Wednesday 27 March 2019 11:43am
PhD student Louisa Choe has joined the University of Otago Legal Issues Centre (UOLIC) to contribute to the Centre’s work on the availability of free and low cost legal services.
Louisa brings with her a passion for research about social justice and a special interest in vulnerable people’s access to affordable housing and services.
After graduating with degrees in economics and sociology, she conducted a report on youth homelessness for the Methodist Mission. Continuing with this theme, Louisa’s mixed methods PhD, titled Do the poor pay more?, examines the unstable housing experience of people aged 15 to 18, a group she refers to as the “overlooked” in the current housing debate.
Her study, now in its final year, seeks to conceptualize and operationalise the different financial, social, opportunity and emotional costs derived from situations of unstable housing. In 2018, Louisa was awarded the Graduate Essay Prize by the Sociological Association of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Louisa is passionate about participatory research that gives voice to her research collaborators and achieves positive outcomes for them. Her work at the UOLIC is giving her an additional outlet for this desire.
“I find the access to justice issues to be really interesting. We are not only discovering lawyers’ theoretical views, but how these views affect whether they provide low cost services or not.”
Her research involves quantitative analysis of surveys of lawyers about the scope, availability, and accessibility of free and low cost legal services, such as pro bono work. She believes this research could lead to positive changes for people looking for low cost legal help.
“The data appears to show a correlation between how lawyers define pro bono work and whether they have recently provided such services. While we can see that certain perceptions correlate with less provision of low-cost services, the most exciting aspect is that we may be able to identify factors associated with increased provision of low cost legal services. This could help us inform organizations, such as the law society, about practical tips they could give lawyers to encourage them to deliver more free or low-cost services.”