IAALS Meeting Highlights Experiences of Self-Represented Litigants

On August 20 and 21, the multidisciplinary Honoring Families Initiative (HFI) Advisory Committee convened in Denver. The meeting agenda included in-depth discussion of preliminary data collected over the last several months as part of the HFI Cases Without Counsel (CWC) project. Exploring how self-represented litigants in family court navigate and experience the legal process, CWC is currently underway in four jurisdictions—Multnomah County (OR), Larimer County (CO), Davidson County (TN), and Franklin County (MA)—and data collection is ongoing. 

The Advisory Committee was joined by a handful of other guests from around the country: Bonnie Hough from the Judicial Council of California; Maureen Sheeran from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges; Dan Jackson from Northeastern University School of Law’s NuLawLab, and four self-represented litigants who took part in the study and came to Denver to share their experiences in person. Without exception, each of the self-represented litigant participants commented on how grateful they were for the opportunity to have their voices heard.

Also participating in the discussion were Dr. Julie Macfarlane and Sue Rice of the National Self-Represented Litigants Project—the Canadian research study on which Cases Without Counsel is building. At the conclusion of the two-day meeting, Dr. Macfarlane remarked:

We are very excited to see the final results of the IAALS study and the extent to which those findings and recommendations align with our findings through the National Self-Represented Litigants Project. And, we commend IAALS for including self-represented litigants in the conversation.

Cases Without Counsel was also the topic of conversation at a recent American Bar Association conference on the topic of client-centric legal services, co-sponsored by IAALS, the ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, and the ABA Legal Access Job Corps Task Force.

The final Cases Without Counsel study report is forthcoming in early 2016.