Indiana Law Journal
May 1, 2017
This paper discusses self-representation in the justice system. By looking at the obstacles ahead of effective self-help and finding analogies with other fields, the author provides a number of recommendations.
This article discusses self-help within the justice system while assuming that there will never be enough funding to provide professional legal services for everyone involved in civil cases. After introducing the topic, the author discusses the barriers that limit self-help, as well as potential solutions. Barriers in that regard, are split between barriers to action that prevent an individual from effectively using accessible resources, and barrier to understanding stemming from the complexity of self-help material. The paper provides respective solutions to conceptualize self-help and solve the obstacles. Examples of overcoming situational barriers include: using illustrations, and reducing emotional challenges through Positive Affect Theories. Countering barriers to understanding may be achieved through using typography adequately and using analogies to simplify conceptual complexity. By relying on analogies research from other fields, the paper infers many valuable notions on self-representation and empowering who utilize it. At the same time the author recognizes that no final conclusions can be drawn without conducting future testing, that is specific to the legal field. The research follows a well-defined outline to provide reliable conclusions. First it would identify a specific example of legal problem. Second it would break it down to three components: cognitive, psychological, and mental. Third it had to recognize that the prior cognitive obstacles are independent from the law itself. Fourth it would analyze research from non-legal fields that tackles similar topics. Lastly it would apply those findings towards a better understanding of self-help in legal terms.
Highlights from the article can be found below:
- In an experiment on the use of cartoons in debt collection cases, the majority of the 50 plus respondents reacted positively (p. 1137).
- “Our testing process has demonstrated that sometimes what we (as attorneys, legal academics, and law students) find obvious, clear, and intuitively appealing is not always what individuals in severe financial distress find helpful” (p. 1168)
- “We hypothesize that many defendants may prevail despite knowing no law at all, so long as they have the faith and the gumption to read prewritten scripts” (1172).
Who Served: Self-Represented Litigants
How Provided: Self-Help
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