The Transformation of Legal Aid: Comparative and Historical Studies

The Transformation of Legal Aid: Comparative and Historical Studies

The Transformation of Legal Aid: Comparative and Historical Studies

The Transformation of Legal Aid: Comparative and Historical Studies


Publicly funded legal aid has undergone rapid change in this century. Developing from charity to large scale, publicly funded schemes, legal aid flourished in many western countries in the 1960s and 1970s. But, during the 1980s governments began to lose faith in publicly funded legal aid. In the 1990s major funding and eligibility cuts have occurred in Sweden, England and Wales, the USA, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. To answer the need for a better understanding of the extraordinary rise and fall of legal aid, this book brings together contributions from the leading international scholars in the field. Researchers from north America, Europe and Australia examine the origins of modern legal aid, analyse its recent rapid decline and consider its likely future. This collection of original studies does not, however, merely describe legal aids changing fortunes. The contributors also apply legal and social science perspectives to analyse and theorise about legal aid. In particular, rather than describe developments in individual societies, the contributors compare legal aid across societies to develop important insights including legal aids relationship with the legal profession, welfare states and legal families. This book will be embraced by all those interested in legal aid.


This book has been a genuinely global production. Not only have eleven people contributed from eight different countries, but the editorial work has been distributed between Australia, Scotland and England. Wthout e-mail the book would simply not have been possible.

The contributors are all members of an offshoot of the isa Research Committee on the Sociology of the Legal Profession. This Research Committee, chaired by Rick Abel of ucla and Philip Lewis of All Souls College, Oxford, produced the Lawyers in Society trilogy (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989). Thereafter the Committee spawned a series of sub-groups including the Legal Aid and Legal Services group.

In the past five years the Legal Aid group has pursued three objectives. the first has been to conduct genuinely comparative studies of legal aid in developed western jurisdictions. Cyrus Tata discusses one such study--on criminal legal aid expenditure--in Chapter 6 where he also talks about the benefits and problems with this kind of work.

Secondly, members of the Group have taken part in a series of conferences with senior policy-makers from the leading legal aid jurisdictions. the conferences in the Hague (1994), Edinburgh (1997) and Vancouver (1999) grappled with the common problems confronting highly developed legal aid programmes and examined the options available to legal aid policy makers and reformers. It has, to date, been an unusually fruitful process of collaboration between these two groups who otherwise have few opportunities to learn from each other.

Finally, members of the group have worked on this volume of comparative, historical, and thematic essays. the monograph eschews the traditional formula for comparative works where a series of national reports are combined with two or three chapters in order to integrate the often disparate content. Instead, in this collection we have sought to include comparative elements, to some extent, within all the chapters, to try to understand better this complex and rapidly changing phenomenon. How far we have succeeded is for the reader to judge.

I commend this research to you, warts and all. I have no doubt it will be developed further in the future but I am also sure it extends what we know about and how we understand legal aid. I believe, also, that it demonstrates the value of an international group of scholars conducting related research. I look forward to an opportunity in the future to present further research by the Legal Aid and Legal Services Group.

Glasgow, 1999 Professor Alan Paterson Chair, Legal Aid and Legal Services Group . . .

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