Skip to main content

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. This information is then accessible via an operator interface to allow triage; another interface allows specialist caseworkers to check and take on their allocated cases.

Department / Agency:

Date of Assessment:

Assessment Stage:
Alpha Review


Lead Assessor:
S. Edwards

Service Manager:
T. Dolan

Digital Leader:
M. Coats

Assessment report

The Civil Legal Advice service has been reviewed against the 26 points of the Service Standard at the end of the Alpha development.

Outcome of service assessment

After consideration we have concluded that the Civil Legal Advice service is on track to meet the Digital by Default Service Standard at this early stage of development.


The Civil Legal Advice service provides state funded legal help to those citizens who pass a means test on areas of law within scope. The service we reviewed consisted of three main components: 1) a citizen facing web frontend for users to log their case; 2) an operator interface that allows logging of calls, reviewing digital cases, and the routing of cases to a legal specialist; and 3) an interface for legal specialists to review and accept a case.

The assessment panel were very impressed by the answers the service team gave to their questions and were happy to approve the Civil Legal Advice service to pass through to beta. The service team have considered all points of the service standard and where they have not already addressed an issue they have plans in place to resolve this during the beta. Particular issues we would like to commend service team on are as follows.

They have undertaken extensive user research on a wide variety of users in different locations. This research had begun before they had recruited a user researcher and is now continuing with a user researcher organising regular sessions to test existing features in the Alpha product, but also new ideas using paper prototypes. The user researcher has created a portable lab so that user research can be conducted with users in live situations, such as in CABs. All members of the team, except webops, have attended user research sessions. The team showed a deep understanding of the needs of the different user groups (citizens, operators, and legal specialists) and they had already identified and delivered features that had delighted those user groups.

The team are delivering the service using agile user centred methods. The team have a hard deadline to deliver a working system by November 2014 to coincide with the end of an existing contract and have taken steps to mitigate against a big bang release.

The team is a multidisciplinary one and the service manager is empowered to make decisions about the service. The assessment panel were also impressed that the Legal Aid Agency Contract Manager attended the service assessment and demonstrated the importance of the close interaction between the service standard and those parts of the service (call operators) that will be outsourced. It was evident that the support from the Legal Aid Agency contract team ensured that a team with suitable skills was recruited and were supported by them to deliver the project in an agile user centred way. The Legal Aid Agency should be commended for their approach to delivering the service.

The assessment panel were also very impressed with how much progress the team had already made in building a continuous integration environment that includes strong testing facilities such as unit tests, integration tests and tools for browser testing. They also recognise the work the team have completed in performing security testing on their software with tools like Zap to ensure that the software has security built in from the beginning.


Point 1: User needs

Overall the service is serving user needs well. There is a possibility for confusion in the core aspect of checking you are eligible vs applying. Currently a user starts by checking eligibility, the transaction shifts in the final stage to an actual application. The shift from checking eligibility to applying should be well marked.

Point 10: Put appropriate assisted digital support in place that’s aimed towards those who genuinely need it

It was good to see that assisted digital users had been considered to some extent at Alpha. Continued work will be needed around this group; assuming CLA’s assisted digital users will stick to current offline channels could limit a sustained channel shift.

Looking forward, we would expect the Service Manager to be able to speak about the service’s assisted digital users’ personas, needs and volumes. The service would then need to evidence how those needs and volumes will be met by the assisted digital support put in place.

Assisted digital user testing should confirm which channels of support are required to meet their needs (of which a telephone line will likely be just one). Existing telephone call centre service provision does not necessarily equate to quality or value for money assisted digital support. This must be evidenced by quality user research. Other channels also need to be considered for assisted digital provision as per user needs, be that face by face assisted digital support (home visits or high street locations) or web chat.

Assisted digital support should also help build users’ digital skills and confidence, where possible, to help them towards being able to self-serve.

Point 13: Build a service consistent with the user experience of the rest of GOV.UK by using the design patterns and style guide.

The visual look and transaction flow was well considered. Our main recommendations are around certain terms used.

At this early stage there is potential for confusion between civil legal advice and legal aid, both in civil and criminal cases. As the service develops towards Beta, careful consideration should be given to how this service will be found on GOV.UK and how it might be differentiated from or integrated with similar services. In any case this should be validated with user research.

The assessment panel suggest you consider changing the text inside the ‘More info’ link. Currently this serves to explain policy and instead it should help the user answer the immediate question. The team should also consider making improvements to the heading ’Your problem’ to better describe the need you are meeting.

Point 25: Make a plan for the service going offline.

The service team’s plan for disaster recovery needs further development early in the beta phase. In particular, the service should not rely on their hosting provider to mitigate against outages, and the tight binding of the citizen facing interface and case worker/provider facing interface could cause availability conflicts. The assessment panel would like to see a better plan for various forms of disaster and clear evidence that availability of the citizen facing system has minimal effect on the availability of the staff facing systems.

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