World Justice Project 2015: Access to Justice in the US and Canada

In another shameless plug for Avvo masquerading as a genuine concern for access to justice, Mr. Blase of Thomson Reuters blogs about the 2015 World Justice Project Rule of Law Index. Lawtender believes, and itself warns, that U.S. citizens’ access to justice is a serious problem, although it’s not sure if ranking a subfactor of the WJP Index—something which the WJP didn’t do in its report—is particularly scientific, especially when the data is based largely on an online survey of 1002 people in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Is affordability of lawyers a problem? Yes. Is it so severe that we show throw the baby out with the bathwater and, in a headlong panic, fall prey to Avvo’s siren call to dismantle the role of the attorney in the justice system? No, Lawtender has seen no studies—surveys or otherwise—that would suggest that Avvo somehow makes lawyers more affordable to modest-income citizens.

Indeed, it is hard to believe that a non-lawyer company that does little more than provide the equivalent of an attorney-client dating service (attorneysonly.com?) could ever solve the access to justice problem. It is the modern equivalent of the yellow pages, but one that cleverly gets lawyers to part with their money as an “advertising” cost (advertising or fee sharing?) with, among other things, this false appeal to the lawyers’ sense of social justice. It is propaganda designed to undermine the legal profession but which disturbingly has already wormed its way in the bosom of the American Bar Association and The Florida Bar.

It is strange that someone who not only works for Thomson Reuters, the publisher of Westlaw, but whose job is to focus “on developing strategic partnerships with law firms” posts an article advocating for a company which has openly called for the states to “get rid of UPL”—in other words, to allow non-lawyers to practice law. And if Thomson Reuters was so interested in promoting access to justice why don’t they give the general public free use of their case law database? If they think hiring a lawyer costs too much, why don’t they cut the cost of their own services which must be borne by Lawtender attorneys and other low-bono attorneys? Maybe then the lawyers could cut the cost to their clients.

Wake up, attorneys. If Avvo can strike at the heart of our Bar leadership and Thomson Reuters, they can accomplish their mission…which is to get your job.

From the report:

Access to justice is a serious problem, especially in North America. The World Justice Project 2015 results demonstrate that when it comes to access to justice no lawyer in the US or Canada should sleep well at night:

  • Among 102 countries that the Project studies in detail every year, Canada is currently 41st when it comes to its citizens having access to civil justice. Its score puts it on par with Albania, Sierra Leone, Kyrgyzstan and Cote d’Ivoire.
  • And the US is even worse — 62nd and mired in the bottom half — with the same access to justice as provided in Pakistan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Ecuador.

Thus, it’s fair to conclude from such awful results that the public gets short-changed in the bargain it made with the legal profession by entrusting lawyers with a kind of mass-monopoly to practice law.

Let’s take a look at how these failures occur in the real world. Access to justice is essentially a function of proximity, education and price:

  • Proximity remains a problem wherever there are very few means to reach legal advice. Traditionally, for example, this has been the case with lawyers in rural areas. If the legal problem is more specialized, geography becomes a disproportionally bigger issue, although the Internet has mitigated (but not alleviated) that access problem.
  • Education, being the education of legal service consumers, is still lacking widely but also can be improved substantially due to technology. What it needs though is providers who are keen to educate the public. So far, lawyers — and the rest of the legal system, including courts and governments — have generally done a lousy job in this regard.
  • Finally, Price, not surprisingly, the single biggest hindrance to access to justice. Legal advice in Canada and the United States is insanely expensive for the large majority of consumers because it is delivered extremely inefficiently. That can only in part (but in large part) be blamed on lawyers themselves.

More here…

Copy of the full report below.