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The outcomes of community legal education: a systematic review, Justice issues paper 18    Cite this report

, 2014 , 20 p.
Community legal education (CLE) has been conducted in NSW for the last 30 years. It aims to raise awareness among community members about the law and legal processes, and improve their ability to deal with the legal system. But CLE programs and strategies vary widely. So what do we know about the effectiveness of CLE? Researchers Ania Wilczynski, Maria Karras and Suzie Forell from the Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales report on a systematic review in this new paper.

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Download paper: Justice issues paper 18: The outcomes of community legal education: a systematic review [PDF, 644kb]

Abstract: This paper reports on a systematic review of research into the effectiveness of face-to-face community legal education (CLE). Due to the very limited availability of research into the effectiveness of CLE (whether CLE causes certain outcomes, over and above other influences) the paper also draws some comparative lessons from the literature on the effectiveness of health education, since this field has a much greater body of methodologically rigorous outcome focused research.

Only two CLE studies, both from North America, met the tight criteria for this review. These two studies provide evidence that CLE – in these cases, education classes for divorcing parents – can change participants’ behaviour in the short to medium term. Looking more broadly, the health education literature suggests that community education may be more effective in producing changes in knowledge and shorter-term, simpler changes in behaviour versus longer-term, more complex behaviours. The review also highlighted some of the factors which may influence the effectiveness of CLE.


    With the considerable assistance of Erol Digiusto, Abigail Gray, Anna Russell and Maureen Ward in searching for literature. The authors also thank Catriona Mirrlees-Black, Meredith Osborne and Richard Moorehead for their comments on an earlier draft.


Wilczynski, A, Karras, M & Forell, S 2014, The outcomes of community legal education: a systematic review, Justice issues paper 18, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney.