In working to find a long-term program to combat systemic inequality, we were struck by the efficacy of legal aid organizations. Simply put, they return stunning value to those who need it most.
The justice gap in numbers and how Ontra is working to close it
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The 2022 Justice Gap Report from the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) — Ontra’s partner in its Dollar a Document program — found that low-income Americans do not get “any or enough” legal help for 92% of their substantial civil legal problems.
Based on information from LSC-funded legal aid organizations along with a nationwide survey of 5,000+ adults conducted by the University of Chicago, the study found:
- Nearly 75% of low-income households experienced one or more civil legal problems in the past year, with 39% experiencing five or more problems and 20% experiencing 10 or more problems. Over half (55%) of low-income Americans who personally experienced a problem said those problems substantially impacted their lives, affecting finances, mental health, physical health and safety, and relationships.
- Low-income Americans seek legal help for only 25% of civil legal problems that substantially impact them; Of those, 46% cite cost as a reason why, and 53% do not know if they could find and afford a lawyer if they needed one.
- People with higher incomes are more likely to seek legal help for problems with substantial impact (32% vs. 25%), are less likely to go without any or enough legal help for problems with substantial impact (78% vs. 92%), are more likely to be confident they could find and afford a lawyer if needed (73% vs. 45%), and are more likely to believe they can use the civil legal system to protect and enforce their rights (59% vs. 39%).
- LSC-funded organizations field an estimated 1.9 million requests for help every year. Of those, 49% of requests get turned away due to limited resources; Even when organizations can assist, they only have the resources to fully resolve 56% of problems. That means LSC-funded organizations cannot provide any or enough legal help for 1.4 million civil legal problems (71%) brought to them every year.
Ontra’s work to narrow the justice gap
The LSC defines the “justice gap” as “the difference between the civil legal needs of low-income Americans and the resources available to meet those needs.” To help close that gap, Ontra’s Dollar a Document program donates one dollar for every document processed on its platform to support nonprofit legal aid organizations that directly serve these communities.
“As a member of the legal community, Ontra has a responsibility to be part of the solution,” Ontra CEO and Founder Troy Pospisil said. “Ontra is proud to partner with the LSC with our Dollar a Document program to help support vetted, nonprofit legal aid programs across the country. This effort is at the heart of our commitment to combat systemic inequality in an ongoing manner.”
LSC's Justice Gap Report 2022 details the unmet civil legal needs of low-income Americans.
Together with our customers, Ontra donated over $80,000 to 54 organizations in 2021 through our Dollar a Document program.
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