Showing the huge value and potential of a coherent communications strategy for the legal aid world (broadly defined to include both community-based and court-based legal aid) the New York Times on Saturday published its first real comprehensive article on the changes occurring in the sector.
Instead of the usual stuff on the extent of the problems, the article goes into a broad range of innovations, including the potential of self-help services and non lawyer advocates, and the Shriver Pilots in California, as well as the civil Gideon push.
While everyone should read the whole thing — if only to know what may now be much more in other people’s consciousness — I want to draw attention to a few points.
- This article shows the huge value of the communications initiative funded by the Public Welfare Foundation and Kresge. Congratulations to Voices for Civil Justice and the funders, as well as those mentioned and/or who helped. (I understand that this was a collaborative effort.)
- The article also shows the strength and effectiveness of pointing to innovations and successes, rather than just the endless litany of funding complaints.
- The article shows the value of a comprehensive approach, far more appealing to the lay reader or policy person.
- The article represents an important step in moving public perception about the meaning of “legal aid” to including court as well as community based components.
- One thing still missing is attention to the need to simplify the underlying court processes, and the extent to which much broader of these innovations can lay the groundwork for this — but that is for another day. (Note: I stand corrected. There is an excellent quote from Deborah Rhode on this very topic.)
- Hopefully the article, together with Voices, will help persuade the legal aid community and the bar about the value of this comprehensive approach, and get away from a focus only on traditional lawyer-centric approaches.
Its a good step forward for the way the world sees us, and should also teach us a lot about messaging.