Yes, I can: subjective legal empowerment

Martin Gramatikov, Robert Benjamin Porter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This Article critically explores the notion of legal empowerment and adds to
the existing efforts to conceptualize and measure legal empowerment. Our thesis is that legal empowerment should be sought not in the process of providing legal solutions but in the subjective self-belief that a person possesses. This belief concerns an individual’s perception of his ability to mobilize the necessary resources, competencies, and energies to solve particular problems of a legal nature. This model rejects the existence of an overall quantity of legal empowerment. People’s beliefs in their abilities to solve legal problems differ by type of problem, distribution of power in important relationships, social support infrastructure, language, and many other factors. We propose a measurement framework in which the model of task-specific subjective legal empowerment is estimated through a probabilistic assessment of perceived capabilities to sort out problems from everyday life, which normally could be resolved with legal means. Validity of the tool is assessed through application to convenience samples of beneficiaries of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) providing legal aid to vulnerable people in Azerbaijan, Mali, Rwanda, Egypt, and Bangladesh. The results suggest that subjective legal empowerment is an observable and measurable psychological state. The major policy implication from this proposed model of subjective legal empowerment is that it could be used as a measurable benchmark for assessing the impact of diverse legal interventions on the subjective legal empowerment of individuals and social groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-199
Number of pages31
JournalGeorgetown Journal of Poverty Law and Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • legal empowerment
  • legal problems
  • law and development


Dive into the research topics of 'Yes, I can: subjective legal empowerment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this