Legal deserts are a surprisingly common problem. Yet, more surprising is the relatively modest cost of a solution.
In its annual Profile of the Legal Profession for 2020, the American Bar Association defined a legal desert as a county with fewer than one lawyer per 1000 people, which is 75% lower than the national average of four lawyers per 1000. In chapter 1 of the Profile, ABA researchers painstakingly presented the data, state by state and county by county, noting that of the 3,100 counties or county-equivalents, nearly 1,300 (41%) fit the legal desert criteria. See id (hereafter ABA Legal Desert Report).
To place the term “legal desert” into a broader context, approximately 15 years ago, food deserts became a popular term of art used to classify low-income communities without reasonable proximity to a local grocery store. During the 2000s, as interest in obesity and diabetes rose across the nation, US Department of Agriculture, the White House, and public health advocates became focused on the social value and importance of eliminating food deserts.
In effect, the ABA’s legal desert term extends the “desert” concept to justice and lawyer availability within a set geographic area (in this case counties).
Continue Reading The minimum number of lawyers needed to eliminate legal deserts in the United States (345)