In Texas, many go without legal representation despite the dramatic need for it. Civil cases dealing with divorce, custody battles, small business owners, and many others are complex animals that the average citizen can't sort through on their own.
The cost of hiring an attorney, however, is prohibitive.
"It's a huge problem when you think about our basic civil legal needs, shelter, housing, family law issues, most people in America cannot afford a lawyer to represent them. This is a huge crisis," says former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson.
Jefferson, who is now in private practice, is leading a commission for the Texas Supreme Court to look at the so-called "Justice Gap." The Texas Commission to Expand Civil Legal Services is charged with determining the scope of the problem as well as with coming up with possible solutions.
Jefferson says that roughly 20 percent of all people who need a lawyer can't afford one in the state, leaving many without adequate legal representation.
- Wallace Jefferson, former Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, partner at Alexander, Dubose, Jefferson & Townsend LLC
*Disclosure: Lamont Jefferson is a newly elected member of the Texas Public Radio Board of Directors, and the brother of former Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson.