Our most important advice to advocates is to simplify your message.
We hired top national pollsters to research public options on civil legal aid. Their research shows that the public is largely unaware of civil legal aid. General assignment and even beat reporters may also have little knowledge of the subject. This means that you must be able to clearly and concisely show how civil legal aid helps protect people’s livelihoods, health, housing and families.
Tell people what you do.
Our pollsters found that the most effective messaging for civil legal aid contained three main points:
- Our program is civil legal aid. Use the term.
- We assure fairness for all in the justice system, not the few who can afford it. Inject the value of fairness.
- Our services increase ease of access to information and assistance to know your rights. Give the context.
Offer specific illustrations of the types of services civil legal aid provides and spend less time defining the program or the populations served.
As civil legal aid advocates, we provide:
- Easy-to-understand forms, including online forms, that people can use in civil legal proceedings.
- Legal assistance, including legal self-help centers, so people can know their rights.
- Legal representation to those who cannot afford it — because justice should not depend on how much money you have.
Read more: Civil legal aid FAQ for Advocates
In an increasingly frenzied media environment and fast-paced world, we need to get straight to the point. Our pollsters developed this nine-second statement on what civil legal aid does:
“Civil legal aid helps ensure fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of how much money you have.”
This is drawn from our two minute sound-bite with additional information on services provided:
Civil Legal Aid assures fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of how much money you have. It provides access to legal help for people to protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families. Civil Legal Aid makes it easier to access information — whether through easy-to-understand forms, including online forms; legal assistance or representation; and legal self-help centers — so people can know their rights.
Civil Legal Aid also helps streamline the court system and cuts down on court costs. When we say the Pledge of Allegiance we close with “justice for all.” We need programs like Civil Legal Aid to ensure that the very principle our founding fathers envisioned remains alive: justice for all, not the few who can afford it.
Resources, Reports and tools:
Findings of the 2013 Public Opinion Research on Civil Legal Aid (conducted for Voices by Lake Research Partners and The Tarrance Group)
- Video of Celinda Lake presenting these research findings
Communicating with Lawyers about Civil Legal Aid: Highlights of 2014 Research Among Lawyers (conducted for Voices by Lake Research Partners and The Tarrance Group)