The New York Times recently noted the trend toward third-party litigation investment, where investors provide money to litigants in exchange for a share of potential judgment award. Blogger Jordan Furlong decried the practice, saying it “bump[s] up against the basic principles of the justice system” and is “a grave embarrassment to the legal profession.” While his point that third-party litigation funding serves as evidence of the prohibitively high costs of litigation is valid, it is difficult to look past anything that might help consumers gain access to the legal system.
A recent unpublished study by two Harvard researchers has arguably called into question the effectiveness of free legal aid and started a conversation as to whether such organizations help or hurt those they serve. It’s a conversation, however, that should be placed in a wider context. The vast majority of Americans are priced out of the legal system, not just the indigent. The question should not be about the effectiveness of legal aid societies – such organizations are struggling with limited resources to meet huge demand. Instead, we should be asking how the legal profession has continually permitted the need for affordable legal services go unmet, not just for the poorest amongst us, but indeed for the majority of American consumers.