By: Jessica K. Steinberg. Published by: Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law Policy. Published in: November 2007.
Research Question: What is the impact of unbundled legal services (specifically, ghostwriting and one-time negotiation assistance) in improving access to justice?
The study tracked and compared outcomes for: a) 96 tenants facing eviction in a single California trial court, all of whom received “unbundled” help drafting a responsive pleading, and half of whom also received one-time assistance negotiating with their landlords at pre-trial settlement conferences b) 305 tenants who received no legal assistance at all c) 20 tenants who received full representation
The provision of unbundled legal services had no measurable impact on the rate at which tenants retained permanent possession of their homes. Where tenants lose possession, the provision of unbundled legal services had no statistically significant impact on the number of days the tenant has to move out of her home. The provision of unbundled legal services did not improve tenant outcomes related to the exchange of money. The provision of unbundled legal services did not decrease the amount of payments, if any, that tenants made to their landlords Additional unbundled aid, in the form of one-time negotiation assistance, did not favorably impact substantive outcomes for tenants.
Unbundled legal aid reduced default judgments. Tenants who survived default judgment did not achieve uniform improvements in substantive outcomes. The provision of unbundled legal services greatly increased the rate at which tenants raised cognizable defenses in their responsive pleadings. The assertion of cognizable defenses has no favorable impact on substantive outcomes.