At a time when many people are increasingly appreciating the importance of data, and when civil legal aid programs are increasingly relying on data, the National Center for Access to Justice at Fordham Law School (NCAJ) has undertaken a project with grant support from New York Community Trust to pull together best practices for the civil legal aid field on using data to track and report outcomes obtained for clients. The goal of the project is to develop ideas for tracking data that will help to improve the circumstances of clients and communities. The elements of the project include:
- Surveying and interviewing experts – We are interviewing civil legal aid leaders, civil legal aid funders (in philanthropy and in government), and leaders in fields other than legal aid (for example, health and education) to learn about best practices for using data to track outcomes. We are also using surveys to obtain views of civil legal aid leaders and funders. We are also engaging in dialogue with justice system stakeholders in all settings.
- Reviewing existing models – We are reviewing reports, web sites, indicator sets, and data sets, containing or resulting from tracking of outcomes in civil legal aid programs and in analogous institutions in other fields.
- Producing guidance – We will be providing civil legal aid programs in New York City with materials on best practices for using data to track outcomes. We will be working to identify practices that: a) reduce the burden of using data to track outcomes while increasing the value of the data tracked, b) help programs better distribute their resources internally in ways that improve service to clients and communities, and c) equip programs to demonstrate the value of their work to funders.
- Partnering with a pro bono law firm – NCAJ is partnering on the project with attorneys from the law firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.
- Consulting with an advisory committee – NCAJ has established an advisory committee comprised of the following experts:
— Christine M. Fecko, General Counsel, IOLA Fund of the State of New York
— Bob Gillett, Executive Director, Michigan Advocacy Program
— Rachel Perry, Founder and Principal, Strategic Data Analytics;
— Rebecca L. Sandefur, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Associate Professor, College of Law, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Senior Research Social Scientist, American Bar Foundation; and
— Jessica Steinberg, Associate Professor of Clinical Law, George Washington School of Law.
The National Center for Access to Justice at Fordham Law School relies on data to support policy reforms that help people obtain access to justice in the civil and criminal justice systems. NCAJ created and maintains the Justice Index, using data to help support adoption in the 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico of selected best policies for access to justice. For more information about NCAJ, we hope you will see the Outcomes Project, visit NCAJ’s web site and consider subscribing to NCAJ’s blog.