Faculty Scholarship

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2016


Civil justice issues in the United States bring with them no guarantee of legal counsel, yet the civil legal system is still designed to require an attorney in almost all situations. Given the ever-growing costs of legal representation, how then are the legal needs of the poor met? The author calls this phenomenon the “justice gap” and addresses the issue of an access to justice gap and proposes a potential solution.

This article examines the existence of the “justice gap,” wherein the poor face substantial barriers that hinder them from receiving the same legal protections as wealthier Americans. It goes on to explain the current options available to lower-income people and what qualifications are necessary to obtain such legal aid. It then examines the strengths and weaknesses of each option, including pro-bono and law school clinical programs. Finally, the article makes recommendations for three specific reforms: the development of a comprehensive, cohesive and “smart” triage mechanism, the infusion of business process improvement within legal aid organizations and the creation of legal information exchange organizations.