Access to justice is a broad societal problem—66% of the population experienced at least one legal issue in the past four years. On an annual basis, that translates to 260 million legal problems faced by Americans, of all ages, races, genders, and geographic locations. A considerable proportion of these problems—120 million—are either never resolved or are resolved in a manner which is perceived as unfair. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed and exacerbated inequities in our justice system, creating substantial backlogs and forcing reliance on technology not built for an adversarial legal system. These problems have touched the lives of many persons in this country, particularly low-income people and people of color. With these immense and urgent challenges comes the opportunity to strengthen access to justice in the 21st century.
This panel will explore lessons learns and efforts underway to address the access to justice challenges. Calloquy (www.calloquy.com) is a public benefit corporation who combines its for profit work with its social mission of using technology to enhance access to justice. DC Affordable Law Firm (www.dcaffordablelaw.org) is a non-profit that provides accessible legal assistance for residents of the District of Columbia, and was formed out of a unique partnership between Georgetown University Law Center, Arent Fox LLP, and DLA Piper LLP in 2015. Gideon’s Promise is a nonprofit public defender organization whose mission is to transform the criminal justice system by building a movement of public defenders who provide equal justice for marginalized communities. Gideon’s Promise (https://www.gideonspromise.org/) was founded by Jonathan Rapping, professor at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School and Visiting Associate Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and a 2014 MacArthur Foundation Genius Fellow.