On January 7, 2019, the Academy published the first open-access issue of Dædalus in the journal’s sixty-four-year history. “Access to Justice,” the Winter 2019 issue, is a multidisciplinary examination of the national crisis in legal services, 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.
The scale of this crisis is 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.
Guest editors Lincoln Caplan (journalist and author; Yale Law School), Lance Liebman (Columbia Law School), and Rebecca L. Sandefur (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; American Bar Foundation; 2018 MacArthur Fellow) 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.”
Since the release of the issue in early January, the Academy has been engaged in an extensive distribution and outreach campaign. The volume has been received with great enthusiasm by the legal community as well as by a more general audience.
In anticipation of a higher-than-usual demand for print and digital copies, both the Academy and MIT Press, which publishes Dædalus on behalf of the Academy, ordered much larger print runs of this issue. Nevertheless, demand exceeded expectations and after only thirty-six hours of distribution, both organizations decided a second print run was necessary.
An ongoing social media campaign – coordinated by the Academy with the volume’s authors, law schools around the country, legal service providers, courts, professional associations, and other partners – has resulted in the distribution of approximately ten thousand copies online and in print.
A multi-page article about the volume in Law360, “Famed Journal Lends Its Clout To Fighting Access Crisis,” appeared on the day of publication, with more features to follow. In addition, economist Robert Frank published an op-ed in The New York Times in August 2018 based on his Dædalus essay.
Chief Justice Hecht distributed copies of the issue to every State Supreme Court Justice in the nation, as well as to the Congress of State Court Administrators. Academy staff are consulting with federal lawmakers about future collaborations. The Legal Services Corporation has handed out hundreds of copies at their winter conferences. And the Academy continues to handle dozens of individual requests generated on legal listservs and other outlets.
The volume is now recommended reading for participants at the forthcoming World Justice Forum at the Hague in April and for the members of the American Law Institute; it has been featured on the American Bar Association’s website, association and law school websites, and in several blogs. A panel discussion about the volume with Rebecca Sandefur, Martha Minow (Harvard University), and Kenneth Frazier (Merck & Co.), moderated by David M. Rubenstein (The Carlyle Group), is scheduled for May 11 at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C., a leading venue for intellectual debate within the nation’s capital.
Since this issue of Dædalus is part of a larger, ongoing effort of the American Academy to address the crisis in legal access, the outreach campaign will continue through 2019, with more events and media coverage on the horizon.
The volume and the extended distribution and outreach campaign are generating new public discussion about an issue of great importance to American society, and addressing three key recommendations of the Academy’s new strategic plan, adopted in October 2018: to advance the welfare of the nation and the world, to raise the Academy’s visibility and reputation, and to ensure that the Academy’s work reflects its ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusivity.
Future efforts 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 – will provide even more opportunities for the Academy to pursue these strategic goals.
“Access to Justice” Winter 2019 issue of Dædalus
- Introduction by John G. Levi (Legal Services Corporation; Sidley Austin) & David M. Rubenstein (The Carlyle Group)
- How Rising Income Inequality Threatens Access to the Legal System by Robert H. Frank (Cornell University)
- The Invisible Justice Problem by Lincoln Caplan (journalist and author; Yale Law School)
- Reclaiming the Role of Lawyers as Community Connectors by David F. Levi (Duke University School of Law), Dana Remus (legal scholar) & Abigail Frisch (Duke Law Journal)
- More Markets, More Justice by Gillian K. Hadfield (University of Toronto; University of California, Berkeley; OpenAI)
- Access to What? by Rebecca L. Sandefur (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; American Bar Foundation; MacArthur Fellow)
- The Right to Civil Counsel by Tonya L. Brito (University of Wisconsin Law School)
- The New Legal Empiricism & Its Application to Access-to-Justice Inquiries by D. James Greiner (Harvard Law School)
- The Public’s Unmet Need for Legal Services & What Law Schools Can Do about It by Andrew M. Perlman (Suffolk University Law School)
- Access to Power by Sameer Ashar (UCLA School of Law) & Annie Lai (University of California, Irvine School of Law)
- The Center on Children and Families by Shani M. King (University of Florida Levin College of Law)
- Techno-Optimism & Access to the Legal System by Tanina Rostain (Georgetown University Law Center)
- Marketing Legal Assistance by Elizabeth Chambliss (University of South Carolina School of Law)
- Community Law Practice by Luz E. Herrera (Texas A&MUniversity School of Law)
- The Role of the Legal Services Corporation in Improving Access to Justice by James J. Sandman (Legal Services Corporation)
- Participatory Design for Innovation in Access to Justice by Margaret Hagan (Stanford Law School)
- Simplified Courts Can’t Solve Inequality by Colleen F. Shanahan (Columbia Law School) & Anna E. Carpenter (The University of Tulsa College of Law)
- Corporate Support for Legal Services by Jo-Ann Wallace (National Legal Aid and Defender Association)
- Justice & the Capability to Function in Society by Pascoe Pleasence (University College London) & Nigel J. Balmer (University College London)
- Why Big Business Should Support Legal Aid by Kenneth C. Frazier (Merck & Co.)
- Executive Branch Support for Civil Legal Aid by Karen A. Lash (American University)
- Why Judges Support Civil Legal Aid by 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 by Robert W. Gordon (Stanford Law School; Yale Law School)
- The Twilight Zone by Nathan L. Hecht (Supreme Court of Texas)