Current limits and potential
Quality frameworks, minimum data standards, and minimum dataset coverage could significantly increase data quality, coverage, and utility. In general, utility of the data would be improved with coverage of user demographics.
Measuring outputs and outcomes
The administrative data examined in all stages of the Project was overwhelmingly activity and output focused. This is value operationally, but less useful in looking at factors which drive demand and affect performance, and how different legal processes affect different types of users and matters.
Outcomes measurement, particularly in public legal assistance services, could help close the loop in understanding what works to meet diverse legal need and capability, and more effective and efficient matter resolution.
New approaches to civil justice which are people-centred and based on evidence of inequity, requires new people-centred data. If you can’t see different people, problems, places, pathways, and outcomes in civil justice data, then important insights about who is accessing the civil justice system, for what and at what cost, will be limited.
Complexity is an important consideration – for operational and access questions. Civil justice system users and their matters vary in complexity, and people have varying degrees of legal capability. Ability to scale user and matter complexity in administrative data would further increase data utility, improving operational performance while adding new information on the people using the services.
Suite of data needed
Administrative data is only one source of information about civil justice. It provides information on expressed legal need but can’t examine people with problems who don’t come forward. It’s also often very limited in determining whether someone’s needs were adequately met.
Other data and types of research, including legal needs surveys such as the VLF’s Public Understanding of Law Survey (PULS), qualitative and evaluative studies and outcomes measurement are needed to gauge the totality of community legal need and the adequacy of response.
Civil justice data strategy
Civil justice data is not easily shared or joined, and this leaves many gaps in our understanding of the system as a whole and how people interact with it. One step to improve civil justice data quality, coverage, and joining is through greater collaboration, consistency, and a systemic commitment to a data strategy.