Public Welfare Foundation
October 30, 2014
This report is a comprehensive review of the literature on civil legal aid. It finds little rigorous research has actually attempted to document the effect of civil legal assistance on impoverished clients and communities.
The executive summary reads:
Under a contract from the Public Welfare Foundation, we have reviewed research that involves civil legal aid to learn what we know about how civil legal aid helps reduce and eliminate poverty. The review was undertaken between April 1, 2014 and October 30, 2014. We have reviewed:
1. Research on the various ways that legal services, legal advice and legal information are delivered including the research catalogued on the NLADA maintained website legalaidresearch.org and the compilation of research pulled together by the Access to Justice Initiative at the Department of Justice.
2. Studies of Social Return on Investment (SROI).
3. Studies showing cost savings to states from civil legal aid.
4. State and program outcome reports in the five states and several other programs which do them.
5. Studies on the impact of key civil legal aid cases.
In reviewing the research, we focused on what can be learned about how civil legal aid helps low-income people:
1. Obtain greater income and financial security including wages from work, government benefits, tax credits and consumer protections
2. Obtain safe and habitable housing and prevent homelessness;
3. Improve access to mental and physical health care;
4. Prevent or help people escape domestic violence;
5. Obtain critical services that help stabilize individuals and families and prevent child abuse and neglect;
6. Obtain early education and child care, k-12 education and post-secondary education;
7. Improve the communities in which they live; and
8. Otherwise ameliorate the negative impact of poverty.
As this review will show, there is little rigorous research that has actually attempted to document the effect of civil legal assistance on impoverished clients and communities. There is little quantitative research on civil legal aid and anti-poverty, and even less qualitative research. Since the academic research on civil legal aid and the data available on the benefits of legal assistance does not capture everything that legal aid lawyers do to reduce poverty, we have added some examples from a few civil legal aid programs that illustrate a current focus on anti-poverty advocacy.
The project also sought input from a group of leaders in the civil legal aid and pro bono communities and anti-poverty advocates and scholars. See Appendix A. At the end we suggest what additional research would be helpful to understanding the anti-poverty impact of civil legal aid. A bibliography of the research that we reviewed is attached as Appendix B.
PUBLICATION DETAILSFormat: Research
Publication Type: Report
Geographic coverage, US: NATIONAL
Topics: Benefits of Legal Aid: Economic & Social Return on Investment | Benefits of Legal Aid: Other | Measurement | Legal Aid Movement | Data | Research Agenda | History of Legal Aid | Featured | Randomized Research
Permalink URL of this page: http://legalaidresearch.org/?p=4188
LINKS TO RESOURCESHouseman-Anti-Poverty-Effects-Civil-Legal-Aid