By: David Udell and Amy Widman. Published by: National Center for Access to Justice at Fordham Law School. Published on: June 20, 2018
This guide the importance of using data to inform practice. It also reports on various interviews with professionals in the legal aid community and a literature review that highlight where current perspectives are concerning the use of outcomes data. Finally, it offers recommendations for utilizing what output data has to offer.
In the past, legal aid professionals have focused on outputs data, such as the types and number of cases. In order to benefit from the potential and power that data usage has to offer, there must be a shift towards “outcomes data,” the results, and impacts of cases. Outcomes data would enable legal aid programs to better understand the impact of their work, how to improve their work, and to better explain the significance and implications of their work for our society.
To better utilize the power of outcomes data tracking, already-existing outcomes data should be used to improve services and educate the public. Then, outcomes findings should be connected to “big goals,” or mission-related achievements that are important to clients. Outcomes data and other existing data should also be combined in order to explain the significance of the work done in legal aid programs. To reduce the burdens associated with data collecting and increase its value, the authors suggest an increased level of communication between service providers and funders.
Types of data collection which are currently challenging but that should be developed include: tracking court data on litigant outcomes, tracking outcomes of clients referred elsewhere for services, and tracking systemic advocacy. The promotion of integrity and care in tracking, organizing, and analyzing data should always be a priority, and various research strategies should be considered in order to account for challenges in accurately determining causation.