NASHVILLE — When we hear about economy boosts in Tennessee, we generally think of revenue generated by local businesses, by tourism, or farming. What we don’t always know is the amount of revenue generated in the legal industry. A newly released report show that civil legal services providers generated $188.6 million in economic impact from cases handled across Tennessee in 2013.
The study also showed that every dollar invested in legal aid produced more than $11 in financial benefits to businesses, local governments and individuals across all social classes.
“This report demonstrates that access to free civil legal representation has a profound impact not only on individual clients served, but also on the state, which receives an economic benefit worth millions of dollars,” TBA President Jonathan Steen said.
The study found that Tennessee’s legal aid organizations produce more than $11.20 in economic impact for every dollar of funding received. And while it is difficult to place a dollar amount on many of the societal benefits that civil legal services programs provide, these organizations also achieve financial outcomes that are readily quantifiable and noteworthy, both to individual clients and to the community.
“A return on investment of more than 11 times the initial cost is truly remarkable,” Steen said.
Among its other key conclusions, the study found that:
• The economic impact provided by the legal services programs included both immediate and long-term benefits.
• Investments in legal aid provided more than $64 million in direct financial benefits to Tennessee residents across all income levels.
• Investments in legal aid provided more than $81 million in unique economic benefits for local communities.
• The provision of legal aid services reduced 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.
• Increasing funding and support for civil legal services should lead to additional benefits for individuals, communities and local and state governments.
The “Economic Impact of Civil Legal Aid Organizations in Tennessee” study was prepared by the Michigan-based research firm The Resource for Great Programs. The report calculated the economic impact of nine of Tennessee’s civil legal aid organizations and then compared that impact to the programs’ funding.
Organizations participating in the study included Tennessee’s four federally funded regional programs: Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Memphis Area Legal Services and West Tennessee Legal Services; as well as the Community Legal Center, Disability Rights Tennessee, Southeast Tennessee Legal Services, Tennessee Justice Center and Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors.