This article is the first to explore legal needs in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas – a region that is predominantly Latinx and has both rural and urban characteristics. There are few legal needs assessments of majority Latinx communities, and none that examine needs in areas that are also U.S. border communities. Access to justice studies often overlook this area of the U.S. and this segment of the population despite their unique qualities. Latinos are projected to constitute the largest ethnic group in the country by 2060, making it imperative that we study access to justice-related assets, needs, opportunities, and barriers that currently exist within majority-Latinx communities. Legal needs assessments are a first step to legal service innovation, public education campaigns, and legal reform. Such assessments will help us to effectively address access to justice concerns.
The piece also considers efforts to start a law school in the region and connects it to the importance of developing institutions of legal education in underserved communities. This article’s analysis centers on the experiences of Rio Grande Valley residents, through surveys, focus groups and oral history methodologies. It charts a course of study that can be followed in other regions to rethink the provision of legal services. Through its empirical and historic evaluation of legal needs, the article offers an example of how to capitalize on an area’s cultural and linguistic strengths to increase communities’ understanding of legal rights and responsibilities. It hopes to expand discussion on access to justice, legal innovation, and legal service investment in expanding majority Latinx communities within the U.S.
Luz Herrera, Amber Baylor, Nandita Chaudhuri & Felipe Hinojosa,
Evaluating Legal Needs,
Notre Dame J. L. Ethics & Pub. Pol'y
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/3322