Civil legal aid messaging guidance

Our message: Equal justice under the law is a right, not a privilege

Messaging guidance and tools

Protecting LSC Funding

Messaging suggestions and talking points

Public Opinion Research

The following research was made possible by generous support from the Public Welfare Foundation

  •  Building a Civil Justice System that Delivers Justice for All,  2017 Voices research, conducted by Celinda Lake and Anat Shenker-Osorio

The Latest Messaging Research by Voices for Civil Justice (article published in the Management Information Exchange Journal, Winter 2017)

Report of the Survey findings (pdf)

Anat Shenker-Osorio’s language analysis report: Prosecuting Our Pitch: An Analysis of Language on Civil Legal Aid

Audio of Celinda Lake and Anat Shenker-Osorio presenting the findings, July 19, 2017

Video of Celinda Lake presenting the 2013 research findings

Nine second soundbite: “Civil legal aid helps ensure fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of how much money you have.”

Two-minute soundbite: 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.

Our advice

Simplify your message. Cut down on the legal jargon and tell people why your work matters.

Give examples of the services provided. Another key in describing civil legal aid is to offer real-life examples of the types of services advocates and organizations provide, including:

  • 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.

Lead with shared values. In order to create messages that not only spotlight the importance of civil legal aid but also persuade and motivate your audience to take action, you need to start by connecting over shared values. Learn how to craft powerful messages using the Value, Problem, Solution, Action (VPSA) model pioneered by the Opportunity Agenda.

Here’s how it works:

  • Begin with shared values.
  • Introduce the problem and frame it as a threat to our values.
  • Present your supporting evidence: one or two facts that people can digest.
  • Pivot quickly to solutions and then concrete actions your audience can do.

Read more: Civil legal aid FAQ for Advocates