University of Denver

ABA Survey Finds Self-Help Legal Centers Flourishing

IAALS Intern

A recent ABA survey report found that self-help legal centers around the nation "are a vibrant and effective resource" to those they serve. The ABA's Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services surveyed approximately 500 self-help centers around the country, on issues such as funding, staffing, and services. Receiving responses from nearly half of those surveyed, the ABA found that self-help legal centers—first established in Maricopa County, Arizona, in the early 1990s—now serve approximately 3.7 million people each year. These centers mostly provide legal service in the area of family law, including child support, domestic violence, and guardianships, but also offer services for landlord/tenant issues, small claims cases, and general civil matters.

Of self-help center referrals to outside resources, 62 percent were to lawyer referral services, 36 percent to pro bono legal services, and 28 percent to lawyers who provide limited task legal services (frequently referred to as unbundled legal services). Of the centers commenting on unbundled legal services, 86 percent indicated that at least some of the people seeking self-help could benefit from these services. At IAALS, we are studying ways to increase awareness and availability of limited task representation to better provide access to legal services to those navigating our family courts.

Riley Combelic is a third-year law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and contributes to IAALS Online. Please direct inquiries about this post to