Recently, the World Justice Project (WJP) released its 2016 Rule of Law Index.  The research initiative assesses the performance of 113 nations across the world on a range of metrics related to the rule of law.

According to the WJP:

The country scores and rankings for the WJP Rule of Law Index 2016 are derived from more than 110,000 households and 2,700 expert surveys in 113 countries and jurisdictions. The Index is the world’s most comprehensive data set of its kind and the only to rely solely on primary data, measuring a nation’s adherence to the rule of law from the perspective of how ordinary people experience it.

The United States did moderately well in a range of categories, as follows:

18th in the overall Rule of Law ranking;

12th for “open government”;

13th in the “constraints on government powers” ranking;

20th for “absence of corruption” ranking;

31st for “order and security”.

Where it performed terribly was in the “accessibility and affordability” of civil justice.  Out of the 113 nations ranked, the U.S. came in at a woeful 94, nearly thirty slots lower than last year, tying nations like Egypt and Tanzania, and coming in just ahead of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.  Read the full report here.

Posted by: Ray Brescia | October 20, 2016

Access to Justice as a Constitutional Imperative

In November 2017, the voters of the state of New York will decide whether to hold a constitutional convention to revise the state’s constitution.  The New York State Bar Association, in conjunction with the Government Law Center at Albany Law School, recently published a collection of essays on this subject: Making a Modern Constitution: The Prospects for Constitutional Reform in New York, edited by Scott Fein and Rose Mary Bailly.  (Get the book here.)   I was honored to submit a chapter in the collection that explores the legal and policy arguments for an amendment to the state constitution to recognize an explicit right to counsel in civil cases where fundamental human needs are at stake.  Such a constitutional right would be the first recognized in a state constitution in the United States and could lead the way for more states to do the same.  The chapter attempts to articulate the legal and policy arguments for doing so.  Read the chapter here.


In a recently released report, the Brookings Institution highlights the role of Germany’s fifteen largest cities in dealing with the influx of refugees into the country.  As in Germany, U.S. cities are leading the way in coming up with innovative approaches to dealing with immigrants and refugees.  In How Cities Will Save the World: Urban Innovation in the Face of Population Flows, Climate Change and Economic Inequality, one can read the account of the former mayor of New Haven, CT, John DeStefano, as that city tried innovative, welcoming approaches to dealing with new immigrants in the Elm City.

Download the introduction to How Cities Will Save the World here.  Order the book here.

Posted by: Ray Brescia | October 4, 2016

“Uber for Lawyers” Still Needs Lawyers

In Jordan Furlong’s latest piece on, he asks What Makes Uber Tick: And What Can Lawyers Learn from It?  He argues that we are unlikely to see an “Uber for Law” –what he describes as novice/non-lawyers offering legal services in their spare time, like many providers in the so-called sharing economy–any time soon.  At the same time, he asks whether lawyers can learn from what companies like Uber are trying to do: namely make services more accessible and convenient for consumers.  I agree with Jordan that the sharing economy offers some insights into how lawyers can reach more clients in a meaningful and effective way and I also agree that we do not want non-lawyers engaging in the unauthorized practice of law through a sharing economy model.  I explore some of these questions in a piece recently published by the Buffalo Law Review, named, coincidentally, “Uber for Lawyers: The Transformative Potential of a Sharing Economy Approach to the Delivery of Legal Services.”  Download it here.

Posted by: Ray Brescia | October 2, 2016

Law Schools Need to Embrace an Access-to-Justice Mission

There is a profound paradox facing the legal profession and the American public.  Some fear we are educating too many law students at the same time that there are not enough lawyers to go around: eighty percent of low-income individuals and roughly fifty percent of middle-income individuals face their legal problems without a lawyer.  In a piece that is forthcoming in the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy, I argue that law schools should embrace an access-to-justice mission, one that would engage faculty research, teaching, and scholarship to explore this paradox and find ways to close the justice gap.  The piece is still in draft form, but you can read the current version here.

Just before the endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president, and the “unendorsement” of Donald Trump, the New York Times issued a rousing endorsement of a bill in the City Council of the City of New York to guarantee every tenant and homeowner in New York City earning up to 200% of the federal poverty line and facing eviction or foreclosure a right to a lawyer to defend themselves from displacement and homelessness.  Putting aside the terrible human cost of eviction and foreclosure, the fiscal costs are profound, and the Times recognizes the cost to government of providing emergency shelter to tens of thousands of New Yorkers, far more than the cost of paying non-profit legal services providers to represent families.  A recent study of the potential benefits of providing lawyers for low-income tenants shows that a roughly $200 million investment in paying lawyers to represent such tenants facing eviction in New York City would save over half a billion dollars in money spent on shelter for the homeless and the other costs associated with evictions.  The Times recognizes what advocates have been saying for decades: providing funding for lawyers for tenants in housing court and homeowners in foreclosure in New York City, indeed, anywhere, makes good fiscal and moral sense.

For more on the value of a lawyer in eviction proceedings, and the case for representation of low-income tenants and homeowners, read my piece on the subject here.

Posted by: Ray Brescia | August 23, 2016

New Article: Law and Social Innovation

Can law schools teach creativity?  Is improving lawyers’ ability to engage in creative problem solving a useful strategy for improving lawyer effectiveness?  Can the legal profession, and the law schools that educate its members, engage with the threats they face from those outlets that are offering technology-enhanced, commoditized legal services and/or outsourced services?  These are just some of the questions I attempt to address in a new article I am publishing with the Albany Law Review, “Law and Social Innovation,” which is now available for download here.  In it, I explore these and other questions, using Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future as a starting point and foil for the discussion.  Here is a representative passage:

A legal education in the 21st century should not just prepare law students to practice law in the present environment, it must prepare them to work with technology in creative ways that helps those students practice in the rapidly changing market for legal services.  This will require them to embrace technology as a means of delivering legal services in a competent and efficient way, compete with non-traditional providers, and distinguish themselves from non-traditional providers by offering a superior product that satisfies clients’ instrumental as well as non-material needs.

Check it out if you get a moment.  Thoughts/reactions welcome.

Posted by: Ray Brescia | August 15, 2016

Vote for Access to Justice

I am honored to be on a proposed panel for the 2017 South By Southwest (SXSW in the vernacular) conference in which my fellow panelists and I will discuss new models for delivering affordable access to justice, but it needs your vote to become a reality.  Although it takes a few steps, including registering to vote (which is free), please consider voting for this proposed panel discussion to be selected for the 2017 conference.  Follow the links here to register, go to the “search/vote” tab, and then search and vote for the Affordable & Accessible Lawyers, Really? panel.  Thanks!

Today’s article in the New York Times tracks the recent trend of large, multi-national corporations returning to cities as the location of their corporate headquarters.  Companies like McDonald’s and General Electric, to name just two, are relocating to cities.  We’ve known for some time that new economy companies like Zappos have invested in cities as a way to attract talent that would prefer the urban lifestyle.  Even Detroit is having a renaissance of startup companies lured by the low rents and the dynamism of an urban setting.  These developments mean a great deal for urban and regional economic development, but they can also threaten to accelerate gentrification and increase economic inequality.

In our book How Cities Will Save the World: Urban Innovation in the Face of Population Flows, Climate Change, and Economic Inequality, my co-editor, John Travis Marshall, and I, together with our authors from various disciplines, explore some of these issues and help chart out a course for urban innovation to grapple with the changes that are afoot for our urban centers, where seventy percent of the world’s population will live by 2050.

Check out How Cities Will Save the World here.

Please check out my recent piece in Bloomberg news on the disruption happening in the legal industry, a topic I explore in greater depth here and here.

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