Significant return on investment through civil legal aid

 

The necessity and importance of providing civil legal aid are clear from two studies released by Indiana’s Coalition for Court Access. Both studies, available at courts.in.gov/iocs/3149.htm, provide insight for policymakers regarding allocating civil legal aid resources and the return on investment for the State of Indiana when civil legal needs are met for low-income Hoosiers.

The Indiana Civil Legal Needs Study, the Economic Impact and Social Value Return on Investment Analysis for 2017, and data on pro bono contributions by Indiana lawyers all provide key information on civil legal aid:

  • For every $1 invested in Indiana’s civil legal aid services, there is $6.70 in immediate and long-term consequential financial benefits
  • 8,445 attorneys contributed time and/or money to pro bono efforts (CY 2017)
  • There are only about 100 full-time attorneys providing civil legal aid in Indiana
  • Of the total eligible civil legal problems presented to Indiana’s civil legal aid providers, more than half will not be fully served because of insufficient resources

In the most recent State of the Judiciary, Chief Justice Rush said, “While no one is above the law, it is equally true that no one is beneath it. Justice only for those customers who can afford it is not justice for all. In fact, it is not justice at all.” The Supreme Court is asking the Legislature for a $500,000 increase per year in its budget for civil legal aid. That would make the state’s civil legal aid budget $2 million per year. The estimated return on investment would be $13.4 million.

Created by the Indiana Supreme Court in May 2016, the Coalition for Court Access works to improve the availability and quality of civil legal services for people of limited means, through indianalegalhelp.org and numerous other initiatives. The Coalition is made up of nearly 20 legal and community stakeholders including the Indiana Bar Foundation. For Coalition meeting details and membership information, visit the Supreme Court’s website. For Indiana Bar Foundation details, contact Executive Director Chuck Dunlap.