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Research Report

Left Out in the Cold: How Clients Are Affected By Restrictions on Their Legal Services Lawyers

  • Brennan Center for Justice
Published: June 1, 2000

The sixth installment of the ACCESS TO JUSTICE SERIES, Left Out in the Cold, explores limits on legal services advocacy from the clients’ perspective, illuminating ways in which individuals’ sympathetic problems could be effectively addressed by class-action suits brought by legal services lawyers. In each instance, individuals worked with legal services lawyers to secure vitally needed relief, while participating in class-action suits that they altruistically hoped would secure the same relief for other persons facing identical problems.

The cases illuminate how class actions improve people’s lives and how Congress’s ban on federally funded legal services lawyers filing such class actions does a great disservice to clients. The article also shows how Congress’s ban on legal services class actions is compounded by Congress’s separate ban preventing federally funded legal services lawyers from lobbying on their clients’ behalf. Class actions and lobbying — important tools used routinely by private attorneys on behalf of paying clients — had always made it possible for legal services lawyers to tackle troubling, and often unlawful, harms befalling multiple clients. For now, and until Congress revisits and changes the law, many clients will continue to suffer from these harms.