A2J for the Middle Class – an Invitation

Access to justice applies to everyone. However, most formal access to justice initiatives focus (rightly) on people who are especially vulnerable due to poverty or very low income. IAALS (the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System) has just launched a new, organized network of individuals and organizations across the U.S. and in Canada who are committed to improving A2J for the “middle-class”.

It is called the Above the Line Network (ATLN).

The idea is to create a collaborative community to share ideas, resources and learnings and work together on innovative ways to meet the needs of this group.

It is a BIG group. The ATLN defines this “middle class” as those who earn too much to be eligible for free legal aid services but struggle to find quality and affordable legal services in the current legal market. Specifically, the middle class consists of:

 “..those earning at least 125% of the federal poverty line ($18,225 for an individual in 2023) and up to two times the median household income ($141,568 for an individual in 2023).” (U.S. figures)

They estimate that this group represents more than 50% of the U.S. population. I suspect that the situation is similar in Canada.

BC’s Access Pro Bono Society has been involved in developing the ATLN. Erin Monahan is a member of the ATLN Advisory Committee, and she and Executive Director Jamie Maclaren KC participated in the strategic planning for the initiative. Nice cross-border collaboration!

ATLN is inviting individuals and organizations who directly serve the “middle class” to join the network. The BC Family Justice Innovation Lab Society has signed up, particularly because of our work to raise awareness of, and to promote, unbundled legal services (including legal coaching). Unbundling is one initiative designed for people who can afford to pay something for legal services but cannot afford the full representation model.

We encourage other Canadian individuals and organizations to join and contribute to this important new network.

Read the press release here.

Find out more about the ATLN here.

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