LINK to the Journal: http://www.yalelawjournal.org/pdf/1180_gojype4a.pdf

Recent empirical studies tested whether litigants with access to lawyers fared better than litigants with access only to advice or limited assistance. Two of the three studies produced null findings—the litigants with access to lawyers, the treatment group, fared no better than litigants without a lawyer. In this Essay, I propose that we celebrate these null findings. I do not doubt that expert lawyer assistance will be necessary in some, perhaps many, cases, but we should reduce procedural and other complexities wherever possible in order to facilitate self-help. We should measure improved access to legal services by the extent to which self-empowered consumers are able to resolve everyday legal problems on their own or with limited assistance. The flowering of “lawyer-lite” service innovations—services often preferred by consumers—suggests that the practical work of building consumer-centered and consumerdriven legal services delivery is not only possible, it is already underway.


Author.T Senior Lecturer on Law and Director, Bellow-Sacks Access to Civil Legal Services Project, Harvard Law School. A preliminary version of this Essay was presented at the 9th Legal Services Research Centre International Legal Services Research Conference, Magdalen College, Oxford University, September 12-14, 2012. This Essay is dedicated to Clinton Bamberger—a mentor, colleague, and friend who, as its first president, made substantive justice the goal of the Office of Economic Opportunity Legal Services Program and throughout his career in public service and clinical education has championed the cause of access to justice regardless of means.