The new book Beyond Elite Law: Access to Civil Justice in America, co-edited by Dwight D. Opperman Professor of Law Samuel Estreicher and Joy Radice, a former acting assistant professor of lawyering, takes a comprehensive look at the dilemma of Americans who cannot afford legal representation in non-criminal matters. The book’s 50 chapters cover ground including Chapter 7 bankruptcy, racial disparities in legal representation for employment discrimination plaintiffs, the role of legal clinics, law firm pro bono programs, court facilitation of self-representation, and technology solutions.

Samuel EstreicherEstreicher explains that the book originated in his longstanding awareness of ordinary Americans who cannot afford an attorney. Many of the country’s top lawyers, he asserts, seek cases with broader impact rather than perform quotidian legal services that most people are likelier to need.

“On the civil side, you have, essentially, the best lawyers in the country doing elite law, whether they’re doing it for corporations or NGOs,” says Estreicher. He added that, while the phenomenon he points to is not inherently negative, many attorneys are not addressing the needs of everyday Americans: “These people don’t have money. Lawyers are more expensive than they’re comfortable paying for.”

The book offers a mosaic of potential solutions that, in the aggregate, can make a significant dent in the lack of access to civil justice, Estreicher suggests. “What can we do with existing resources to get the profession to think about this service role as a core activity?”

Contributors to the book include Adjunct Professor Helaine Barnett ’64; Steven Bennett ’84; Assistant Professor Emily Bremer ’06 of the University of Wyoming College of Law; Associate Professor of Clinical Law Alina Das ’05; Professor Natalie Gomez-Velez ’89 of CUNY School of Law; Aaron Halegua, an affiliated researcher at the US-Asia Law Institute and a research fellow at the Center for Labor and Employment Law; Vice Dean Randy Hertz; Adjunct Professor Robert Katzmann, chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; Lynn Kelly ’82; Acting Assistant Professor of Lawyering Kate Levine; Jonathan Lippman ’68, former New York State chief judge; Professor E. Patrick McDermott LLM ’88 of Salisbury University; NYU Law Trustee Randal Milch ’85, a senior distinguished fellow at NYU Law’s Center on Law and Security and the NYU Center for Cybersecurity; Professor Jonathan Remy Nash '92 of Emory University School of Law; Assistant Professor David Noll ’08 of Rutgers School of Law-Newark; Professor Rafael Pardo ’01 of Emory University School of Law; Professor Ian Weinstein ’86 of Fordham University School of Law; and David Yin ’14.

Posted June 16, 2016