Every year, 8.5 million Australians have a legal problem, and less than half access legal help. This is the justice gap. But legal help is expensive. Wealthy people and corporations can pay for it. In times of vulnerability and difficulty, sometimes people can access services like Legal Aid, and Community Legal Centres. But there are many gaps even for the most vulnerable.
Then, there is a group of people who can rarely access free legal help, but who also struggle to pay for the help they need. This is the ‘missing middle’.
Legal problems can easily cause crises for people affecting their home, family, careers and livelihoods. No one should have to sell their house just to get legal advice on dealing with a dodgy builder. Someone unfairly dismissed and unemployed shouldn’t have to spend their life savings on legal support to challenge their old boss.
We’re stretching our free legal help beyond where it has gone in the past with innovative models that take our work targeted to the most vulnerable, and extend it so that we can assist the missing middle. Technology is one tool that we can use to reach people in the missing middle and help to bridge the justice gap.