Co-designing a better, digital legal future

24 Jul 2018

After 25 years of helping people access justice, Justice Connect is working to scale its impact. Millions of Australians have legal problems each year and do not access help. Justice Connect and its network of pro bono lawyers want to do more to assist.

Traditionally, when a service model involves helping people, scaling involves finding more people to do the helping. For us, this means more staff at Justice Connect processing requests for assistance and placement with lawyers. With funding for legal services scarce, this is difficult and costly. So over the last year, we have been looking at different strategies to make the most of our fantastic people – Justice Connect’s staff and network of pro bono lawyers – so that their work can have the biggest impact. In particular, we’ve been looking to digital innovation strategies. How can legal technology improve access to justice?

In late 2016, we were a finalist in the Google Impact Challenge, proposing an online Legal Help Gateway. The Gateway is a platform to help Justice Connect efficiently match people and organisations with the lawyers who can help them, as well as self-help resources and links to other agencies. It’s legal technology designed to not only reach more people, but also ensure that our most vulnerable clients connect with intensive legal help quickly and efficiently. We received $250,000 in seed funding from Google.org to start work on our idea. We’ve started down a path of transformation. By doing things differently, we can reach more people, in more ways, and in more places.

14 CO-DESIGN SESSIONS

228 SURVEY RESPONSES

756 POST-IT NOTES

13 HELP SEEKERS’ INPUT

Our bold vision is that Justice Connect will be accessible for people needing help, for workers that want to find the right help for their clients, and for organisations that need help for themselves. We will have guided online entry points that make understanding our services and whether we can help clear and easy. Applying for the help of a lawyer will be quick and transparent. We will have self-help tools to build peoples’ understanding of their issue, and where they sit in a complicated system. These tools will free up our time so we can provide intensive support to vulnerable clients.

Technology will help us leverage pro bono too. With better systems tracking availability and interest within our pro bono network, we can allocate matters efficiently and help more lawyers contribute pro bono work more easily.  In 2017, we’ve started co-designing our Gateway by involving all its future users in our design process. We’ve held 14 workshops, involving clients, community legal centres, courts, Legal Aid Commissions, regulators, social services organisations, law firms, barristers and our staff. They have helped us understand peoples needs and frustrations, along with the best opportunities to add value to Justice Connect’s work using legal technology.

We’re excited about our digital future. We’re excited about the extra people and organisations we’ll reach, the time we’ll free up for our staff, and the extra hours of pro bono that we’ll unlock to increase the number of people we can help. This way, we’ll ensure well have the capacity to provide intensive support to people when they’re most vulnerable.