Quality Civil Legal Services for the Poor and Near Poor Are Possible Through Improved Productivity

FGMSD-79-46: Published: Oct 19, 1979. Publicly Released: Nov 19, 1979.

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The cost to the Federal Government of providing quality civil legal services to the poor was compared to the cost of comparable services provided by private companies. The Legal Services Corporation (LSC), established in 1974 as a non-profit corporation, is the chief Federal source of legal aid for the poor and near poor.

It was found that the majority of private prepaid legal plans are employee funded and that their services are so different from those of federally funded programs that unit costs were generally not comparable; however, certain observations were made. Public sector attorney costs averaged $17 hourly while private sector charges averaged $40 hourly, including overhead. For routine civil matters, the efficiency level was about the same in both sectors. As the result of increased automation, significant potential cost and delivery improvements were apparent in both sectors, particularly where standard, routine legal services were concerned. It was suggested that the LSC could develop and disseminate legal automation techniques through a research and demonstration program. Besides increasing the cost and delivery potential of LSC grantees, such a program would make legal services more affordable for middle-income citizens who are currently unable to afford private legal services. The study revealed that LSC had no management information systems for obtaining the data needed to evaluate the cost effectiveness of its programs. LSC had begun efforts to develop local and national management information at the time of the study, and LSC planned to report on its progress by early 1980.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The President of LSC should improve the productivity of civil legal aid by developing and instituting a research and demonstration program aimed toward systemizing and automating the operations of Corporation grantees.

    Agency Affected:


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