Civil Justice
"When you sue someone in civil court to seek compensation because someone has caused you harm, then you’re seeking civil justice."
Center for Justice & Democracy at New York Law School
 
The Civil Legal Justice Gap
86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans in 2017 received inadequate or no legal help.
Legal Services Corporation, Justice Gap Report, June 2017

Barriers to civil legal justice disproportionately affect low-income people in the US, creating the justice gap—the  divide between the civil legal needs of low-income people and access to the resources to meet those needs. Public libraries are well-positioned to help reduce this gap.

WebJunction is offering a series of self-paced courses that will strengthen public library staff’s knowledge and ability to help identify when there is a civil legal issue at play and how to direct library users to relevant, helpful information and services.

This four course series covers:

  • Understanding the role of public libraries in addressing the justice gap
  • Recognizing the difference between legal information and legal advice
  • Conducting the legal reference interview; addressing patron stress and anxiety 
  • Reviewing and strengthening your library’s civil legal reference collection
  • Exploring trusted local- and state-specific online self-help resources  
  • Identifying and cultivating relationships with local organizations that offer legal aid, legal referrals

Mellon Foundation, LSC  Corp, SCE Foundation and OCLC logos

Format: Self-paced Course
Developed by: WebJunction, in collaboration with Legal Services Corporation
Length: 2 hours

Overview

In the four lessons of this course you will learn about the civil legal justice gap in the United States, the complexities of our legal systems and procedures, the role that public libraries can play by providing access to legal information and resources to their communities, and how to provide that information without straying into the prohibited activity of offering legal advice.

Learning Objectives
Learners successfully completing this course will be able to:

  • Describe the scope and impact of the civil legal justice gap and the role public libraries can play in addressing it 
  • Provide appropriate legal information to patrons while recognizing and avoiding crossing the line into legal advice
  • Describe the 51 US legal systems, three types of primary law, and the distinction between civil and criminal legal issues

Format: Self-paced Course
Developed by: WebJunction, in collaboration with Legal Services Corporation
Length: 2 hours

Overview
In this course you will learn in more detail how to identify when a patron’s problem may have a civil legal solution. We will look at the most common types of civil legal issues and the kinds of real-world situations where they occur. Then we will turn to finding and evaluating legal resources as part of managing a legal resource collection appropriate for your library. That process includes finding a range of authoritative primary and secondary resources for your specific location that meet your community’s needs. We will also learn about evaluating and choosing between physical and online resources.

Learning Objectives
Learners successfully completing this course will be able to:

  • Identify the most common types of civil legal issues that people are likely to experience
  • Prepare a legal reference collection specific to the library’s location and local community needs
  • Evaluate the accuracy, relevance, and currency of online and print legal resources

Format: Self-paced Course
Developed by: WebJunction, in collaboration with Legal Services Corporation
Length: 2 hours

Overview
In this course you will learn about the range of legal assistance options, how to find the providers who are available in your location, and finally how you might go about partnering with them to better serve your community's civil legal needs.

Learning Objectives
Learners successfully completing this course will be able to:

  • Describe the range of legal assistance options that might be available to individuals experiencing civil legal issues
  • Provide a legal referral appropriate to the patron’s situation and circumstances
  • Identify and establish positive relationships with organizations offering legal aid, information, and referrals to individuals in your location

Format: Self-paced Course
Developed by: WebJunction, in collaboration with Legal Services Corporation
Length: 3 hours

Overview
This course focuses on the core skill set necessary to conduct a successful legal reference interview. You will learn how to navigate the barriers of legal inexperience alongside the emotional stakes experienced by the patron/interviewee to identify and address the relevant legal issues and point the interviewee to the best source of the answer or further help. In this process we will identify the ways in which a “legal reference interview” requires both the skills and knowledge common to any reference interview, in addition to being able to address stress and anxiety among patrons dealing with legal issues Identifying the specific legal issue, source of applicable law, and best reference for the patron

Learning Objectives
Learners successfully completing this course will be able to:

  • Recognize and address patron stress related to their legal issues and the personal circumstances behind them
  • Identify a patron’s specific legal issue through the legal reference interview process
  • Identify the applicable body of law, secondary reference source, and specific legal reference material that addresses a patron’s issue