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Gateway Project shows how good design solves legal problems

Gateway Project shows how good design solves legal problems

By Karin Derkley

Access to Justice Technology 


Justice Connect's online triage and referral service the Gateway Project has won the Premier's Design Awards for service design.

The Gateway Project was started in 2017 and allows people to quickly find out if they are eligible for legal help through Justice Connect and apply for help online.

The project was granted the award for its significant social impact, and for its human-centred design approach that drew on the input of hundreds of stakeholders from a range of user groups.

“Every aspect of this service has been meticulously designed with the end users in mind,” Good Design Australia CEO Dr Brandon Gien says. “The service seamlessly connects people and not-for- profits who need legal help to specialist legal services to a pro bono referral network of over 10,000 lawyers.”

Justice Connect head of innovation and engagement Kate Fazio says the project has transformed the way Justice Connect deals with people seeking legal help. It has doubled the number of people the legal help service has been able to support and tripled the volume of its intake from 7000 to 24,000 a year.

The project started with $250,000 of seed-funding from Google to fund a 12 month research and human centred design process.

"Our research showed us that for help-seekers the legal system is confusing and difficult to navigate and that people looking for free legal help regularly have a poor experience of finding and connecting with relevant services," Ms Fazio says.

At the same time, while it was clear that lawyers were wanting to do more pro bono work, the research found that matching up unmet need with lawyers' relevant expertise was time consuming and labour intensive.

To deal with these roadblocks, Justice Connect created a suite of products that included an intelligent online intake and triage tool, a referral tool to direct users to other organisations, and a pro bono portal to connect with a network of 10,000 pro bono lawyers.

All the products were built in-house by Justice Connect’s innovations team, and followed an iterative process of testing and feedback to ensure they met user needs.

Ms Fazio says this process is essential for ensuring the tools work for the people it aims to help. “It can be tempting to think that technology can provide a quick fix to social problems, but unless careful, inclusive research takes place, and an iterative design and development process is followed, technology is unlikely to make a significant impact.

Over the past three years, the intake tool has reduced the time it takes to process requests for help by up to 44% compared to the previous phone-based process, Ms Fazio says. It has also more than tripled the intake volume from 7000 to 24,000 a year.

Justice Connect has also completed a pilot with 14 member firms to co-design a pilot of its Pro Bono Portal. The portal has now been rolled out to 49 member firms, doubling the number of pro bono referrals since last year.

Dr Gien says the project is a model for how good design is centred around solving a challenging problem in a unique and creative way. “It is brilliant to see good design having an impact in this sector that will no doubt make an enormous difference to people’s lives at a time when they need it most.”

“It’s extremely gratifying to see our work and our design approach recognised by the Premier’s Design Awards,” Ms Fazio says. “Our work is being recognised globally, and we are hopeful that this award will highlight the careful research and inclusive co-design that underpins our digital work.”

“While our Gateway Project uses sophisticated technology as a tool, it is fundamentally a project aiming to create better services to help more people.”

The Gateway Project also won a Gold Good Design Award in the Social Impact category earlier this year.

Pictured: Justice Connect Not-for-profit Law director Sue Woodward accepts the award with Innovation Project Lead Tom O'Doherty. (Photo supplied by Justice Connect)

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