All three countries provide some degree of civil and criminal legal aid to their citizens. However, the types of assistance provided and the sources of assistance vary widely between the three nations. The Netherlands case study examines recent reforms to the civil legal aid system, which overhauled the divide between government-provided and privately-provided legal assistance. The U.S. case study similarly focuses on the public/private divide, addressing both the U.S. government’s approach to civil and criminal legal assistance and the leading role of civil society and academia facilitating access to justice. Singapore provides a third example of the division of legal services between the government and private providers.
The Netherlands, the U.S, and Singapore all face similar challenges regarding the funding and staffing of legal aid services, and the quality of the services provided. All three countries also demonstrate useful and practical approaches to these challenges. The Netherlands case study is perhaps most informative as an example of a successful government-driven approach to reform, while the U.S. exemplifies creativity outside the government in addressing legal aid needs. Lastly, Singapore demonstrates a rapidly-evolving approach to the challenges faced by a changing society.
Following the three country case studies, this section will discuss community mediation, an alternative dispute resolution “ADR” mechanism that has been utilized successfully to provided legal aid in many regions and countries.