Legal Aid: Implications and Effects on Living Standards of Disadvantaged Communities – Focus on India and the United States
By Ali Al Momar, Sonia Ahluwalia, Kwesi Awotwi, Gumbee Kim, Juhyuk Lee, Karina McLean, Juliea Densen, Lijing Wang
Legal aid is the provision of professional legal services to those who otherwise would not be able to access such services due to their financial conditions. In this paper, we study relevant literature and focus on the comparison of multiple aspects of the impact that free legal aid has on under-resourced communities in the United states and India. The issues we focused on were housing, poverty and employment, healthcare, and crime. Based on the analysis of more than 60 peer-reviewed journal articles and books, we argue that legal aid has positively impacted the life of underprivileged groups in both India and in the US in all aspects. Legal aid has been used as a tool to fight against housing discrimination, to allow disadvantaged communities to seek and have access to health care services more freely, to provide important services to the poor, and to empower those who have been systematically discriminated against to have access to judicial remedies. We also conclude that the circumstances and legal needs of individuals in the two countries are different. India shows more initiatives to provide legal aid compared to the United States. However, both countries are evidently in a situation where legal aid supply falls short of demand. Thus, we recommend that both governments prioritize the expansion and promotion of legal service organizations. Moreover, we hope that pro bono services will not only be promoted in both countries, but also worldwide. Through access to legal remedies, individuals who do not have the means to afford legal representation can ensure that their rights are safeguarded which may result in improved living conditions.