Attorney Access

Number of Attorneys for People In Poverty

Lawyers are expensive. Even for those who are comfortably middle class, the cost of a lawsuit can cause serious hardship. For people of more modest means, paid counsel is simply out of reach for matters as important as evictions, mortgage foreclosures, child custody and child support proceedings, and debt collection cases. Nor is there a right to counsel in most categories of  civil legal matters.

This visualization shows the performance of each state in terms of the number of attorneys available to provide free legal assistance to low income people in civil legal matters. Performance is based on the number of free attorneys  in each state for every 10,000 low income people. The purpose of this visualization is to show the index for this category, with the ability to filter and compare the index measurements for each state. Here are some ways to start navigating the visualization:
  • Select ‘Top’ (or ‘Bottom’) 5, 10 or 25 states (i.e., the states with the highest (lowest) justice index) by choosing the drop-down filter and the sliding scale at the top right corner of the visualization. To reset the filter, slide the sliding scale back to 50.
  • Filter by Region by checking one or more Region checkboxes near the map.
  • To focus on one (or more) states on the map, click and drag the cursor around the states of interest. Zoom in or out using the ‘+’ or ‘-‘ icons respectively on the top left corner of the map. Reset the map by clicking on the blue colored thumb tack on the top left corner of the map. To un-select states, click on an area of the map outside of the states.
  • The horizontal bars to the right of the map can be filtered by clicking on a single bar or clicking and dragging to select multiple states. To sort the chart, click the sort icon that appears when the cursor hovers near the x-axis of the bar-chart. To reset the chart, click on an area of the chart outside of the bars. 
  • Select one or more states in the ‘Number of Civil Legal Aid Attorneys per 10,000 People in Poverty’ or ‘Index Distribution (Scaled to 100)’ charts by clicking on one or more diamonds. To reset the chart, click on an area of the chart outside the diamonds.
Filters apply simultaneously to all parts of the visualization (e.g., if ‘NY’ is selected in the map, all other charts will be filtered for ‘NY’ only). Multiple filters may be simultaneously applied.
About This Data Visualization

The Justice Index presents the number of attorneys in organizations that condition their provision of direct representation and assistance in civil legal matters on a requirement that prospective clients have income beneath a designated financial cut-off level. Some of the counted organizations set the level at 125% of the federal poverty guidelines, while others set a higher level, for example, 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. On the bubble chart below the map, the Justice Index compares in each state the number of lawyers for the poor (those with income below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines) and the number of lawyers for the general population. The gap - 1 in 8000 vs. 1 in 250 - is a sobering picture of the degree to which income determines the ability of many Americans to tell their story effectively in a court of law.