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Best Practice

Vol. 14, Nos. 1&2

On Delivery of Legal Assistance to Older Persons

March 2005

Contents Click here to download March 2005 Best Practice Notes

(March 2005 Best Practice Notes is in PDF format and may take a moment to load.)
  • Assessing Legal Needs of Older Persons: A General Primer
  • A Guide to Conducting a Legal Needs Survey
  • Checklist -- Legal Needs Survey
  • Worksheet -- Planning a Legal Needs Survey


Our society holds as a basic tenet that all persons shall be assured equal access to our system of justice. Nonetheless, there are multiple indicators pointing to the fact that many of our nation's most vulnerable elders have limited access to legal services and thus to the system of justice. In spite of the many indicators of unmet legal needs, we currently have very little data to show the extent and significance of that need. Without hard data to show the numbers of older persons with unmet needs and the types of legal issues with which they need assistance, it is extremely difficult to make the case for increased funding to help meet the need. This has been demonstrated time and again in reauthorizations of the Older Americans Act dating back to 1978. As we move into another reauthorization cycle, there is a critical need to gather reliable data on legal needs -- especially of the poor and most vulnerable among the nation's elders. Thus TCSG is delighted to present this issue of Best Practice Notes which is dedicated entirely to the vital topic of assessing legal needs of older persons. We hope it will provide encouragement and valuable guidance -- particularly to state units on aging and their legal services developers -- for undertaking a legal needs assessment. It first provides a "Primer" on legal needs surveys. It then highlights a very valuable needs survey completed recently in Utah, and provides a guide to how others might replicate or adapt the Utah model. The Center for Social Gerontology is committed to helping states who plan to move forward with a legal needs assessment. Contact TCSG for information about limited technical assistance that might be available.

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The Center for Social Gerontology, Inc.
A National Support Center in Law and Aging
2307 Shelby Avenue  Ann Arbor, MI  48103
Tel: (734) 665-1126  Fax: (734) 665-2071