Technology innovation to close the Justice Gap

3 October 2016
Justice Connect is going to close the justice gap for tens of thousands of people who need help

Legal problems are life problems.

When people miss out on legal help, we know that a cascade of problems often follow – financial, health, housing and more. When people need legal help and cannot access it, that's the justice gap. And the gap is growing.

Funding for community legal centres and Legal Aid is being reduced while many people who aren’t eligible for Legal Aid can’t afford a lawyer. Australia's community organisations also struggle to access affordable legal help. Justice Connect already carefully matches many people and community organisations with free legal help from its network of over 10,000 lawyers – Australia’s largest. But this matching takes time, and Australia's pro bono lawyers are ready to do more. 

Justice Connect was selected as one of 10 finalists in the Google Impact Challenge for our Legal Help Gateway - a project that use technology to transform the way that we reach and connect tens of thousands of Australians, and tens of thousands of community organisations with free, high quality, legal help. Justice Connect has received $250,000 from Google.org to make the Legal Help Gateway a reality.

The Legal Help Gateway will include:

  • an online guided application process for those seeking legal help ( there will always be a phone alternative), which will lead to a semi-automated triage and eligibility assessment process. Once eligibility is determined, algorithms will make recommendations about pro bono lawyers who are available and appropriate for matching with the client;
  • profiles for each pro bono lawyer/law firm, with up-to-date data captured on capacity to assist, areas of expertise, geography and jurisdictions, which can be logged and updated by lawyers and/or Justice Connect staff. Lawyers will be able to choose how to receive requests for their assistance, and will also be able to browse unplaced requests for help and express interest in taking on matters;
  • direction to self-help tools for those not eligible for one-to-one assistance from a lawyer (we have already built these tools for community organisations and we will work on building out a suite of tools for individuals on common legal issues);
  • opportunities for community legal centres to connect with pro bono lawyers; and
  • sophisticated data management and reporting capabilities to identify data trends, efficiently collate and aggregate information to deepen insights gained through monitoring and evaluation, and to assist lawyers to track their pro bono contributions.

The outcomes and impacts of the Legal Help Gateway will be:

  • improved access to legal help for people who cannot afford the help of a lawyer, community legal centres, and for not-for-profit organisations, with significantly more people and organisations provided with legal assistance (we estimate that we will help 3 times as many people once our Gateway is launched both through increasing the number of people that we are able to match with pro bono lawyers, and through increasing the number of people that we direct to self-help resources);
  • search costs and stress reduced for those seeking legal help;
  • increased participation in pro bono by lawyers and firms, with more pro bono hours available across Australia through reducing barriers to taking on pro bono matters, and providing ability to express interest when unexpected patches of capacity to assist arise; and
  • efficiency gains that will release Justice Connect staff time to focus on reaching and helping the most vulnerable, hard-to-reach clients. 

The Legal Help Gateway will break down the financial and time barriers that stand between people and the pro bono lawyers who are ready to help, allowing us to match more people with more pro bono lawyers more quickly than ever before. Best of all, we'll share what we learn and develop with other legal referral organisations to help them make more matches too. 

The Gateway project will happen between 2017 and 2019. We are looking for further partners to support us to undertake this transformative work. 

For project enquiries: contact Kate Fazio, Manager of Digital Innovation Strategies, kate.fazio@justiceconnect.org.au

For media enquiries: contact Ed Butler, Communications Manager, ed.butler@justiceconnect.org.au, 03 8636 4476