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The Boston Globe

Ideas

Free legal advice—but does it work?

How do you improve America’s resource-poor network of legal services? Harvard professor James Greiner believes you have to put it to the test.

Almost every morning, staffers at Greater Boston Legal Services arrive at work to find a line of people waiting on the street outside their offices. These people are there because they need help: some because they’re being evicted, others because they’re chasing down child support payments, still others because they’re filing for divorce.

Lawyers are expensive, and for millions of low-income people across the United States, nonprofits like Greater Boston Legal Services offer the best—perhaps the only—chance at professional help. Staffed by civic-minded attorneys and paid for with public money and private donations, these organizations represent our society’s primary mechanism for making sure that when it comes to civil proceedings, all people, including the very poor, are treated equally before the law.

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