The Economics of Access to Justice
In our civil courts in New York City, there are not enough lawyers to go around, so most clients who cannot afford to hire attorneys, have to manage complicated and intimidating cases in a complex legal system on their own. Her Justice closes that gap by connecting clients with private attorneys from across the city. We recruit, train and mentor volunteer attorneys to stand side-by-side with women who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer, giving them a real chance to obtain the legal and financial remedies needed to overcome poverty and abuse. Her Justice has provided free legal services to low-income women in New York City for almost 25 years. We offer legal assistance to more than 3,000 clients annually in the areas of family, matrimonial and immigration law.
The legal representation we offer our clients is essentially an economic necessity. Civil legal services can provide a client with economic stability, which in turn can prevent homelessness. Few realize that 80% of the people in Family Court do not have a lawyer. Nor do they have the right to a lawyer in the cases that involve financial rewards. For poor women, child support often represents 40% of their income.
Without representation, most would receive the statutory minimum awarded by the court of $25 per month – for a family of three! Our work with volunteer lawyers offers our clients resources they can’t get anywhere else, such as expert testimony from volunteer forensic accountants. Her Justice clients receive an average 75% increase in their financial awards post-representation with an attorney, which means they can go on to live safe and self-sufficient lives. These results would not be possible without a lawyer.
In a recent case, Her Justice volunteer lawyers were able to show that the husband was underestimating his income – resulting in 25% more support for our client, as well as three years’ worth of arrears. Responding to the representation she received in court for a child support case with one of our pro bono lawyers, one client recently said: “You got me more child support than I would have gotten on my own. Initially, I went to court alone and got way less than I should have. With the lawyer you provided me, my child support was tripled. I have less stress now. Thank you.”
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