Press Release

New Issue of Dædalus Takes on the Justice Gap Facing Poor and Low-Income Americans


CAMBRIDGE, MA | January 7, 2019 —The scale of the national crisis in civil legal services is now almost overwhelming — and experts about the problem emphasize that they don’t yet know how many people it affects.

According to a recent report of the Legal Services Corporation, 71 percent of low-income households experienced at least one civil legal problem in the previous year, yet they received inadequate or no legal help in 86 percent of the problems they reported.

The consequences were often devastating, since unrepresented litigants are at a distinct disadvantage in disputes over health care, housing conditions, veterans’ benefits, domestic violence, and access for people with disabilities, among other problems.

Access to Justice,” the Winter 2019 issue of Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, is a multidisciplinary examination of this crisis, from the challenges of providing quality legal assistance to more people, to the social and economic costs of an often unresponsive legal system, to the opportunities for improvement offered by new technologies, professional innovations, and fresh ways of thinking about the crisis.

Guest editors Lincoln Caplan (journalist and author; Yale Law School), Lance Liebman (Columbia Law School; Academy Member), and Rebecca L. Sandefur (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; American Bar Foundation; 2018 MacArthur Fellow) have assembled a diverse group of authors, including scholars, lawyers, judges, and business and nonprofit leaders, among others, to discuss efforts needed to address the fundamental problems of restricted and unequal access to justice.

According to Nathan Hecht, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, who contributed a coda to the volume, “If the justice system is to deliver on the faith America asks people to place in it and on the values it claims to preserve, greatly improved access to justice is an imperative.”

This issue of Dædalus is part of a larger, ongoing effort of the American Academy to gather information about the national need for improved legal access, study innovations piloted around the country to fill this need, and advance a set of clear, national recommendations for closing the justice gap — between supply and demand for services provided by lawyers and other problem-solvers.

All of the essays are freely available online. For questions and more information, please contact

The Winter 2019 issue of Dædalus on Access to Justice features the following essays:

John G. Levi (Legal Services Corporation; Sidley Austin; Academy Member) & David M. Rubenstein (The Carlyle Group; Academy Member)

How Rising Income Inequality Threatens Access to the Legal System
Robert H. Frank (Cornell University)

The Invisible Justice Problem
Lincoln Caplan (journalist and author; Yale Law School)

Reclaiming the Role of Lawyers as Community Connectors
David F. Levi (Duke University School of Law; Academy Member), Dana Remus (legal scholar) & Abigail Frisch (Duke Law Journal)

More Markets, More Justice
Gillian K. Hadfield (University of Toronto; University of California, Berkeley; OpenAI)

Access to What?
Rebecca L. Sandefur (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; American Bar Foundation; MacArthur Fellow)

The Right to Civil Counsel
Tonya L. Brito (University of Wisconsin Law School)

The New Legal Empiricism & Its Application to Access-to-Justice Inquiries
D. James Greiner (Harvard Law School)

The Public’s Unmet Need for Legal Services & What Law Schools Can Do about It
Andrew M. Perlman (Suffolk University Law School)

Access to Power
Sameer Ashar (UCLA School of Law) & Annie Lai (University of California, Irvine School of Law)

The Center on Children and Families
Shani M. King (University of Florida Levin College of Law)

Techno-Optimism & Access to the Legal System
Tanina Rostain (Georgetown University Law Center)

Marketing Legal Assistance
Elizabeth Chambliss (University of South Carolina School of Law)

Community Law Practice
Luz E. Herrera (Texas A&M University School of Law)

The Role of the Legal Services Corporation in Improving Access to Justice
James J. Sandman (Legal Services Corporation)

Participatory Design for Innovation in Access to Justice
Margaret Hagan (Stanford Law School)

Simplified Courts Can’t Solve Inequality
Colleen F. Shanahan (Columbia Law School) & Anna E. Carpenter (The University of Tulsa College of Law)

Corporate Support for Legal Services
Jo-Ann Wallace (National Legal Aid and Defender Association)

Justice & the Capability to Function in Society
Pascoe Pleasence (University College London) & Nigel J. Balmer (University College London)

Why Big Business Should Support Legal Aid
Kenneth C. Frazier (Merck & Co.; Academy Member)

Executive Branch Support for Civil Legal Aid
Karen A. Lash (American University)

Why Judges Support Civil Legal Aid
Fern A. Fisher (Maurice A. Deanne School of Law at Hofstra University)

Lawyers, the Legal Profession & Access to Justice in the United States: A Brief History
Robert W. Gordon (Stanford Law School; Yale Law School)

The Twilight Zone
Nathan L. Hecht (Supreme Court of Texas)