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Focus on client promotes fairer legal representation

Everyone has the right to a fair trial. But this right is undermined if you cannot afford legal representation. Legal aid programs help people enact their rights by overcoming social and economic barriers to fair access to legal services. Governments provide this access through dedicated legal aid organisations, which work with limited resources. How can these organisations ensure they make the most of these resources to provide the right services to the people who need them?
Legal Aid NSW clients

Legal Aid NSW provides legal services to socially and economically disadvantaged people across NSW. It delivers close to 1 million client services each year and in 2015-16 provided legal representation in 37,000 matters.

While client satisfaction has been high, Legal Aid NSW recognised a need for greater consistency in its work. Historically, it delivered legal services through separate practice areas without a single, unifying vision. The organisation realised that an increased focus on client needs would provide this vision and improve the quality of its services.

Legal Aid NSW asked ThinkPlace to help develop a Client Service Strategy to put the client at the centre of everything it does. The strategy was to ensure high quality, targeted and consistent services to clients.

To achieve this, we took a co-design approach to strategy development. We worked collaboratively with Legal Aid staff and partners—private lawyers and other community legal organisations who help deliver services—to understand how services are provided.

More importantly, we listened as over 20 clients told us their stories. We spoke with people in advice clinics, courts and prisons, from Blacktown to Bourke, to understand their individual journeys through the justice system.

We asked clients how they found out about legal aid, their ability to access services online, their support networks and what was most important to them throughout their journey.

The clients’ experiences gave us an understanding of their core needs and where the greatest area of support and assistance might be delivered. These insights informed co-design strategy workshops we conducted with Legal Aid NSW’s core design team.

The result was Legal Aid NSW’s Client Service Strategy 2016–2020, which sets out a common vision for transforming the organisation’s services over the next five years. The strategy shifts the delivery of legal aid services from disconnected to holistic, and from one-size-fits-all to differentiated. It strengthens partnerships within justice and social systems to ensure greater continuity of care.

Significantly, the strategy changes legal service delivery from practice-centred to client-centred.

By taking a client-centred, co-design focus, Legal Aid NSW’s strategy will provide streamlined access to legal services to match clients' legal needs and social circumstances.

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