Category Archives: Legal Aid

New Article: Ten Ways of Looking at Movement Lawyering

New Article: William P. Quigley, Ten Ways of Looking at Movement Lawyering, 5 How. Hum. & C.R.L. Rev. 23 (2020). Abstract Below:

History shows us that social change comes about when directly impacted people get together and demand justice in social movements. The world needs more lawyers who will partner with and learn alongside the people struggling for justice. That is what movement lawyering is. This is an introduction to Movement Lawyering for those who are just learning about it. And a refresher for those familiar with the idea who want more information.

New Article: Demand-Side Justice

New Article: Alissa Rubin Gomez, Demand-Side Justice, Georgetown Journal of Poverty Law & Policy Volume 28, Issue III (2021). Abstract below:

The civil justice gap is well-known, well-documented, and widening. Although judges, practitioners, and scholars have attempted for more than fifty years to increase the supply of civil legal services available to those in need, demand continues to dramatically outstrip supply. This article argues that given the static (or worsening) state of the civil justice gap, and the millions of Americans who do not even seek legal help for problems that otherwise might fall within that gap, legal literacy is paramount. Our colleagues in the public health profession use health literacy to help prevent health problems and temper demand for health services, and in fact, high levels of health literacy lead to fewer emergency room visits and better health outcomes. Health literacy is regularly included in public K-12 education. This article contends that we should try a similar approach for legal literacy. Legal literacy has the potential to prevent problems from reaching the point of needing formal legal intervention; it also can empower individuals to take advantage of existing legal protections on their own or make informed decisions regardless of the ultimate outcome. Increased legal literacy might also mean that Americans come to legal aid before problems are too far-gone and with more realistic expectations about results and remedies. After decades of chasing after supply-side solutions, it is time to look at demand.

New Article: Institutional Design for Access to Justice

New Article: Emily Taylor Poppe, Institutional Design for Access to Justice (forthcoming UC Irvine L. Rev., 2021). Abstract below:

Decades of empirical research have confirmed the prevalence of troublesome situations involving civil legal issues in everyday life. Although these problems can be associated with serious financial and social harm, they rarely involve recourse to lawyers or formal legal institutions. Contemporary scholars and practitioners increasingly integrate this reality into the definition of access to justice. They understand access to justice to be concerned with equality in the ability of individuals to achieve just resolutions to the problems they experience, regardless of whether they pursue formal legal action. To achieve this goal, an emerging international set of best practices calls for access to justice interventions that are proactively targeted to those groups most in need of assistance, linked to other social service providers, aimed at addressing problems early to avoid escalation, and customized to the user’s capabilities. In stark opposition to such an outward-facing, multi-faceted approach, the civil justice system is structured to respond only to formal legal claims. We have few auxiliary institutions that provide alternative avenues to resolution, and several barriers that inhibit their ability to address civil legal problems. As a result, access to justice, as contemporarily understood, is largely an orphan issue—a social problem for which no institution bears responsibility. In this Article, I propose an agenda of institutional reforms to better align key social institutions with a contemporary, evidence-based understanding of access to justice. These institutional reforms would enhance individuals’ ability to access justice, within or without the courthouse walls.

New Article: The Welfarist Right to Counsel

New Article: Shaun Ossei-Owusu, The Welfarist Right to Counsel, UCLA Law Review (Forthcoming) (Nov. 3, 2020).

The Sixth Amendment right to counsel is typically and often exclusively understood as a criminal procedure protection. From the law school training of attorneys to the legal knowledge imparted to lay people by popular culture, this right is seen as solely within the province of the criminal justice system. This widely held belief is fragmentary and incomplete. Despite its reasonableness, this penal primacy has marred our ability to understand the contours and limitations of indigent defense.

New Article: Civil v. Criminal Legal Aid

New Article: Shaun Ossei-Owusu, Civil v. Criminal Legal Aid, Southern California Law Review (Forthcoming) (posted: Nov. 3, 2020).

The past few decades have highlighted the insidious effects of poverty, particularly for poor people who lack access to legal representation. Accordingly, there have been longstanding calls for “Civil Gideon,” which refers to a right to counsel in civil cases that would address issues tied to housing, public benefits, family issues, and various areas of law that poor people are often disadvantaged by due to their lack of attorneys. This civil right to counsel would complement the analogous criminal right that has been constitutionalized. Notwithstanding the persuasive arguments made for and against Civil Gideon, it is less clear why there is such a sharp distinction between civil and criminal legal aid. This Article re-examines longstanding assumptions about the civil-criminal legal aid divide and highlights some underexamined explanations: the legal profession’s historical implication in this division; courts’ unwillingness to use their inherent powers to appoint counsel; and courts’ enduringly narrow understandings of when poor people should be provided with lawyers. These insights prompt alternative reflections on how to best deliver legal services to poor people.

Book: Poverty Law and Legal Activism

Book: Adam Gaerey, Poverty Law and Legal Activism: Lives Slide in and Out of View, Taylor & Francis Group, Published 2018.

Linking critical legal thinking to constitutional scholarship and a practical tradition of US lawyering that is orientated around anti-poverty activism, this book offers an original, revisionist account of contemporary jurisprudence, legal theory and legal activism. The book argues that we need to think in terms of a much broader inheritance for critical legal thinking that derives from the social ethics of the progressive era, new left understandings of “creative democracy” and radical theology. To this end, it puts jurisprudence and legal theory in touch with recent scholarship on the American left and, indeed, with attempts to recover the legacies of progressive era thinking, the civil rights struggle and the Great Society. Focusing on the theory and practice of poverty law in the period stretching from the mid-1960s to the present day, the book argues that at the heart of both critical and liberal thinking is an understanding of the lawyer as an ethical actor: inspired by faith or politics to appreciate the potential and limits of law in the struggle against economic inequality.

New Article: Masters of The Code

New Article: Robert Gordon, Masters of The Code, The Journal of Things We Like (Lots), Sept. 28, 2020.

In 1984, Ronald Gilson made a path-breaking contribution to theorizing the social function of the work-product of business lawyers, or at least of some business lawyers, with his Value Creation by Business Lawyers: Legal Skills and Asset Pricing, 94 Yale L.J. 239 (1984). He characterized the lawyers’ role in helping to structure business deals as that of “transaction cost engineers” who help to reduce the frictions of deal-making, e.g., by helping the parties to anticipate and provide for common risks and information asymmetries.

ew Report: NYC Right to Counsel: First Year Results and Potential for Expansion,

New Report: Oksana Mironova, NYC Right to Counsel: First Year Results and Potential for Expansion, Community Service Society, March 25, 2019. Preview below:

Evictions are a major driver of housing instability and homelessness for low-income New Yorkers. In the past, tenants facing eviction usually arrived to housing court without legal representation, at a major disadvantage to landlords who almost always have an attorney. This is changing. After years of advocacy, New York became the first city in the country to launch Right to Counsel (RTC) in late 2017. This law will give tenants with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level who are facing an eviction in housing court access to an attorney. The city’s FY 2018 budget included $15M for the first phase of the program, which is reaching 20 of the city’s 200+ zip codes. Plans are to extend it to the remaining zip codes by 2022.

In addition to RTC, the city has launched other anti-harassment/anti-displacement legal services programs since 2014, like the Tenant Harassment Assistance program. The major difference is that in RTC zip codes, access to an attorney is a right for any low-income tenant facing an eviction. In non-RTC zip codes, legal services are a benefit for some low-income tenants.

In this brief, we look at how much legal representation has grown as a result of the Right to Counsel law, and what impact it has had on eviction rates. The phase-in of the program provides a natural experiment; it has given us an opportunity to compare RTC zip codes with similar zip codes without the program.

New Book: Holes in the Safety Net: Federalism and Poverty

I’m excited to share that Holes in the Safety Net: Federalism and Poverty (Ezra Rosser ed., Cambridge University Press, 2019) has just been published and is now available. As can be seen in the list of chapters below, the book has a great group of contributors:

Introduction by Ezra Rosser

Part I: Welfare and Federalism

Federalism, Entitlement, and Punishment across the US Social Welfare State by Wendy Bach

Laboratories of Suffering: Toward Democratic Welfare Governance by Monica Bell, Andrea Taverna, Dhruv Aggarwal, and Isra Syed

The Difference in Being Poor in Red States Versus Blue States by Michele Gilman

Part II: States, Federalism, and Antipoverty Efforts

States’ Rights and State Wrongs: Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program Work Requirements in Rural America by Rebecca H. Williams and Lisa R. Pruitt

State and Local Tax Takeaways by Francine J. Lipman

Early Childhood Development and the Replication of Poverty by Clare Huntington

States Diverting Funds from the Poor by Daniel Hatcher

States’ Evolving Role in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program by David A. Super

Part III: Advocacy

Federalism in Health Care Reform by Nicole Huberfeld

Poverty Lawyering in the States by Andrew Hammond

Conclusion: A Way Forward by Peter Edelman

Though it will be a year before a cheaper paperback option is sold, the hardback version of the book mainly targeted at libraries is now available. Here is the publisher’s page on the book, and here is the Amazon page. Please check it out and consider forwarding a request to your school’s librarian to get a copy of the book. The chapters really are great!

That is the main message, but I think it is within my fair use rights to share the book’s Acknowledgments’ page below because the first part of it speaks to the poverty law community generally:

This book is a product of the poverty law scholarly community. I would not have considered working on it if I had not been confident that I would find a great group of scholars willing to participate in this project. This is my third collaborative poverty law book project and it truly is wonderful to be part of a community that is primarily motivated by concern for the poor. My confidence was justified and I would like to thank especially the great group of contributors who wrote chapters for this book.

This book grew out of a conference hosted by American University Washington College of Law (WCL). I would like to thank Dean Camille Nelson, as well as Jennifer Dabson, Shayan Davoudi, and Karina Wegman for their support not only of the biannual poverty law conference but also of the Economic Justice Program at WCL. Daniel Hatcher’s eye-opening book, The Poverty Industry: The Exploitation of America’s Most Vulnerable Citizens (2016), inspired both that conference and this edited volume. Hatcher’s book is well worth reading in its own right.

I would like to give a special shout-out to my phenomenal research assistant, Oliver Jury. Often it was Oliver who caught the stray period mark or came up with the best way to fix a troublesome sentence. His attention to detail and skills as a writer are truly impressive.

Finally, I owe a big thank you to all those who cared for my young children while I worked on this project. In the United States, I want to thank Glenda, Onestina, and the staff at Play, Work or Dash; in El Salvador, thanks to my mother-in-law and to Elba. And everywhere, at all points in time, and for everything, thanks to Elvia. This book is dedicated to our children, Mateo and Mario. May they realize both the value of hard work and tremendous privileges they enjoy, and may their lives be filled with happiness and meaning. Un fuerte abrazo.

Thanks again to the contributors and to the larger community. And I hope you get a chance to read the many great chapters in the book.

New Blog Post: Lawyers With Lowest Pay Report More Happiness

New Blog Post: Douglas Quenqua, Lawyers With Lowest Pay Report More Happiness,, May 12, 2015.