US Justice Needs Project Will Tap into Legal Needs for Business as Well as Individuals

December 18, 2019

In partnership with HiiL, the Hague Institute for Innovation of Law, IAALS is conducting a nationwide survey of the legal needs of individuals in the United States over the course of the next year as part of its US Justice Needs project. We hope to highlight the scope of legal problems that people encounter and how they resolve them—be it in court, outside of court, or whether they go unresolved because of the current challenges of access to justice in our country. But what about businesses, too? What are the legal issues facing businesses and how are businesses resolving them? Are they being resolved in our court system, out of court through arbitration, or are some issues going unresolved? 

We want to answer these questions so we can help ensure a legal system that is also responsive to business needs. Small and mid-size business owners struggle with access to justice issues just as individuals do, with real ramifications for their businesses and their communities. While larger corporations have different legal issues and opportunities, they are an important and frequent user of our legal system. Through the US Justice Needs project, IAALS will be surveying businesses, from small to large, so that we can better understand justice needs from the business perspective.

As a first step, in November, IAALS hosted a convening of in-house counsel, together with experts in the area of corporate governance and litigation, to discuss the unique challenges and needs that businesses face in the American civil justice system today. We discussed what businesses need from our legal system at a high level, including timely resolution, consistency and predictability, fairness, transparency, and impartial adjudicators. We also brainstormed specific areas of legal needs, as well as the resolution processes that businesses undertake to resolve those issues. Importantly, we also discussed the positive role that corporations can have in improving access to justice. Ideas ranged from partnerships with outside law firms and pro bono work to utilizing the platform that businesses have to raise awareness of access to justice issues. Amazon’s General Counsel David Zapolsky’s post earlier this year highlighting that justice for all requires more funding and innovation provides an excellent example of a large corporation using its platform to raise such awareness.

We are excited to move forward in the new year with the business survey development and administration, and plan to publish the results of the research in the fall of 2020 at the same time that we release the results of the survey of individuals. It is our hope that the business survey, like the individual survey, will serve as a vital contribution to the conversation around access to justice in order to assure that the solutions are truly addressing the legal problems that businesses of all sizes face.

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