Last month, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) released its 2017 Justice Gap Report. Each year the organization surveys low-income Americans across the country to uncover how much access those living at and beneath the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) truly have to affordable legal aid.
Its findings are disheartening.
Defining the justice gap as the difference between the civil legal needs of low-income Americans and the resources available to meet those needs, the LSC paints a picture of the widespread problem impacting more than 60 million Americans.
The 2017 Justice Gap Report states that 86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans in the last year received no or inadequate legal help. In fact, in 2016, 71% of low-income households experienced at least one civil legal problem. This justice gap only continues to widen based on the American’s specific circumstances.
For example, 97% of the households with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence faced at least one civil legal issue last year. Sadly, many of these individuals and their family are actually experiencing more than just one problem annually. 1 in 4 low-income households faced six or more civil legal problems last year.
These civil legal problems are primarily tied to health-related, consumer/financial, housing, family custody, education, and disability issues.
Unfortunately, only 20% of those living beneath the FPL seek help for the issues they face. So what’s a lawyer or other legal professional to do?
According to the LSC, in 2017, legal aid organizations anticipate over 1.7 million legal problems to come to their doors. Many Americans will turn to legal aid providers for answers. However, only about half of these problems will be addressed to due to the lack of resources.
Luckily, at this year’s The Future Is Now Conference, several of our speakers addressed how we can close the access to justice gap. Many lawyers are doing their part to create affordable and accessible access to legal help. It’s time to take action. How will you do your part?