The Structural Underpinnings of Access to Justice: Building a Solid Pro Bono Infrastructure


When individuals in the United States face civil justice issues, they do not have a constitutional right to legal counsel and therefore must secure paid counsel, proceed pro se or qualify for free or pro bono legal assistance. As a result of the economic downturn, the number of Americans who are unable to afford legal counsel is now at an all-time high, and studies have shown that roughly 80 percent of the civil legal needs of low-income Americans go unmet. As the civil legal system is designed to require an attorney in most, if not all, legal situations, this ever-widening justice gap has sparked a national conversation on access to justice, particularly for underserved and vulnerable populations. As part of and in response to this conversation, the National Center for Access to Justice launched the Justice Index, an online resource that aims to provide a comprehensive, visual picture of access to justice across the country. In doing so, it evaluates each states’ infrastructure for providing attorney access, support for self-representation and access to the courts for non-English speakers and people with disabilities. When evaluating attorney access, the Justice Index omits a critical indicator – pro bono legal services provided by the private bar. This is in large part due to the lack of analysis surrounding the best practices necessary for states to develop a pro bono infrastructure to expand access to justice. This article will therefore explore and evaluate the laws, rules and policies adopted by some states and proffered by the public interest community as best practices for promoting pro bono and will aim to determine which practices or interventions are the most effective and should be instituted by all states to increase access to justice

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Concordia University , Portland: CU Commons

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This paper was published in Concordia University , Portland: CU Commons.

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