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The Access to Justice Problem

The United States has an access to justice crisis. The "access to justice gap" is the name for the difference between the 14%1 of Americans who get help for their legal problems in court and the vast majority, 86% of Americans, who do not.

In courts around the country (and the world), people do their best to solve problems on their own without the help of an attorney in a legal system that is designed to be used exclusively for and by attorneys. In some cases they fare badly, and in other cases they do not get help for a problem at all.

This problem is not evenly distributed. In landlord-tenant cases, landlords are represented as much as 90% of the time, for example, with tenants only represented 10% of the time.2

Not every problem needs an attorney, and not every litigant wants an attorney. But it is challenging for people with legal problems to find solutions without an attorney, too. Regulatory barriers, including state rules that purport to regulate the unauthorized practice of law, can stop people with legal problems from solving their problems in less expensive or more accessible ways.

Some authors, including Richard Granat and Clio's Jack Newton3, believe that this "access to justice gap" is also an opportunity. This is often called the latent legal market. In other words: some fraction of the people who have legal problems but do not currently use an attorney to solve those problems may be willing and able to pay for something. Chances are, that something will not look much like the traditional legal services that are already offered today.



  1. LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION, The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-income Americans (2017). This number has been persistent across decades.

  2. AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, Tenants' Right to Counsel is Critical to Fight Mass Evictions and Advance Race Equity During the Pandemic and Beyond, January 12, 2021.

  3. Merken, Sara. "Why Clio's Jack Newton sees profits and progress in the 'latent legal market'", Reuters, August 12, 2021,