Designing the Competition: A Future of Roles Beyond Lawyers? The Case of the USA
Rebecca L. Sandefur and Thomas M. Clarke
Volume 67, Issue 5, 1467-92
Most of the civil justice problems Americans experience never receive service from an attorney. Indeed, daily around the country, thousands of people arrive at court not only without a lawyer to represent them, but also without an understanding of where to go, what to do, or what will happen while they are there. Many jurisdictions are experimenting with models for assisting unrepresented people through the use of “roles beyond lawyers,” roles staffed by people who are not fully qualified attorneys but perform some of the tasks traditionally performed only by attorneys. One interesting aspect of these developments is their source: courts and bar associations, stewards of the jurisdictional core of the legal profession, are in a sense designing their own competition as they create these new roles that nibble at the U.S. legal profession’s strong monopoly on both representation and legal advice. This project creates frameworks for evaluating the functioning and impacts of these emerging programs, with a particular focus on their potential to contribute to solving the contemporary crisis in access to justice, sometimes termed the “justice gap.” One framework identifies elements on which any such program should be evaluated, focusing on the key challenges of appropriateness, efficacy, and sustainability. The other framework identifies key choice points in program design that are likely to affect programs’ success at meeting the three key challenges.