Access to Justice Boosts Tennessee Economy

State's Legal Assistance Organizations Generate Over $188 Million in Economic Impact

The Tennessee Bar Association's Access to Justice Committee and the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative released the results of a report on the study of the economic impact of the work of civil legal assistance providers across the state. The study, Economic Impact of Civil Legal Aid Organizations in Tennessee found that $188.6 million in positive financial impact was generated from cases handled in 2013 alone. Civil legal assistance programs in Tennessee work with low-income and vulnerable populations, but the study demonstrated that investing in these programs provides benefits to more than just the direct client population, with every dollar invested in legal aid producing over $11 in financial benefits, extending to businesses, local governments and individuals across all social classes.

Analyzing data from the providers to measure the economic impact of their work, the study found that free legal representation helped Tennesseans gain direct access to over $64 million in both immediate and long-term financial awards, saved $42.6 million in community expenditures and provided over $81 million in benefit to communities through federal dollars, other investment and an overall ripple effect.

The study found that Tennessee’s legal aid organizations produce over $11.20 in economic impact for every dollar of funding they receive and while it is difficult to place a dollar amount on many of the societal benefits that civil legal services programs produce, these organizations also achieve financial outcomes that are readily quantifiable and noteworthy, both to individual clients and to the community. A brief overview of the study is also available.

Other Key FIndings from the Tennessee Study:
  • Positive economic impact includes both immediate and long-term benefits, with over $64 million in direct financial benefits for Tennessee residents
  • Legal aid reduces burdens on state budgets and local communities and helped save $42.6 million in community expenditures in the areas of emergency shelter, foreclosure and domestic violence
  • Investments in legal aid produce positive economic effects for residents of all income levels
  • Provided over $81 million in unique economic benefits for local communities across the state from federal dollars and the resulting economic multiplier effect
  • Increasing funding and support for civil legal services should create additional benefits

The economic impact study was prepared for the TBA Access to Justice Committee and the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Initiative by Michigan-based research firm The Resource for Great ProgramsThe report calculated the economic impact of nine of Tennessee’s civil legal aid organizations, including regional and statewide programs, and compared these impacts to the programs’ funding to quantify the study results. Organizations participating in the study include Tennessee's four federally-funded regional programs: Legal Aid of East Tennessee, West Tennessee Legal Services, Memphis Area Legal Services and the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands as well as Southeast Tennessee Legal Services, Community Legal Center, Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors, Disability Rights Tennessee and Tennessee Justice Center.

2015-TN-Final Report Package_Consolidated Statewide_3-18-2015.pdf424.93 KB
ATJ2015-Economic_Impact-Summary-March18.pdf55.33 KB
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