How can legal assistance and justice system services efficiently and reliably capture the experience of their clients to inform more effective and people-centred service provision?

Qualitative methods generally involve in-depth interviews with, or feedback from, a small group of clients.  They allow exploration of the expectations that individual clients bring and their personal experience of the service they receive.  Examples of qualitative methods are: client feedback, client focus groups, and client case studies. 

Quantitative methods allow conclusions to be drawn about representative groups of clients, which is valuable for tracking client experience over time, or between providers.  These methods can also support more sophisticated analysis of the drivers of client experience and allow for differences in the mix of clients’ legal problems to be taken into account. Examples of quantitative methods are: clients surveys and client pathways in service data. 

Qualitative methods

Client feedback

It is good practice to ensure that all clients are given the opportunity to provide feedback on their experience.  Feedback should be voluntary, and ideally have the option of anonymity. Unlike a quantitative client survey with a push request to a pre-selected sample, clients proactively providing feedback will not represent the views of all clients.  Instead, this type of feedback is more likely to identify the more extreme experiences: when things went particularly well or badly from the client’s perspective.

Client focus groups

Focus groups can be an effective method of obtaining thoughtful input and ideas for innovation, with focus group participation sparking memories and responses to each other’s ideas. Focus groups are generally made up of between 4 and 10 clients, with a further person facilitating the discussion and another taking notes. The clients should be drawn from one type of service so they are discussing the same provision, but be sufficiently diverse to represent a range of experiences.

Client case studies

Distinct from service model case studies, are individual client case studies. These types of case study provide insights into:

  • the range of issues clients require support for
  • the nature of the work undertaken by the service provider
  • examples of the types of outcome that can be achieved for individuals.

They are therefore particularly useful for media and advocacy related work.

See our Top tips for writing great service model case studies.

Quantitative methods

Client surveys

Client surveys monitor the experience of a service from the perspective of the client. They are intended to collect more contextual data than client feedback, and to represent the views of those clients from which the sample was drawn.

Watch this video for tips on how to design a client survey to provide robust and relevant findings.

Surveys give clients a voice in the design of services, providing an opportunity to better meet their needs and support them to achieve better outcomes. It is only necessary to interview a sample of clients, and only as often as required to identify changes in client experience. This would probably be at least once every two-years.

Client pathways from service data

Service data is another source of information on client experiences. Where individual clients are given unique identifiers, these can be used to track their pathways through to their outcomes. This might include:

  • Their waiting time for a service following first contact
  • The temporal relationship between the types of services they received
  • The number of different lawyers the client had contact with
  • The elapsed time from first contact to finalisation
  • The changing picture of their legal problem description

Information may also be captured on pathways to the provider (hard and soft referrals; information sources); referrals out to other legal and non-legal providers; and outcomes achieved. Unique client identifiers can also used to monitor repeat clients. See more on harnessing service data here and our top tips on analysing service data here.