On LawNext: How A New Kind of Justice Worker Could Narrow the Justice Gap, with Nikole Nelson, CEO of Frontline Justice

In November, the organization Frontline Justice launched with the mission of addressing the escalating access to justice crisis by empowering a new category of legal helper, the justice worker. The organization has an ambitious mission: To clear the way for justice workers to exist in all 50 states by 2035.

In pursuit of that mission, it is backed by an impressive founding team that includes Rebecca Sandefur, one of the world’s leading scholars on access to justice (who was on LawNext in 2020); Matthew Burnett, senior program officer for the Access to Justice Research Initiative at the American Bar Foundation (ABF); Jim Sandman, president emeritus of the Legal Services Corporation (on LawNext in 2019); and other notable names.

On this episode of LawNext, host Bob Ambrogi is joined by Nikole Nelson, the CEO of Frontline Justice. Before starting there in November, Nelson had been executive director of Alaska Legal Services Corporation, where she was instrumental in launching a statewide community justice worker project that won the 2019 World Justice Challenge. She was also instrumental in bringing about an Alaska Supreme Court rule change in 2022 allowing justice workers supervised by Alaska Legal Services to provide limited scope legal help in certain situations.

Nelson describes how justice workers helped Alaska Legal Services better serve the legal problems of people across the state’s remotest regions, and how new models of justice workers in other states could similarly help reach those who are not now receiving adequate help for their legal problems. She also recognizes that Frontline Justice faces obstacles in achieving its mission, and she shares her thoughts on how it can overcome them.

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