Larry Cunningham on Closing the Justice Gap
The legal profession is failing low-income and middle-class people. Let's fix that.
By Jennifer S. bard and Larry Cunningham
The Washington Post
. . . 80 percent of low-income individuals in the United States cannot afford the legal assistance they need to avoid the loss of their homes, children, jobs, liberty and even lives. The middle class doesn’t fare much better: Forty to 60 percent of their legal needs go unmet.
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We do not expect charities and generous doctors to provide 80 percent of the medical needs for low-income patients, so why do we think this is possible for our legal needs? As law schools become increasingly unaffordable — resulting in plummeting enrollment and debt levels that make it impossible for graduates to offer legal services at affordable prices — the legal profession needs some major changes.
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Just as a pharmacist can administer vaccines and a nurse practitioner can be on the front line of diagnosing and treating ailments, we should have legal practitioners who can also exercise independent judgment within the scope of their training. Such a change would expand the preparation and independence of the existing network of paralegals, secretaries and investigators already assisting lawyers.
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New kinds of legal practitioners will require a new kind of legal education.