Creative Ways to Provide Access to Justice

Federal funding for civil legal aid is crucial, but there the lesser-known story is that innovators in the legal field are taking matters into their own hands.

Op-Ed (NATIONAL, New York)

Martha Bergmark
New York Law Journal, ALM
March 25, 2014
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Tags: Delivery Systems, Funding: Federal, Funding: State & Local, Legal Needs

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Services Corporation (LSC)


But for all that the federal government can do to fix this crisis, and funding civil legal aid tops the list, there is another, lesser-known piece of the story. As New York’s Chief Justice Jonathan Lippman recently put it, an “access to justice revolution” is afoot. In tandem with federal efforts, innovators in the legal field are taking matters into their own hands.

The upsurge of creativity and innovation is a reminder that necessity is the mother of invention. Civil legal aid faces very real hurdles in America. At a time when need is soaring, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in Washington, D.C.—the largest funding source for civil legal services in the country—has seen its budget cut by $80 million since 2010. Congress should fund LSC at the $486 million level it has requested for 2015.

Nevertheless, while federal funding and engagement are essential, those of us at the state and local level also bear responsibility for the justice crisis. When millions of Americans are grappling with challenges like homelessness or domestic violence, each community has a stake in delivering justice and fairness, regardless of how much money a person has.