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Joseph F. Rice School of Law

Is better marketing the key to improving access to justice?

University of South Carolina School of Law professor Elizabeth Chambliss was an invited contributor to a special volume of Daedalus, the academic journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The first open access issue in the history of the journal, the volume is part of a series of projects by the Academy to bring increased attention to problems of access to justice and help promote research on the civil justice system.

While many reformers focus on regulatory barriers to access to justice, particularly the profession’s monopoly over the delivery of legal services, Chambliss argues in her article, “Marketing Legal Assistance,” that marketing failures also play a significant role, and calls upon the profession to improve lawyer marketing and public messaging about the value of legal assistance.

“The regulatory battle is a red herring,” she writes in the article. “Marketing matters, whatever the contours of the professional regulation.” 

Chambliss says that the reform-minded lawyers must “expand beyond designing new categories of service, such as limited licensing and limited scope representation, which do not correlate with specific tasks and are difficult for consumers to understand.” Instead, “[l]awyers must design standardized products and services targeted to discrete legal needs.”

She also calls on the bar to make a “business case” for legal assistance “to consumers and related service providers, such as health care providers, state and local governments, and court administrators.” She cites examples of how cost-benefit arguments have led to favorable policy changes at the Department of Veterans Affairs and in New York City. 

“This special volume brings together researchers, journalists, legal services providers, and judges to think in new ways about how to improve the civil justice system,” says Chambliss.  According to the Academy, the issue has seen higher-than-usual demand, reflecting the growing national conversation about access to justice.

“I’m glad to have had the opportunity to contribute to these efforts,” says Chambliss. “And I’m grateful to be at a law school that supports this work through our clinics, Pro Bono Program, the Center on Professionalism, and the strong commitment of our students.”

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