Creating Pathways to Civil Legal Justice, a Self-Paced Course Series

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Too many Americans fall into a wide and deep "justice gap" where they fail to have their civil legal needs met due to low-income and other barriers. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this gap and created a surge in civil legal issues for many people with rising unemployment, housing insecurity, medical debt, concerns of safety and domestic violence, and more. Whatever the reason for a person's civil legal need, access to legal resources and information can make a crucial difference to people who may be at risk of falling into the justice gap. And libraries are a known source of information and resources, as well as a trusted community institution.

Self-paced course helps libraries improve access to civil legal justice

People instinctively turn to the library to find help with crises in their lives. Though legal issues may seem intimidating, library staff are in fact well positioned to help reduce the justice gap. Through understanding the important role of providing reliable information and acknowledging their reference and search skills, library staff can be effective responders to these civil legal crises.

WebJunction’s new series of free, self-paced courses, Creating Pathways to Civil Legal Justice will augment your ability and confidence to meet this need in your community. Created in partnership with Legal Services Corporation (LSC), this online continuing education opportunity aims to empower all library staff to feel more confident about conducting civil legal reference interviews and connecting patrons to important resources and information that can help improve the lives of your community members.

Learning outcomes

There are four courses in the series, featuring subject matter experts from law libraries and legal aid organizations:

  1. The Justice Gap and the US Legal System
  2. Civil Legal Issues and Resources
  3. Partnering with Legal Service Providers
  4. The Legal Reference Interview
By completing the series, you will learn to:
  • Understand the role of public libraries in addressing the justice gap
  • Recognize the difference between legal information and legal advice
  • Conduct the legal reference interview while addressing patron stress and anxiety 
  • Review and strengthen your library’s civil legal reference collection
  • Explore trusted local- and state-specific online self-help resources  
  • Identify and cultivate relationships with local organizations that offer legal aid, legal referrals

As a self-paced course broken down into four stand-alone courses, you can take the courses at your own speed. There is no time limit to complete the courses and you will have access to them for as long as you need. Upon successful completion of each course, you will receive a certificate.

Enroll in courses

Facilitating groups for the Civil Legal Justice courses

While the four Creating Pathways to Civil Legal Justice courses are designed for the individual, self-directed learner, they also can be used as the core learning content for a group learning experience with peers – from a small, self-organized group of a few co-workers at a branch to a larger, multi-system group organized as an ‘official’ training by a system, region or state. Learn more about facilitating a learning group to get the most out of this course series. Then, use the Civil Legal Justice Group Activities guide [PDF, 11 pages], which has discussion questions, group activities, course notes and facilitator tips specific to each of the four courses.

Is it really free?

Yes! WebJunction and Legal Services Corporation have partnered to design and deliver free, national online training.

To find out if this course series is for you, watch this short video to learn more:

To learn more about the project, visit Improving Access to Civil Legal Justice through Libraries, and enroll in the follow-on series of courses, Navigating Civil Legal Issues of Natural Disasters.

This project was made possible in part thanks to financial support from these organizations: