Abstract

The civil justice gap is well-known, well-documented, and widening. Although judges, practitioners, and scholars have attempted for more than fifty years to increase the supply of civil legal services available to those in need, demand continues to dramatically outstrip supply. This article argues that given the static (or worsening) state of the civil justice gap, and the millions of Americans who do not even seek legal help for problems that otherwise would fall within that gap, legal literacy education is paramount. Our colleagues in the public health profession are lightyears ahead of the legal profession in using health literacy to prevent unsustainable demand. High levels of health literacy lead to fewer emergency room visits and hospital stays and better health outcomes. Health literacy is taught as part of K-12 education. Consequently, teaching legal literacy to K-12 students has the potential to reduce civil legal needs and thus demand for legal aid. Legal literacy might also mean that Americans are better able to identify when their problems are legal in nature, come to legal aid before a problem is too far gone to solve, come to legal aid with more realistic expectations about results, and to represent themselves in court should they have to. After decades of chasing after disappointing supply-side solutions, it is time to look at demand.

Rubin Gomez, Alissa, Demand-Side Justice (March 1, 2021).

Read the full article on SSRN.

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