Expanding the Empirical Study of Access to Justice

By: Catherine Albiston and Rebecca L. Sandefur. Published by: Wisconsin Law Review. Published in May 2013.

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The expansion of research on access to justice is vital to the continued success of legal services. Albiston and Sandefur identify concerns with the current state of the research and suggest ways to improve the way research on access to justice is conducted. Their recommendations and critiques follow:

  • Research is limited to evaluation of the quality of current services provided, rather than research on which services are needed. Research is based on individuals, and does not include institutional bias against weaker parties without representation. Studies of outcomes of individual cases leave out the numerous legal issues that do not end up in court. Goals and remedies to improve the research conducted.
  • Expand research beyond only the poor to understand the relative quality of legal services provided to the poor as it relates to the average litigant. Compare the access enjoyed by privileged and disadvantaged communities, and how it plays a role in the outcome of legal disputes.
  • Broaden the understanding of what access to justice means and also what lack of access means. Expand research to include empirical studies about what the legal needs of the community are. Include institutions, social meaning and, and how the need for legal aid is shaped in the research conducted. Study the benefits of increasing the legitimacy of the legal system to those who might otherwise not seek help for issues.
  • Research must be expanded to the needs of the community and whether the people who need legal help the most are seeking out that help.

Categories: Researchers and Academics

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