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Civil Legal Advice - Service Assessment

Civil Legal Advice provides state-funded legal help with problems such as repossession, rented home disrepair, court orders to protect against abusive partners etc. This legal help is only available to citizens who pass a means test and whose problems fall within prescribed areas of law. The team are building a public facing application that allows users to log their cases easily.

Department / Agency:

Date of Assessment:

Assessment stage:

Result of Assessment:

Lead Assessor:
M. Harrington

Service Manager:
L. Citron

Digital Leader:
M. Coats

Assessment Report

The Civil Legal Advice service is seeking permission to launch on a domain as a Beta service.

Outcome of service assessment

After consideration the assessment panel have concluded the Civil Legal Advice service has shown sufficient progress and evidence of meeting the Digital by Default Service Standard criteria and should proceed to launch as a Beta service on a domain.


User needs:
The service team were able to clearly articulate the user needs of this service and gave good examples of where user research had fed directly into the design of the service.

The team:
They have put in place an excellent multi-disciplinary team, with representation from the Legal Aid Agency. The service manager is new to post – this was an iteration on the original process to stop issues with people not being available. The Governance meetings the team have set up to communicate progress were a good example of the team working agile alongside more traditional processes.

Security, Privacy, Tools and Standards:
The service team have clearly used a variety of appropriate tools to build, host and deploy the system.  The assessment panel found it encouraging that the service team had clearly thought about user security heavily, and that they had taken all of the appropriate steps to balance user needs with the security requirements for their answers.

Improving the service:
The service team have iterated the service on a very frequent basis and are in a position to continue this in public beta. It was also positive that there was a good deal of trust in the team if urgent changes/tweaks were needed.

The service looks and works like it belongs on GOV.UK. The service team have used GOV.UK design patterns effectively.

Assisted digital and digital take up:
The team has a good understanding of their assisted digital users’ barriers and needs and has plans to test their proposed support in beta. The proposed telephone support is comprehensive, offering call-back, a free translation service and covering a variety of communication needs. The team has started work on digital take up, including raising awareness with relevant 3rd parties and segmenting user groups.

Analysis and benchmarking:
Basic analytics tagging has been put in place and the team is recruiting for a data analyst. The team have held discussions with the Performance Platform team and have provided access to their analytics for when the service is in public beta. The service mapping work will also enable the team to identify components of the user journey for display on the Performance Platform.


User needs:
The assessment panel were concerned that the main objective of the service is to reduce call volumes. This is primarily a government need. The panel recommend the service team take time to detail the long term vision for this service with a focus on the benefits to users.

The panel recommend the service team map out the entire user journey for getting Civil Legal Advice, and work with the teams responsible for the call handling system and other aspects of the service.

Is it clear to users with difficult lives that Civil Legal Advice can help them? And is it clear that this is where you actually get Civil Legal Advice, not just where you check eligibility? The panel recommend the service team use user-generated tasks in research to understand what users expect to do with the service.

The panel also recommend the service team investigate whether users are sufficiently clear on what is covered under civil as opposed to criminal legal advice. It may be worthwhile to investigate including areas of criminal legal advice in stage 1 (/problem) in order to test this hypothesis and direct users effectively.

The panel recommend the service team investigate the possibility of allowing users to select more than one problem area in stage 1 (/problem). The service team’s research has highlighted that users typically have multiple interrelated problems. The panel appreciate that this adds complexity and has been out of scope for the product thus far, however as the service moves toward live, the service team should be doing the hard work to make it simple.

At the assessment the panel discussed that it might be possible to offer simpler user journeys if users begin the transaction with certain information already captured (eg housing problems) from different start pages. It would be good to explore the possibility of this with the GOV.UK team..

The panel recommend that the service team continue in their efforts to recruit a product/data analyst.

Security, Privacy, Tools and Standards:
The cookies page needs to be updated and accurate for the cookies that are actually set, their lifetime and their scope.

The panel thought that some of the service team’s technology decisions have been interesting and pioneering in government and would like to see some evidence of the service blogging and talking about their use of container technologies, continuous integration and testing.

Improving the service:
In Beta the team should consider the benefits of being able to deploy with no downtime and assess whether this would be worthwhile work as backend deploys cannot be done in call centre hours.

Design recommendations covered under user needs.

Assisted digital and digital take up:
The team must increase qualitative research with assisted digital users and current 3rd party providers (including charities) as planned in public beta and must fully test the proposed support to ensure it meets user needs and the assisted digital standard. User research and testing must confirm which channels of support are required to meet their needs, including telephone, face by face support (home visits or high street locations) and web chat. The team must also consider how they will incorporate digital inclusion into their support.

The team had plans for digital take up but as this may be particularly challenging for this service, the panel recommend that the service team develop their plan with the GDS digital take up team. This should be tied in to the long term vision for this service, mentioned above.

Analysis and benchmarking:
Basic tagging will only yield basic data. In Beta the team need to consider the goals (at both macro and micro level) of the service and instrument these in the analytics to understand how many users are achieving them and where in the process they are dropping out. Analysing the existing Legal aid checker data will reveal some insights that can help with the development of the Civil Legal Advice service and possibly some benchmarks.

Note that in the next assessment the assessment panel will be asking for access to the stats and clear evidence how they have been used to develop the service.

Testing with the Minister:
The team have a plan in place to test with the minister before the Live assessment.


The panel thought that the team answered the questions very well at the assessment. There has been a clear focus on user research and it was good to see how the service has been iterated based on this. Similarly, the good working relationship between the Legal Aid Agency and MOJ Digital Services was an example of how committed both are to delivering a great product.

Digital by Default Service Standard criteria

Criteria Passed Criteria Passed
1 Yes 2 Yes
3 Yes 4 Yes
5 Yes 6 Yes
7 Yes 8 Yes
9 Yes 10 Yes
11 Yes 12 Yes
13 Yes 14 Yes
15 Yes 16 Yes
17 Yes 18 Yes
19 Yes 20 Yes
21 Yes 22 Yes
23 Yes 24 Yes
25 Yes 26 Yes