Equal Justice Center Initiatives Update from Executive Director Jessica Hilburn-Holmes, August 2021


We are eager to update you on our continued progress with Philadelphia Equal Justice Center initiatives. In May 2021, we engaged Novus Insight to look at ways of improving interagency collaboration and data collection among Philadelphia legal service providers. This "Needs Assessment and Technology Feasibility" project intends to explore how best to align data across the network of service providers and other organizations involved in the legal aid ecosystem.

This critical initiative aims to improve data sharing and data standardization and reduce redundancy and outcome-tracking challenges within Philadelphia's siloed and paper-intensive legal aid system. Of particular importance is a mapping exercise tracking the journey of individuals seeking legal help through existing pathways, so we can more thoroughly understand how technology-driven process changes could lead to more accurately measuring whether client outcomes are improving because of better data.

Project Phases

During this first project phase, we will discover ways that data can be collected and shared more efficiently across organizations, including ways of standardizing terms and the kinds of data each agency collects. We have started by conducting interviews to (1) understand each agency's use and collection of data, learn what data systems are currently in use, and (2) explore how individuals journey through each organization and the type of information/data that follows them throughout that process.

In the next phase of this project, recommendations, a gap analysis, and a needs assessment will be created. They will lead to an action plan to construct a complete picture of the effort necessary to implement a technology-driven solution for opt-in use by organizations.

Impact of EJC Initiatives

By realizing our shared goals of efficiency and collaboration, we will significantly reduce barriers to justice for thousands of individuals and families. By reducing duplication of efforts among legal services organizations regarding intake and referral procedures, we aim to ameliorate the chronic under-funding that impacts their ability to meet the seemingly limitless need for client services. This initiative will empower legal aid organizations to increase vital resources for staffing, programs, and client services.

Our aim is to permanently transform the capacity of the city's legal aid system to improve and sustain operations to better meet client needs. Currently, there is no central point of coordination which is alienating for potential clients and creates inconsistent, repetitive methods of collection, assessment, and information exchange – exactly the problems that technology is designed to address. We will redesign existing process maps to reflect a future in which there is a ‘one-stop shop’ for civil legal information, assistance, and referrals through better integration of higher quality data. This will facilitate work on a further strategic objective of co-creating community-based justice hubs to breakdown systemic barriers and further improve access to justice for all Philadelphians.

The Bar Foundation's Equal Justice Center leadership remains committed to realizing our vision of equal access to justice. We value your continued support on our journey together.


Jessica R. Hilburn-Holmes

P.S. If you have specific questions at this time about our EJC initiatives, please email me at [email protected]