In well over two thirds of critical cases in America’s civil courts, people appear without a lawyer, even though the stakes are often just as high as in criminal proceedings. Many people suffer crushing losses in court not because they’ve done something wrong, but simply because they don’t have legal help.
The future of the legal profession is unclear. Student loan debt for law graduates now averages $84,000 for public law schools and $122,000 for private law schools, reflecting the dramatic rise in the cost of attending law school in the past three decades. Despite the growing costs for students, long-term job prospects have become less certain. One study found that among 2010 law school graduates, 20 percent hold jobs that don’t require a law degree. Only 40 percent are employed by law firms, where the financial returns are highest.
Martha Bergmark is the Executive Director of Voices for Civil Justice.