132. See generally D. James Greiner, Dalié Jiménez, and Lois R. Lupica, Self-Help, Reimagined, 92 Ind L J 1119 (2017). It is difficult to synthesize their conclusions into a simple path toward providing pro se litigants with effective assistance, but they emphasize in particular the need for breaking legal problems down into their constituent components, including mental, psychological, and cognitive issues, as well as identifying and implementing relevant research from nonlegal literature to address those problems. They emphasize in particular that often the “relevant tasks have little to do with formal law.” Id at 1172.
D. Before trial, the parties may be given an opportunity to meet with a mediator appointed by the Judge to resolve their case. Mediators are volunteers; they try to help parties reach a friendly agreement. They are not judges and do not make decisions. If the dispute is not resolved in mediation, the parties will proceed to a trial, usually on the same day.
The “Legal Services Lawyers” metric includes attorneys from ALAS (in Clayton, Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, and Gwinnett counties) and GLSP (outside the five-county metro Atlanta area served by ALAS). For the ALAS counties, the number of Legal Services Lawyers serving a given county reflects both attorneys assigned to that county and a portion of the 22.5 ALAS attorneys not assigned to a particular county; for example, Cobb County has 6 ALAS lawyers, but its total includes 1/5 of the program-wide attorneys for an additional 4.5 attorneys. By contrast, GLSP attorneys are assigned to a particular region of the state and serve several counties (e.g. attorneys from the Albany-Valdosta office service 29 counties). Thus, outside the five-county metro area, the Legal Services Lawyers total for a particular county includes GLSP lawyers who also serve other counties. GLSP totals for a given county do not include 7 statewide attorneys or the 2 attorneys serving farmworkers throughout the state.
The ABA conducted a research survey several years ago in Maricopa County, Ariz. and found that “the primary reason self-help litigants gave for going forward without a lawyer was the belief that they could navigate the system and obtain their desired outcome on their own.” Id. at 4; citing: A Report on Self-Help Law: Its Many Perspectives, ABA, 1985.
Additional studies that help determine the extent to which differences in access to counsel are responsible for the gaps in case outcomes between pro se and represented litigants, especially across a broader range of types of cases, would also be useful. If differences in access to counsel explain differences in case outcomes, the legal community should be more fearful that those without adequate resources are being deprived of meaningful access to the legal system. Moreover, if communities that lack the means to gain access to counsel lack effective legal recourse, despite sometimes having meritorious claims, then the legal community should also worry that bad actors can gain by depriving those communities of legal rights without facing the deterrent effects of litigation. Concerns about exploitative employers may be heightened if more than 2 percent of pro se plaintiffs have fully meritorious claims but only 2 percent of those plaintiffs can effectively seek relief due to difficulties navigating the legal system. Conversely, if lack of access to counsel does not explain poor case outcomes for pro se litigants, perhaps the legal community should focus on other considerations, such as making pro se litigants feel that they have received a fair chance in court and had their grievances heard, rather than trying to narrow the gaps in case outcomes or provide lawyers for more pro se litigants.
Table 3C tells a similar story as Tables 3A and 3B. Although there is some variation in the win rates, there is no discernable pattern. Pro se litigants do not consistently have better case outcomes in districts that have implemented more policies aimed at improving the lot of pro se litigants. Instead, the win rates of pro se litigants deviate only a couple of percentage points from the overall average win rates for pro se litigants even in districts that have implemented three, four, or more of the policies considered in this Comment.
When lawyers provide substandard representation, unhappy clients can seek relief from state disciplinary authorities and legal malpractice lawsuits. But a pro se litigant’s ability to fix mistakes made by online websites and non-lawyer advisers is much more limited. And the risk of getting inaccurate information may increase when pro se litigants communicate with online businesses in writing, rather than with lawyers in face-to-face meetings.