The significant need for civil legal assistance among Californians—and the gap between that need and the resources to meet it—has never been fully measured.
Millions of Californians eligible for free legal aid are turned away because legal aid providers lack the needed resources. Millions more whose incomes make them ineligible for legal aid cannot afford an attorney when they need one.
Other barriers to access include a lack of familiarity with the legal system—in many cases, people do not even know when to seek legal help. Geography, particularly California’s urban/rural divide, and language diversity are also formidable barriers.
As part of its mission and commitment to advancing access, the State Bar in 2019 is conducting a California Justice Gap Study, the first of its kind. The study will improve our understanding of current legal services needs and opportunities for helping to close the justice gap. This information will enable the State Bar to target efforts to increase access to legal services.
The study will gather data on the legal services needs of all Californians. By following a methodology used in a nationwide study conducted by the Legal Services Corporation in 2017, we will better understand the legal problems and needs faced by Californians.
The California study will also evaluate how the costs of legal education affect access and will examine potentially innovative remedies to this problem, such as loan forgiveness incentives, that could influence the supply side of the justice gap.
Staff Contact: Catherine Borgeson, 415-538-2021, Catherine.Borgeson@calbar.ca.gov
Fact Sheet: California Justice Gap Study