Talk Justice, an LSC Podcast, Episode 14: How Non-Lawyer Navigators Are Expanding Access to Justice
WASHINGTON – In the latest episode of the Legal Services Corporation’s (LSC) “Talk Justice” podcast released today, LSC President Ron Flagg discusses how non-lawyer court navigators are expanding access to justice with Mary McClymont, adjunct professor and senior fellow at The Justice Lab, Georgetown University Law Center. McClymont directed a recent Justice Lab survey of how these navigators are assisting self-represented litigants in 15 states and Washington, D.C.
“Ninety-seven percent of litigation in our nation is carried out in the state courts and yet 30 million of people in those cases are unrepresented,” she said.
McClymont discussed how this lack of representation in so many critical cases led to the Conference of Chief Justices’ resolution urging 100 percent access to effective legal assistance through a continuum of meaningful services. “One of the approaches in that continuum is the use of non-lawyer navigators in our state courts,” she explained.
These navigators provide direct “person to person” assistance to self-represented litigants. They do not have a law degree or operate under an attorney/client relationship, but are part of a formal program that provides them with specialized training.
Non-lawyer navigators work on a wide range of civil cases. This can include anything from eviction and debt collection to cases involving child support or domestic violence protection orders. They may help self-represented litigants find their way around the court, complete court paperwork or answer a judge’s factual questions. McClymont explained that these navigators have been particularly helpful this past year, assisting self-represented litigants to use the technological alternatives to in-court appearances that have become ubiquitous since the start of the pandemic.
Flagg highlighted how important the work of these navigators is, whether they are providing insight on the next steps within a case or serving as a source of support for self-represented litigants throughout the legal process. “I think it’s important to remember who they are helping,” he said. “They are helping people who maybe have never been to court. These are life-impacting cases and to get the kind of help you’re describing can make a huge difference.”
Talk Justice episodes are available on LSC’s website and on Spotify, Stitcher, Apple and other popular podcast apps. The podcast is sponsored by LSC’s Leaders Council.
Future episodes of Talk Justice will explore why civil legal aid is important to business, how the patchwork of local and state eviction laws and regulations contribute to a growing housing crisis, and how partnerships between legal aid organizations and emergency management groups can better meet the civil legal needs of disaster survivors.