8 Access to Justice Predictions for 2018

Here’s what 8 leading access to justice experts forecast for the year ahead.

2017 shone a much-needed spotlight on access to justice. Kicking off with the Immigration Ban in January, and peppered with urgent needs ranging from the repeal of DACA, the proposed LSC funding cut, the hurricanes, and sustained civil rights threats to underrepresented groups, 2017 helped reinforce why access to justice matters. Fortunately, this comes at a critical time — right now, a staggering 86% of low-income Americans never receive the legal help they need.

So what’s next for access to justice in 2018? We asked 8 leading access to justice practitioners across a range of terrific organizations to share their predictions for the year ahead:

1. Shift from Awareness to Action

“2017 seemed to be the year where attention and focus on the use of technology to help improve access to justice reached a fever pitch. There seemed to be an awakening about the role access to justice plays in our maintaining a healthy legal system, and the promise of technology to help. I see 2018 as being the year where this intense interest from lawyers, academics, designers, and engineers translates into high quality digital products as new radical ideas and better design proliferate.”

— Nicole Bradick, Founder & CEO, Theory and Principle

2. Rise of Limited Scope Representation

“2018 is a year when limited scope representation should become a much larger part of the access to justice landscape. While there are many instances where full representation is necessary to achieve a just result, for most legal issues a little bit of legal help can go a long way. That’s where limited scope representation comes in, and with some great new resources and growing national momentum, limited scope can make a big difference.”

— Bob Glaves, Executive Director, Chicago Bar Foundation

3. Greater Opportunity for Collaboration

“2018 will see the continued awareness, adoption and implementation of technology tools supporting access to justice initiatives from legal leaders at scale. With widespread industry adoption comes new and unparalleled opportunities for collaboration — opening the door for referring organizations, firms, companies, and law schools to seamlessly work together in support of access to justice.

— Phoebe Duggan, Director of Programs, Paladin

4. Spread of Right to Counsel

“In August 2017, NYC signed Right to Counsel legislation into law, mandating access to legal representation for all low-income New Yorkers facing eviction. This landmark policy represents the first time anywhere in the country that someone can have the “right to an attorney” in a civil proceeding, and is a major victory for the tenant movement in New York. In 2018, other cities and states across the country will push forward their own right to counsel legislation for housing, immigration, and other civil legal areas.”

— Georges Clement, Co-Founder & President, JustFix.nyc

5. Increased Tech Adoption → Pro Bono Engagement

“I think a huge reason why more attorneys aren’t involved in pro bono work is the enormous transaction costs involved in finding and vetting cases, from both the nonprofit and pro bono attorney’s perspective. But technology holds the promise to reduce or eliminate those transaction costs. As more and more firms and nonprofits adopt technology, I believe we could see a tripling of the attorneys involved in pro bono work.”

— Adrian Tirtanadi, Executive Director, Open Door Legal

6. Court Acceptance of Self-Representation Tools

“I think 2018 is the year that we’ll see limited assistance self represented filings begin to gain credibility in the judiciary as the only way to make real progress on the access to justice gap.”

— Jonathan Petts, Executive Director, Upsolve

7. Cross-Border Collaboration on Global Issues

“The last few years have seen the emergence of a plethora of pressing social and environmental challenges affecting humanity on a global scale, such as growing flows of refugees and displaced people, deepening effects of climate change on the environment, and the shrinking of civil society spaces in countries around the world. Service providers, lawyers, and civil society are responding in concert, with high-impact research collaboration and, as the need widens on global issues like refugee policy, we expect more cross-border collaborations to take shape. All of these efforts will likely be complemented by tech innovations that expand and deepen the breadth and reach of pro bono globally, including new systems like Paladin and new back-end innovations like AI.”

— Carolina Henriquez-Schmitz, Regional Lead & Legal Manager, Thomson Reuters Foundation

8. Push for Non-Tech Policy Solutions

I think 2018 will be the year that people finally realize that A2J doesn’t have to be about tech. One example that I’m seeing a lot of lately is the push for bail reform. Thousands of people are in jail right now simply because they can’t afford bail. We essentially have debtors prisons. And there’s so many ancillary costs to putting someone in jail when they don’t really need to be. There’s no tech component necessary for this, although there are a few crowdfunding tools available out there. It’s mainly a policy push.

— Sarah Glassmeyer, Project Manager Specialist, ABA Center for Innovation

If the above is any indication, 2018 is going to be an incredible year for access to justice. Individuals and organizations are poised to spring into action equipped with a diverse toolkit of technology tools, policy initiatives and good old-fashioned collaboration. In the face of the challenges brought in 2017, this all-hands-on-deck mentality is exactly what’s needed to move the needle on the justice gap in 2018 and lay the foundation for a more just future.

Have ideas for what we’ll see in 2018? Share your access to justice predictions in the comments or tweet us at @joinpaladin. We’d love to hear them!