In September of 2020, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences released Civil Justice for All, the final report of its Making Justice Accessible project. The report calls for the legal profession, the courts, law schools, tech professionals, and partners from many other fields and disciplines to coordinate their efforts to provide necessary legal assistance to many more people in need. Past efforts to improve access to justice offer strong evidence that such an effort would have a profound effect on American society—measured in financial savings, greater trust in law and social institutions, and the safety and security of families and communities.
Among its recommendations, the report calls for an increase in the number of lawyers providing pro bono and other volunteer assistance, to supplement the corps of legal services lawyers.
While the United States cannot “pro bono its way out” of the nation’s civil justice problem, efficient and effective pro bono programs play a significant role in helping meet demand, and more such programs will be a necessary component of any coordinated effort to close the justice gap.
The report recommends that every lawyer should have a goal of 20 hours per year—two and a half days of work—of volunteer lawyering, as is the minimum requirement at some large law firms. It encourages those who are able to commit to 50 hours per year—one week of work—as the ABA’s model rules of professional responsibility urge. (Ed. Note: the ABA continues to urge all lawyers to aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year, as set forth in Model Rule 6.1.) And it supports the recruitment efforts outlined by the Conference of Chief Justices.
In addition to Civil Justice for All, the Academy project has published a volume of the quarterly journal Daedalus, Access to Justice, and produced a short video that describes the civil justice gap for a general audience. Next month, it will release a report on ways to improve data collection in civil justice.