Making Legal Systems Accessible to Non-Lawyers
27 February 2019
Legal support services are a critical lifeline, especially for those most in need. The legal services system is complex – doubly so for underrepresented communities.
Founded in 2014, Legal Link is a non-profit that aims to remove legal barriers that prevent low-income individuals from building pathways out of poverty.
In 2015, Legal Link piloted a simple website, “Project Legal Link,” providing curated information about legal service providers, such as immigration and family law non-profits. By providing clear and up-to-date information to those working in the front-lines of care, Project Legal Link helped empower social workers, case workers, and other non-attorneys to provide crucial support for individuals and families who otherwise could not navigate a legal aid support system they urgently needed.
Legal Link’s founding attorney originally created the Project Legal Link website as a starting point for caseworkers to use with their clients, and for the Legal Link team to use during consults and clinics. With a small budget, the website was a test of whether this kind of tool was needed or helpful. Legal Link partnered with Exygy to re-create the pilot site to a user-centric, accessible website, organized and built to support the next phase of growth for the organization.
A challenge for those building digital resources within technical areas, such as legal aid, is to communicate information in a user-friendly manner without losing specificity. We needed to intentionally craft the website to be legally accurate, yet accessible, and user-centric, without over-simplifying.
Initially, Project Legal Link’s main page provided users with a choice between “Referrals” and “Resources.” When looking for referrals, the user chose what category of legal support their client needed, and was directed to an organization that specialized in that area. The Resources page led to a dense list of every legal organization that Legal Link had information on.
We began by re-structuring Legal Link’s website – aiming to create a clear, intuitive flow for users to access information. Our team worked with Legal Link to organize their records of Bay Area legal organizations. We worked together to create an information architecture that was scalable, maintainable, and intuitive for Legal Link’s team and for their users.
Our team created wireframes and a clickable prototype of the site. We collaborated with Project Legal Link to write a user testing script, and we provided them tools for the process. The user testing script provided a structure from which we could glean information on their experience: their thoughts on each page, and where they were confused.
User feedback emphasized the need to create a website that felt trustworthy and easily understandable – in its content, as well as its information structure. Through successive rounds of prototyping and user testing we honed in on three main ways that users were receiving valuable help from Legal Link: searching for a referral, searching for a known organization, or accessing a library of articles and other materials collected by Legal Link. These three “categories of help” steered the design of the final product home page.
The newly designed experience ensures that users don’t get lost in the dense web of information that Legal Link has collected over the years. Instead, they are able to quickly navigate to a small number of highly personalized recommendations, based on their specific needs.
Alongside our work on LegalLink.org, the Legal Link team was working on launching an internal Salesforce database. We engineered Legal Link’s website to integrate tightly with Salesforce. Legal Link can manage their service directory information directly in Salesforce and the website automatically reflects all updates made there. This integration sets Legal Link up to grow efficiently, scaling their work for years to come.
There is significant inequality around who has access to information within the legal sector. Legal Link helps the Bay Area’s front-line service providers with invaluable support and resources – allowing users to efficiently navigate a complicated legal space. In launching the new Legal Link website, Exygy and Legal Link are further democratizing access to legal aid, ensuring that those who are often excluded from legal support receive help. As Legal Link plans to expand their organization, their website provides a launchpad for further impact within the community.
By removing barriers to receiving help – like large time commitments and language barriers – we shorten the distance between those needing help, and those receiving it.
“Exygy is a team of digital product experts, and their expertise helps to magnify Legal Link’s impact. Exygy’s product management, design, prototyping and testing work ensured that the product we built together works for our clients and partners. Exygy helped us strengthen and improve the legal referrals and resources we offer. Beyond that, Exygy helped us create integrated referral tools for the sustainable growth of our organization. They are resourceful. When met with hurdles, they found creative solutions.”
– Sacha Steinberger
Founder + Executive Director, Legal Link
Co-authored by Anna Gibbons and Lucy Chen