The civil justice system in the United States fails to meet the needs of its most vulnerable and needy customers. Consider these statistics: The civil legal needs of roughly 80% of low-income and 60-70% of middle-income people are not being met. What’s more, tens of millions of people are evicted, lose custody of their children, and pay unnecessary fines while facing a legal system that they don’t understand and can’t navigate. Illinois is consistent with this national picture.
The good news is that technology is helping to put a small dent in this problem. Since 2001, Illinois Legal Aid Online has successfully used technology in innovative ways to increase access to justice by streamlining the delivery of free and pro bono legal services, and providing easy-to-understand legal information and assistance to the public.
The Legal Services Corporation has set a new goal: to use technology to provide “some form of effective assistance to 100% of persons otherwise unable to afford an attorney for dealing with essential civil legal needs.” To achieve these goals, we must continue to lead and innovate. Illinois requires investment, collaboration and the courage to embrace an exciting and uncertain new legal landscape.