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Economic contraction could lead to even more SRLs

June 1, 2020

The Self-Represented Litigants Network estimates three out of five people in civil cases go to court without a lawyer.  “The composition of state court litigants has changed dramatically over the past ten years. Where complex civil litigation and lawyer represented parties had been the norm, 60 -100% of cases today involve at least one pro se (self-represented) party in matters such as family, housing, and consumer litigation. The rise of the self-represented litigant (SRL) has created an unprecedented disruption in the practice of law and the management of courts.”

The Conversation article “Every year, millions try to navigate US courts without a lawyer”, discussed that in most civil cases, people who cannot afford a lawyer will represent themselves and by doing so, they may fail to be successful in the process.  They also discussed the correlation between financial downturns and a corresponding increase in self-represented litigant cases. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing financial impacts around the world, including the United States.  Many people have lost their jobs, causing financial stress which increases the probability of legal action.

Recently, Massachusetts Supreme Court asked for ways to strengthen access to justice during the pandemic, and in response, staff and students from Suffolk University Law School in Boston highlighted their efforts to develop mobile applications so the public, can remotely submit forms for basic legal actions.

State courts are working to respond to the demand for more SRL resources. To that end, the National Center for State Court’s Center on Court Access to Justice for All (JFA) identifies and highlights innovations from the states to support self-representation. JFA's components include simplified, plain language forms, self-help centers, and the use of navigators.

Tell us what your court has done to adapt to the increasing number of self-represented litigants. Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, and share your experiences!

For more information, contact Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164.