This report (the "Report") has been prepared by Ernst & Young LLP ("EY") by its EY Intuitive team for the Legal Services Corporation ("LSC"). The nature and scope of EY's services were determined solely by the agreement between EY and LSC (the "Agreement"). EY's procedures were limited to those described in the Agreement. Other persons who read this Report who are not a party to the Agreement do so at their own risk and are not entitled to rely on it for any purpose. EY assumes no duty, obligation or responsibility whatsoever to any other parties that may obtain access to the Report.
The services performed were advisory in nature. While EY's work in connection with this Report was performed under the standards of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (the AICPA), EY did not render an assurance report or opinion under the Agreement, nor did its services constitute an audit, review, examination, forecast, projection or any other form of attestation as those terms are defined by the AICPA. None of the services provided constituted any legal opinion or advice. This Report is not being issued in connection with any issuance of debt or other financing transaction, and may not be quoted in connection with the purchase or sale of any securities.
In the preparation of this Report, EY relied on information provided by LSC and publicly available resources. EY has not conducted an independent assessment or verification of the completeness, accuracy or validity of the information obtained.
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LSC promotes equal access to justice by awarding grants to independent legal aid providers through a competitive grants process. LSC currently has 134 grantees with more than 800 offices in every county in the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Micronesia. LSC grantees are independent 501(c)(3) organizations with their own boards of directors, which are statutorily required to be comprised of mostly attorneys and client-eligible members.
Beginning in 2000, LSC supported the development of a network of statewide legal aid websites to serve low-income litigants who are unable to afford an attorney. Statewide websites seek to provide users with a variety of legal tools and resources, including overviews of common poverty law issues and step-by-step guides for individuals representing themselves. They aim to connect users to appropriate legal aid providers, self-help centers, and lawyer referral services in their community.
LSC also supported the development of two statewide website templates (i.e., LawHelp by Pro Bono Net and DLAW by Urban Insight). They awarded grants to local legal aid providers to create websites in every state using one of the templates. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories have websites, and the majority of these sites still utilize one of the two original templates. This network of websites was the focus of the assessment in this report.
LSC applied for and received a private grant from the Ford Foundation to assess the network of statewide legal aid websites. The project had the following objectives:
- Identify aspects of the statewide websites and the templates that work well, can serve as a model, and can be leveraged across the network.
- Understand barriers to use and identify areas for improvement within the website templates and statewide websites.
- Create a toolkit that can be shared across the network highlighting leading practices.
- Identify opportunities for LSC to provide ongoing support to strengthen statewide websites.
- Disseminate key insights through actionable summaries and participate in relevant conferences.
The project unfolded in three phases:
Phase 1: Discover (May-July 2016)
Interviews, Survey, Template Assessment, Usability Testing
Phase 2: Assess (July-October 2016)
Detailed User Experience (UX) Assessment of 53 Statewide Websites
Phase 3: Disseminate (October 2016-May 2017)
Reports, Toolkit, Conferences
The findings are limited to the 63 usability criteria used for the assessment and the sampling of content and webpages used to assess them.
Usability is a necessary foundation for a positive user experience, but other factors, such as modern design aesthetics and engaging interaction, are also important to consider when redesigning or improving sites.
The criteria and associated sampling procedures used in this project define minimum standards for usability of the sites in the network. They do not account for the full range of leading practices for designing engaging and enjoyable user experiences more broadly.
This project was made possible by the strong cooperation of the statewide legal aid services website network. The website managers of the sites generously devoted time to this effort by participating in phone interviews or completing a web-based survey (or both). The template providers from Urban Insight and Pro Bono Net also shared valuable insights and participated in in-depth conversations with EY Intuitive in support of this project.
In addition, Dr. Ursula Gorham-Oscilowski was generous to discuss the results of her dissertation with EY Intuitive. Her study considered the role of website managers as information providers within the statewide network, which informed the creation of the website manager survey.