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Community legal education and information: model priorities and principles, Justice issues paper 25    Cite this report

, 2017 , 4 p.
The research evidence on legal need, and on effective service delivery to address that need, provides clear direction for planning effective community legal education and information (CLEI). This paper summarises that evidence and describes the service context for CLEI. It then provides the model priorities and principles that can be adapted by organisations or jurisdictions to best suit their context.

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Model priorities and principles

Download paper: Community legal education and information: model priorities and principles, Justice issues paper 25 [PDF, 389KB]

Community legal education and information
Model priorities and principles for planners and providers
CLEI is part of a ‘toolkit’ of legal assistance service strategies provided to help people identify, understand and deal with their legal problems. Rather than being a standalone strategy, CLEI often supports or links users to other forms of assistance, such as legal advice or minor assistance. Or CLEI may help people to and through dispute resolution options. In each jurisdiction there will also be a range of agencies that provide CLEI. Effective CLEI is planned in the context of this broader service environment.

The following evidence-based priorities and principles can be adapted to best suit your context.

Stated priorities assist decision-making about whether to develop or select a CLEI strategy over any another option.
Priority is given to evidence-informed CLEI:
• that supports broader priorities (e.g. of the program, policy or organisation)
• that links with other strategies to address these priority issues or needs
• that does not already exist in an appropriate format for this topic, target group and to achieve this specific purpose
• to which [the organisation] brings unique skills, expertise or resources
• that is the most appropriate and cost-effective way to address the issue.

Principles underpin best practice CLEI as one of the range of strategies used by legal assistance services to help people understand and protect their legal rights.
1. CLEI is targeted and client-centred
CLEI is targeted to a clearly defined audience or user group (e.g. the broader community, core clients, community workers or problem noticers) and is focused on what each audience needs.
2. CLEI is appropriate to the target audience
The format and content of the CLEI is appropriate to:
• the needs of the intended audience
• their capability to address that need
• their cultural background and context
• their circumstances.
The use of technology is appropriate to the user.
3. CLEI has a clear and realistic purpose
CLEI is central to assisting people to identify and address legal issues but may not alone solve a problem. Recognising this, the intent of the CLEI is modest and clearly expressed, whether to let people know an issue has a legal solution, to let people know where to get help or to help people to draft a letter to resolve a dispute.
A realistic purpose takes account of what the problem is, the capability of the user, the complexity of the resolution process and how the resource may contribute to a person resolving the problem.
4. CLEI is timely and accessible
CLEI is provided at a time and place where it can have the most impact and is accessible to those who need it. CLEI may be provided ‘just in time’ in response to immediate need or ‘just in case’ to help people identify issues as ‘legal’ issues that can be resolved, to raise awareness about potential problems and to encourage and support preventative action. Again, consider for whom ‘just in time’ or ‘just in case’ information may be most appropriate.
5. CLEI is joined-up
CLEI is developed to be part of a continuum of service. It is linked to other strategies as appropriate to help people resolve their legal problems. For instance, CLEI may be an important part of an outreach advice service or it may direct people where to go next to resolve their problem.
6. CLEI meets an unmet need
Noting that many organisations produce CLEI resources, CLEI is developed to complement (not duplicate) existing resources and where appropriate, is developed collaboratively. Before developing new resources, investigate whether materials already exist on this topic for this audience and to achieve the same end.
7. Planned, tested, monitored and evaluated
CLEI resources and events are user-tested for access and usability. Access concerns how target users will find this resource, where and when they need it. Usability concerns the utility of the resource to help the target user to take the next step (as defined by the purpose of the CLEI).
CLEI is planned, monitored and, where appropriate, evaluated to ensure that it is consistent with best practice and providing the assistance intended.

Related publications

Community legal education and information at Legal Aid NSW: activities, costs and future planning, July 2015 [PDF, 5MB]

Community legal education and information at Legal Aid NSW: activities, costs and a framework for planning, Updating Justice, no. 49, November 2015

Beyond great expectations: modest, meaningful and measurable community legal education and information, Justice issues paper 21, December 2015


Forell, S and McDonald, H M 2017, Community legal education and information: model priorities and principles, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney.