Imperfect Duty: Lawyers’ Obligation to Foster Access to Justice


  • Alice Woolley



Access to justice is an integral component of the legal system. However, the question of upon whose shoulders the obligation of ensuring this access should fall has been widely debated. In particular, do lawyers, as part ofthe legalprofession, have a special obligation to foster access to justice?
In this article, the author explores the legitimacy of various arguments with respect to whether lawyers should carry this obligation to a greater extent than other members of society. The author begins by critiquing the traditional arguments related to imposing such an obligation on lawyers — for instance, the refined monopoly arguments. She then goes on to critically consider an alternative argument: that imperfections in the marketfor legal services justify the existence of a special obligation for lawyers. An examination of the limitations of this justification follows. Overall, the author concludes that while the arguments arising from imperfections in the legal market offer the best justification for seeing lawyers have a special obligation to ensure access tojustice, the claims from the argument are modest ones, and any policy response in furtherance of such an obligation should be similarly modest.