Crime Victims and Their Unmet Civil Legal Needs: Pro Bono Service Provision Among Private Attorneys

Published date01 April 2019
Date01 April 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Crime Victims and
Their Unmet Civil
Legal Needs: Pro
Bono Service
Provision Among
Private Attorneys
Leah E. Daigle1
Michelle N. Harris1
Sadie J. Mummert2
Crime victims often experience a host of negative consequences. In relation to
these consequences, crime victims may also find themselves in need of assistance
from the criminal justice system and civil legal service providers. Despite this
need, crime victims often lack access to civil legal services. One way to potentially
improve the availability and accessibility of civil legal services for crime victims is
to increase the provision and availability of pro bono services; however, the way
that attorneys perceive pro bono service for crime victims may be an impediment
to service provision. Despite this, little is known about how private attorneys
view pro bono work with crime victims. We examine how private attorneys view
pro bono work with crime victims, the barriers to this service and what may
incentivize them to engage in this work by utilizing data from a project assessing
the civil legal needs of crime victims in the state of Georgia (USA). We find that
a relatively small proportion of private attorneys in Georgia engage in pro bono
work with crime victims. Barriers and incentives to pro bono service engagement
and implications are discussed.
Victims, pro bono, civil legal needs
Journal of Victimology
and Victim Justice
2(1) 26–46, 2019
2019 National Law
University Delhi
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/2516606918819293
Criminal Justice and Criminology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA,
Corresponding author:
Leah E. Daigle, Criminal Justice and Criminology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30302, USA.
Daigle et al. 27
The negative consequences of crime victimization are well established. Many vic-
tims experience monetary loss, physical injury and/or psychological problems.
For instance, being victimized increases risk for posttraumatic stress disorder,4
depression,5 anxiety,6 substance abuse7 and revictimization.8 Because of these
consequences, crime victims may also find themselves in need of assistance from
the criminal justice system, social service agencies and civil legal service providers.
Although the criminal justice and victimology fields have given much attention to
the first two types of service providers, less has been given to the function of civil
legal providers in crime victims’ lives.
Broadly, civil legal services encompass problems that are non-criminal and
help individuals with basic necessities such as healthcare, housing, government
benefits, employment and educational services.9 As it relates to crime victims,
they may need assistance with filing temporary and permanent protective orders,
immigration issues, housing issues, divorce and child custody, and addressing
credit issues. Consider a woman who has been the victim of intimate partner vio-
lence. She may want to secure a temporary protective order but not have the
capacity to do so. She may also want to separate or divorce her abuser—again, she
may find that she does not have the ability to navigate this civil legal issue. What
she may need is assistance from a civil legal provider—help with document
creation and filing, representation in court or simply just legal advice.
This assistance may come in the form of paid legal representation, federally
funded legal assistance (e.g., legal aid) or through attorneys providing pro bono
(e.g., legal services performed without a fee or at a reduced cost) legal services
sometimes in coordination with programmes like legal aid. Despite these
resources, many people do not qualify for federally funded legal assistance, yet
also cannot afford to hire an attorney, thus creating a gap in justice accessibility.10
In addition, the resources that are available are, generally, unable to handle the
demand. For example, in some rural counties, there may be a lack of private attor-
neys and no accessible civil legal programmes (State Bar of Georgia Pro Bono
4 J. H. KampHuis, p. m. EmmElKamp & a. BartaK, Individual Differences in Post-traumatic Stress
Following Post-intimate Stalking: Stalking Severity and Psychosocial Variables, 42 Br. J. Clin.
psyCHol 145–56 n.2 (2003).
5 J. C. CampBEll, J. KuB, r. a. BElKnap & t. n. tEmplin, Predictors of Depression in Battered Women,
3 Viol. against WomEn 271–293 n.3 (1997).
6 s. B. plitCHta & m. FaliK, Prevalence of Violence and Its Implications for Women’s Health,
11WomEns HEaltH issuEs 244–258 n.3 (2001).
7 a. i. CoKEr, K. E. DaVis, i. arias, s. DEsai, m. sanDErson, H. m. BranDt & p. H. smitH, Physical
and Mental Health Effects of Intimate Partner Violence for Men and Women, 23 am. J. prEVEnt. mED
260–268 n.4 (2000).
8 C. C. ClassEn, o. g. palEsH & r. aggarWal, Sexual Revictimization: A Review of the Empirical
Literature, 6 trauma Viol aBusE 103–129 n.2 (2005).
9 unitED statEs DEpartmEnt oF JustiCE, CiVil lEgal aiD 101 | atJ | DEpartmEnt oF JustiCE (2017),
available at (last accessed 9 August 2017).
10 oFFiCE For aCCEss to JustiCE oF tHE u.s. DEpartmEnt oF JustiCE, FiVE-yEar anniVErsary oF
aCComplisHmEnts (U.S. Department of Justice, 2015).

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