67 S. C. L. Rev. 443 (2015-2016)
What We Know and Need to Know about the Legal Needs of the Public

handle is hein.journals/sclr67 and id is 459 raw text is: 





                WHAT   WE  KNOW AND NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
                      THE  LEGAL  NEEDS   OF THE  PUBLIC

                             Rebecca  L. Sandefur

    In contemporary  market  democracies, law reaches deeply  into many aspects
of daily life. Thousands of Americans  every day find themselves facing troubles
that emerge at the intersection of civil law and everyday adversity, involving
work,  finances, insurance, pensions, wages,  benefits, shelter, and the care of
young  children and dependent  adults, among other core matters.' Though  these
different types of problems affect different aspects of people's lives and concern
different kinds of relationships, they are defined by a central important quality:
they are justiciable. They have civil legal aspects, raise civil legal issues, have
consequences   shaped  by civil law, and  may  become   objects of formal  legal
action.2
    This Paper  reviews what we  know  about the civil legal needs of the public,
focusing on the U.S. context but drawing  on research from peer nations as well.
In so doing, the Paper reveals some key gaps in our knowledge.   Across a range
of studies, we have good evidence that:

    *   Experience  with civil justice situations is common and widespread,
         affecting all segments of the population.3 Many involve bread and
         butter issues at the core of contemporary life, affecting livelihood,
         shelter, or the care and custody of dependents.
    *   Populations  that are vulnerable or disadvantaged often report higher
        rates of contact with civil justice situations, and greater incidence of
        negative consequences  from  these events.
    *   Most   civil justice situations will never involve contact with  an
         attorney or a court.6
    *   The   most  important reasons  that people  do not  take their civil
        justice situations to law are:




        Associate Professor of Sociology and Law, University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign
and Faculty Fellow, American Bar Foundation. The author thanks Jeffrey Selbin, David Udell, and
participants at the University of Illinois College of Law 2015 Faculty Retreat for comments and
suggestions. Errors and omissions remain her own.
     1. Rebecca L. Sandefur, The Impact of Counsel: An Analysis of Empirical Evidence, 9
SEATTLE J. Soc. JUST. 51, 52 (2010) [hereinafter Impact of Counsel]; Rebecca L. Sandefur, The
Importance of Doing Nothing: Everyday Problems and Responses of Inaction, in TRANSFORMING
LIVES: LAW AND  SOCIAL PROCESS 112, 113 (Pascoe Pleasence et al. eds., 2007) [hereinafter
Importance ofDoing Nothing].
    2.  HAZEL GENN, PATHS TO JUSTICE: WHAT PEOPLE DO AND THINK ABOUT GOING TO LAW
12 (1999) (defining justiciable event).
    3.  See infra Part I.A.
    4.  See infra Part I.A.
    5.  See infra Part I.B.
    6.  See infra Part II.


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