By: Jeffrey Selbin, Josh Rosenthal and Jeanne Charn. Published by: Center for American Progress (CAP). Published in June 2011.
So-called “evidence-based” practices are taking hold across a wide range of fields. Research methods like randomized controlled trials, statistical mapping and analysis, and systematic qualitative studies allow providers and funders to determine which models deliver on their promised outcomes. By encouraging evidence-based approaches in civil legal assistance, the federal government can help service providers target resources more efficiently. Data on effectiveness will also bolster the case for new investments by Congress and other funders to increase access to justice.
With new leadership and initiative in key institutions, we recommend that the White House and Congress seize the opportunity to:
Establish a “National Access to Justice Institute” in the Justice Department to coordinate legal aid research through a partnership with the American Bar Foundation and the Legal Services Corporation. Support state and regional centers for legal aid research to catalyze innovation and evaluation through collaboration between the new institute, state access to justice commissions, legal services providers, and law school clinics.
Target federal funds to incentivize evidence-based legal aid delivery systems through competitive grants and market-based mechanisms. By pursuing these steps, we can improve the legal services delivery system for millions of low- and moderate-income Americans, and enhance the likelihood of continued and strengthened public and private support.