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What works

Over the past 20 years, the Foundation has built a significant and well respected body of knowledge about the legal and access to justice needs of disadvantaged people in NSW. The logical next step for our research program is to identify strategies that will meet that need. Using our A2JLN analysis to prioritise areas for ‘what works’ analysis, the Foundation is building build an evidence base of what is effective to meet these legal and access to justice needs.

In order to do this we are undertaking:
  • systematic reviews of evidence to identify what is currently known about what is effective in assisting people to met their legal needs
  • evaluations of new projects aimed to assist people to access the justice system, in order to learn new lessons.

Published reports and papers
The following publications have been produced as part of the What works program:

What works? Learning from the literature (Justice Issues paper 19)
Funders, policy makers and practitioners seeking to make the best use of available resources often ask the question what works? This paper provides a guide to identifying relevant research and reporting the best available evidence drawn from these studies. The authors identity five steps required to distil relevant and reliable evidence from the plethora of existing research literature.

An evaluation of Legal Aid NSW's Family Law Early Intervention Unit Duty Lawyer Service
The Family Law Early Intervention Unit (EIU) is a state-wide specialist service of Legal Aid NSW, funded under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services (NPALAS). Among other services, the EIU provides duty lawyer services (duty services) in a number of Family Law Courts in New South Wales. At the request of Legal Aid NSW, the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW (the Foundation) examined the role and impact of the EIU duty service at the Parramatta Family Law Courts. The key questions addressed in this report are: who uses the service, how does it differ from the previous service, how does the service assist unrepresented litigants, has the service made a difference, what features contribute to its outcomes and how the service works as an early intervention strategy.

Effectiveness of public legal assistance services: a discussion paper (Justice Issues paper 16)
This paper contends that, in the context of evaluating legal assistance services, effectiveness refers to a causal link between an activity and an outcome. Accordingly, it is only through research designs which allow for precise measurement and isolation of other significant influences on outcomes that effectiveness can be accurately assessed. For this reason, research which involves appropriate sampling and an adequate comparison group will best assess the effectiveness of strategies. Other research methods may best address issues such as those relating to why an activity has succeeded or how well it has been received by clients.

Managing mortgage stress: evaluation of the Legal Aid NSW and Consumer Credit Legal Centre Mortgage Hardship Service
The evaluation process, which culminated in this report, has provided a valuable opportunity for the Foundation to work closely with two key legal assistance agencies to monitor and evaluate strategies and outcomes of a service introduced specifically to assist people in NSW experiencing problems with their mortgage. From this partnership, CCLC and Legal Aid NSW have gained independent and expert assistance in measuring and understanding the impact of their work. The study has provided the Foundation with an excellent opportunity to learn more about what is effective in meeting legal need. It has enabled us to examine the impact of providing prompt and responsive legal assistance and, in particular, to develop research methodologies to assess these types of early intervention strategies.

Outreach legal services to people with complex needs: what works? (Justice Issues Paper 12)
This paper examines outreach legal services to disadvantaged people with complex needs. In undertaking this first systematic review, the Foundation had two purposes:
  • to synthesise the best available evidence on the effectiveness of outreach legal services and the features which contribute to effectiveness
  • to trial and refine a methodology to conduct rigorous systematic reviews of qualitative and mixed method research and evaluation which are common in the field of socio-legal research.
The resulting paper drew together evidence to inform service providers about the features of outreach legal services that increase effectiveness for people with complex needs. It also described for the first time a set of criteria by which qualitative socio-legal research can be assessed for quality and for inclusion in ‘what works’ style investigations.