice research. Although the article studies flaws in US programs, it has important implications on projects abroad as well. Check out excerpts below!

Credit: Sudipto Das

Credit: Sudipto Das

Flaws in the current research on access to justice:

Currently, research is based almost entirely on access to justice as it relates to poverty and inequality; this is too narrow and should be expanded.

  • Research is limited to evaluation of the quality of current services provided, rather than research on which services are needed.
  • Research is based on individuals, and does not include institutional bias against weaker parties without representation.
  • Studies of outcomes of individual cases leave out the numerous legal issues that do not end up in court.

Goals and remedies to improve the research conducted:

  • Expand research beyond only the poor to understand the relative quality of legal services provided to the poor as it relates to the average litigant. Compare the access enjoyed by privileged and disadvantaged communities, and how it plays a role in the outcome of legal disputes.
  • Broaden the understanding of what access to justice means and also what lack of access means.
  • Expand research to include empirical studies about what the legal needs of the community are.
  • Include institutions, social meaning and, and how the need for legal aid is shaped in the research conducted.
  • Study the benefits of increasing the legitimacy of the legal system to those who might otherwise not seek help for issues.
Credit: Stephen Shames;

Credit: Stephen Shames

Access to justice research that evaluates only the delivery of current services is inadequate to the future of the field of legal services. Research must be expanded to the needs of the community and whether the people who need legal help the most are seeking out that help.  By viewing access to justice as a universal need, rather than that of just the poor, research will be able to better identify the legal aid most needed, and lawyers will be able to provide the most effective representation.

This excerpt is posted from Legal Aid Research. You can read more here: Expanding the Empirical Study of Access to Justice.

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This entry was posted on May 27, 2013 by in General, Reports and tagged , , , , .

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