LAFF Society


Access to Civil Justice Using Nonlawyers: A Study


Mary McClymont has written a report based on a study she made of the use of nonlawyer “navigators” in state courts to help people who cannot afford lawyers.
“A stunning 86% of the civil legal problems of low-income Americans receive inadequate or no legal help,” she writes, “and an estimated 30 million people each year are reported to lack legal representation in the state courts.”
These people, her study found, “are at risk of suffering dire consequences for their families, their homes and their livelihoods”. 
McClymont prepared the report for the Justice Lab at the Georgetown University Law Center, where she is a senior fellow and adjunct professor. The full report, titled “Nonlawyer Navigators in State Courts: An Emerging Consensus”, is available at
It is based on a study of 23 programs already operating in 15 state courts and the District of Columbia to assist self-represented litigants, describes those programs and offers “practical considerations” for creating and implementing new programs.
Navigators are defined as individuals who do not have full, formal legal credentials, such as a law degree, but who assist litigants with basic civil legal problems. “They do not,” the report states, “operate under an attorney/client relationship and they are part of a formal program and institutional auspices that provides specialized training.”
The need to “mitigate this crisis”, McClymont writes, has been supported by the chief justices and “top administrative officials” of state courts, who have called for “100% access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs…through a continuum of meaningful and appropriate services”. 
McClymont had two stints at the Ford Foundation in its Peace and Social Justice program, initially from 1988 to 2000 and then from 2006 to 2008.



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