New research shows more than an 8:1 return on investment for civil legal aid in Wisconsin, reflecting the impact of work done at University of Wisconsin Law School.

A study commissioned by the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation Inc. (WisTAF) and conducted by The Resource for Great Programs Inc. (The Resource) shows that, for every dollar invested in civil legal aid in the state, the economy receives a return of $8.40; results were released last month.

The Resource gathered 2021 data from 12 civil legal aid providers, including the Economic Justice Institute (EJI) at UW Law School. Together, these providers reflect 96% of civil legal aid funding in Wisconsin. Researchers combined case data with numbers from trusted government and other publicly available sources.

“Civil legal aid” refers to legal assistance to people who can’t afford to hire an attorney but are facing life-altering issues related to civil law. Unlike in criminal legal matters, there is generally no guarantee of an attorney for someone facing a civil issue such as need for a restraining order; protection of rights related to health, safety, shelter or financial independence; or determining child custody or guardianship.

“Everyone should be able to access solutions to legal problems, regardless of their income,” said Rebecca L. Murray, executive director of WisTAF. “This study paints the most complete picture we’ve ever had of how much Wisconsin benefits when people of limited means have meaningful access to the legal system. Civil legal aid is often a missing piece people need to keep their families safe or stand on their own two feet.”

According to the “Economic Impact of Civil Legal Aid in Wisconsin” study, the return of $8.40 on the dollar represented $176 million in measurable impacts.

“Civil legal aid provided by UW Law School’s clinical programs is part of this $176 million impact,” explained Mitch, UW Law clinical law professor and the director of the EJI. “In addition to this huge financial benefit from providing legal aid, our clinical programs also provide training and education to students and community members.” 

For more information about the research, including the final report, visit WisTAF’s website. If you would like to support the civil legal aid work of the clinical programs at EJI, you can make a gift.

Submitted by Law School News on August 8, 2023

This article appears in the categories: EJI News, Features

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