About the Series

Richard Zorza, one of the founders and leaders of the access to justice (ATJ) movement, recently received the American Bar Association’s 2014 Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access’ Lifetime Achievement Honor for decades of work on behalf of self-represented litigants. Not to be outdone, the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators passed a Resolution of Recognition “express[ing] their deep appreciation to Richard Zorza for his thoughtful, unique, and dedicated service, loyal support and guidance, and for his unfailing commitment to improving the state courts of this nation, and the Conferences extend to him their best wishes for the future.” Richard was at the Open Society Institute with Mark O’Brien and Michael Hertz when they formed Pro Bono Net, and had a profound influence on our founding and development. As we approach our 15th anniversary, we would like to extent our deepest gratitude and thanks for his tremendous guidance. I recently spoke with Richard, and we are excited to produce this five-part installment from that discussion. Our final post focuses on the future of the ATJ movement. And of course, read more of Richard’s always fascinating thoughts on his Access to Justice blog.

Where to Now?

After covering the successes and struggles of the access to justice movement, I asked Richard where we go from here. What are the areas to focus on and how can we build on our successes and respond to emerging areas of need? As we conclude Speaking with the Master, I encourage everyone to think about what Richard has said and share where they think we need to go next (and why).

Richard highlighted the non-lawyer initiatives in New York and the work that Judge Fern Fisher and Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman have done to highlight access to justice issues and encourage experimental efforts to close the justice gap. He has heard very positive reports and thinks that if they continue to go well, such initiatives will “spread like wildfire” and quickly become the norm across the country. In addition, he mentioned Bonne Hough’s work in California to increase the California courts’ responsiveness to pro se litigants and ensure that all litigants, not just those affluent enough to afford counsel, receive fair and equitable treatment. It is important that we consider what we can to do provide help – not just legal assistance, but help – to the millions who interact with the complicated court system every year. Richard stressed the importance of broadening our horizons and continuing to look for innovative solutions, both technologically and conceptually. Almost every great idea was once considered crazy and unrealistic.

Of course, some traditional solutions are incredibly effective (eat your veggies!) and Richard said that non-lawyer programs must be paired with efforts to increase the supply of lawyers working to meet the ever-growing demand for legal services. As discussed previously on this blog, the economic theory of supply and demand is not an accurate description of the issues facing the legal profession and the justice system. America has both an oversupply of lawyers and an unmet demand for legal services. We must encourage more young lawyers to help increase access to justice and make it economically sustainable for them to do so.

Lastly, Richard pointed to the importance of ongoing research assessing the size of the justice gap, where it is most prevalent, and what remedies are most effective. In the early years of the movement, research was too often neglected, but thankfully that has begun to change. Increased research leads to increase knowledge, which leads to the efficient resource allocation necessary for effective resource utilization, and finally the narrowing of the justice gap (it is like the path to the Dark Side, only the exact opposite).

And on that wonderful joke, I am going to conclude Speaking with the Master. I want to thank Richard Zorza for his generosity and time, and all of you for continuing for bearing with me as I repeatedly expanded this series. Personally, I blame Richard for being too interesting and insightful, but I understand if others feel differently.