According to a 2016 Civil Legal Aid Research Workshop Report from the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Science Foundation, two-thirds of adults face problems that can be resolved through legal intervention. However, many of those in need are unaware that legal remedies exist, and, consequently, they do not access the justice system to seek relief. Identifying that a problem is legal in nature can be the first step to getting legal assistance, and pointing people to the available resources is step two. For those of modest or moderate means, legal aid can sometimes be an option; sliding scale or alternative fee arrangements may be available as well. Depending on individual needs and circumstances, limited scope representation and pro- or low-bono services might also exist. In any case, resources are available, but recognizing the need for legal help and finding the best solutions can be a challenge.
Guiding people to achieve satisfactory legal outcomes using the resources available in their communities is the objective of the ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services. This committee is charged with providing improved access to lawyers and legal services for those of modest or moderate means. Among their many initiatives is a project currently in development to offer online legal checkups that help people recognize when their problems have legal solutions and point them to available resources that address their needs. One such tool, the Legal Checkup for Veterans, is already in place.
Those who access the Veterans Legal Checkup website can identify their legal issues and find clear paths to resolving them quickly, easily, and free of charge. Employment issues, family matters, and housing instability are just a few of the issues that the Veterans Legal Checkup can address. Users are guided through a series of questions regarding jobs, wages, housing, disability, marital status, and child custody arrangements to identify any potential legal needs. Links to resources including social services organizations, veterans affairs offices, and legal aid agencies are provided, along with additional information about what to say, how to prepare, and what to consider when contacting the suggested organizations. By providing this tool for veterans, the ABA is taking action to help a sometimes vulnerable and, unfortunately, under-served population that deserves better. Other "legal checkups" from the ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services are expected to follow in the near future.