A few weeks ago, I bogged on some principles for triage that had come out of a meeting at the TIG conference.
Since then I have elaborated and expanded them, including expanded their scope to include triage conducted to determine how a court should treat a case, as well as that to decide what services should be provided to litigants to navigage the court track. This draft reflects extensive help from Tom Clarke, Vice President at the National Center for State Courts, particularly with the insight that court-track triage must be included, and for a re-organization to reduce the number of principles.
Here is the current draft:
- The system should be usable by everybody to find and get into the system and to get to the help that they need to obtain access to justice.
- The system should provide actual court access and actual help to everybody who uses it, providing help at an appropriate level of meaningful assistance.
2. Consistency and Predictability of Triage Outcomes
- The system should be consistent in who is provided with what services or goes into which court processes.
3. User Focus, Control, Support and Choice
- The system should be user-friendly, user-oriented, and user directed (it is to meet user needs, not just or even primarily those of the organizations participating.)
- The system should allow users maximum control over the paths and services, they use, consistent with cost issues.
- The system should offer multiple ways for users to enter and move between service options and choices (such as deciding to seek legal assistance after first attempting self help.)
- The system should include varied user support systems.
- The system should minimize the need for users to provide repeated information.
- The system should get people directly linked to, and trackably processed by, the organizational resources from which they need a response.
- The system should have the capacity to export data directly into multiple, standardized organization intake or information systems and tools — it should not be just a referral system.
- The system should have built into it the up-to-date case-acceptance criteria and service availability data, so that there are no “dead-end” hand-offs.
- The system should include mechanisms for follow up, to minimize multiple, duplicative or incorrect referrals.
4. Comprehensiveness of Problems and Services
- The system should be comprehensive in the range of problems identified and addressed.
- The system should take advantage of legal analysis, social science research and ongoing analysis of existing case and intake data to be able to ask sufficient questions to make sure that an appropriately holistic range of a person’s issues are identified and responded to.
- The system should include access to all service mechanisms, including court access services, legal aid programs, law school clinics, providers of unbundled services, informational websites, document assembly systems, online chat, pro bono and private lawyer referral systems.
- The system should be expandable to include future delivery modalities.
5. Cost Benefit and Impact Maximization
- The system should connect people to the highest level of access services assistance that is available to them, consistent with cost effectiveness.
- The system should allocate scarce assistance resources where they will have the biggest impact.
- The system should direct cases into routes and services that involve the least cost and inconvenience for both litigants and the system, consistent with a fair determination.
- The system should be transparent in the patterns of its operations, while providing privacy to individual users.
7. Evidence Based
- Individual service acceptance and priority criteria should be informed by and reflect research and ongoing data analysis.
- The system should be “self-learning” so that it provides better responses and improved outcomes, as there is more experience.
Suggestions for improvements and changes much appreciated. They will be part of an article I am working on.
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I thank you for writing down these principles. I would love to see funding bodies that fund court innovation and funding bodies that fund legal aid innovation to come together and put out an RFP, that asks for LOIs that both courts and legal non profits (and maybe even social service and public defenders) to design the “system”. Part of the reason everything is so fractional in the delivery system is that to date, a holistic approach to triage has yet to be funded to cover both the costs of courts to do this and the costs of legal non profits to do this. The other part of this which is exciting to think about because of the policy implications, is that if a pilot were to design the perfect triage system, and identify with 100% of accuracy the cases that must have legal representation, then we would know for sure how many of those cases go without due to the chronic, endemic, and increasing underfunding of legal non profits. With that information, then it would be possible to start figuring out exactly how underfunded our legal safety net is. In other words, even w/the perfect triage system, not everyone identified as needing a lawyer will receive one–unless more funds can be harnessed to increase the number of legal non profit attorneys and pro bono lawyers taking those types of cases. Once we know that, then we can start figuring out where the services are most cost effectively provided and start building a system that works across the spectrum of delivery system.
Richard, these are great. The only thought i have, which i think is probably included or implied in what you already have, is spelling out that there needs to be some type of accountability mechanism or ability for the user to report a problem/complaint mechanism that then allows the system to identify exactly at what point it failed the user, and how. And perhaps, as part of this, an evaluation component. the only other thought i have is that the system needs to be dynamic (i can’t think of a good word), in that it needs to be up to date at all times, so that there’s a constant dialogue between providers about service changes so that all elements of the system are, at all times, fully aware of the range of services, limitations, expansions, and in constant and formalized communication.