A recent artical in the ABA Journal on movements to license legal technicians to perform limited legal services cited a Bar Foundation study showing that most people encountering what the study called “civil justice situations” either handled the situation themselves, did nothing about it, or enlisted the help of friends and family. Only about 22% sought the assistance of people outside their social network. Naturally the ABA article viewed this situation as a potential opportunity for the legal profession to meet unmet legal needs, while questioning whether opening up opportunities for paralegals or other non-lawyers to serve these needs should be allowed.
To me, however, data like that found in this study suggests that the traditional justice system is either too intimidating, too expensive, or too complicated to represent an attractive solution for most people. That means there is a great need to make the traditional justice system less expensive, less complicated, and more accessible. There also appears to be a need to empower people to handle these “social justice situations” more competently themselves (since most people apparently are already handling these situations themselves anyway, for better or worse).
The data suggests opportunities here for mediators and other conflict resolution specialists as well as for lawyers and legal services technicians. If people are generally resorting to self-help anyway, and would generally prefer to solve their legal problems outside of the traditional justice system, it follows that they could use some advice on ways of doing that better. There are also opportunities to teach the general public more about how to solve common legal problems, since is appears that most people are going to run into them, and most of those people are going to try to deal with those problems themselves.