Response to burdens on justice system: legal navigators sail into view

The statistics about the courts are so extreme that you can’t believe them: 30 million people a year are unrepresented in state courts; 86% of the civil legal problems of low-income people go with little or no legal help.

You can’t relate to numbers like this. There’s a phrase for it: “psychic numbing.”

The 30 million cases are mostly low-dollar, routine kinds of things. So the most representative stories aren’t all that dramatic. They are numbingly mundane.

The real story is about the system.

Nobody loves the system. But the system is the infrastructure for the rule of law. And the rule of law keeps the economy moving. The growing burdens on the system are the result of an increasingly complex society. The system is overloaded.

Innovations are needed.

A response is beginning to gather. Where a high volume of low-dollar, routine traffic is choking the system, the idea is that you don’t need a Juris Doctor to handle those problems, even though you do need somebody who knows what they are doing. The response that’s gathering support is to create a new category of legal services, or a new cohort of legal services providers, ones that are focussed on limited legal processes or procedures. Ones that focus on the mundane.

Call them navigators for now. They don’t need a three-year legal education in order to know what they are doing and to do better than non-lawyers representing themselves.

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