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Coordinate Intake and Referral System

Join the Upcoming CIR Chat

The Coordinated Intake and Referral (CIR) System is a user-centered system that will allow DC residents to access civil legal aid seamlessly and efficiently. Our goal throughout this process is to work collaboratively with the DC legal aid community and give you opportunities to provide feedback and offer suggestions. 


The next CIR Chat will be held on Wednesday, October 18. Check back soon for the link to register.

In March, our CIR Chat focused on intake workers. If you missed it, you can watch the presentation session here.


Watch Now: Innovations in Technology Conference 2023: Get the Inside Scoop on CIR


In January 2023, Kirra Jarratt, CEO of the DC Bar Foundation, was a speaker at the Innovations in Technology Conference hosted by Legal Services Corporation. Her panel, that she shared with three other speakers, focused on Coordinated Intake and Referral. Kirra specifically spoke about DCBF's CIR System, the process of designing the system, and the impact it will have on District residents. Joseph Schieffer, our technology project manager for the system, was also in attendance. You can watch the session here

Do You have Questions or Comments About CIR?

Do you have questions or comments about the Coordinated Intake and Referral (CIR) System, we'd love to hear from you! Please send an email to  


DC residents who face life-altering situations and need help navigating legal aid far too often have a difficult time getting the assistance they need. The process of going through legal aid can be cumbersome and lengthy. It’s a complex system that makes finding legal help a daunting task. Issues many have experienced include ending up at an organization that can’t service their issue or finding out they are ineligible for services. With so many organizations, lack of clarity, different eligibility criteria, and having to reshare their stories too many times, many who need help never reach the door of a legal service provider.


The DC Bar Foundation is committed to creating a civil legal aid system in DC that is easily accessible with seamless processes. Our work is centered on ensuring that access to our civil justice system does not depend on wealth, knowledge, or power. With these ideals being the driving force of our work, we are creating a Coordinated Intake and Referral (CIR) System to streamline access to legal services for DC residents. The District of Columbia has more than 50 civil legal aid providers and this system will increase coordination among providers, which, in turn, will create an easier process for those seeking assistance.  


We designed this page to help you learn about Coordinated Intake and Referral. Here you will find information on how CIR came to fruition and an overview to help you better understand what this system is, who is involved, and how it will work for clients.

Background: How did we get here?

For decades, the District’s civil legal aid community has struggled with how to create a more fair and just system. The Foundation approached earlier efforts through our grants program. Then, in 2020, we tried something different: we partnered with Joseph Schieffer, a consultant with expertise in developing coordinated legal aid systems in other parts of the country, to research our community and past efforts and recommend a strategy. His work resulted in a December 2020 concept paper that became the basis for this current effort. 


Following the release of the concept paper, the DC Bar Foundation has continued to seek feedback from various stakeholders throughout the civil legal aid system and refine the concept as we learn more. Recognizing the impossibility of relying solely on individual and small group conversations, in late 2021, we sought input and feedback from stakeholders about the structure and design of the anticipated Coordinated Intake and Referral System. More than 20 organizations and individuals responded to the request.

What is Coordinated Intake and Referral?

A streamlined process for DC residents to access legal aid through a single phone number or website. It does not replace existing intake structures; it supplements them.


What parts of the process have been completed?

Building the CIR System involves four phases: design, development, pilot testing and refinement, and rollout. Click here to see a full timeline that provides a list of all milestones and upcoming work. We plan to launch CIR in late 2024.


How will the design and rollout of the Coordinated Intake and Referral System be evaluated?

Each phase of the process includes an associated evaluation protocol to collect data to inform the work of that stage. We are currently in the design phase, and the evaluation work is focused on gathering information from key system stakeholders to inform the system’s design. This work involved gathering input from legal service providers, allied organizations, community members, and clients. We put out a Request for Design Feedback and Input in September 2021 and collected responses through November 2021. 


Explain the client focus groups and what they added to this process.

To ensure we have a user-centered system, we conducted focus groups from December 2021 through April 2022 to hear directly from people who have previously used or needed legal aid in DC. In total, there were more than 70 participants across 13 focus groups. The groups consisted of individuals from populations with particular vulnerabilities with respect to accessing the legal system. Groups included older adults, domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, people with limited proficiency, and other individuals.


During each focus group, participants shared the challenges they experienced trying to access legal aid services in the past and how they would like to see this new system work in the future.


What is the DC Legal Aid Transformations Network, and how is it connected to Coordinated Intake and Referral?

A major component of the CIR process is the DC Legal Aid Transformations Network (DCLATN), which launched in June 2021. It is a community of activists, health and social service organizations, academia, government, philanthropy, media, banking, faith-based, arts, business, and other stakeholders whose work impacts the civil legal aid system in DC.  


DCLATN meets quarterly to increase collaboration and identify how, as a community, we can transform the delivery of legal aid in the District. Within the DC Legal Aid Transformations Network, we have encouraged the formation of subnetworks, such as the intake specialist subnetwork. Some of the subnetworks include consumer protection/small business, housing, domestic violence/sexual assault victim services, public benefits, immigration, employment, family/probate, intake specialists, and other focus areas. For more information or if you would like to join, please email Michanda Myles, DCBF’s network manager.


Can you help me understand what the CIR system will look like when it is ready?

Users will have the option to call a number or go to a website. If you call, you will speak to a trained CIR navigator who will ask questions to understand your particular issue. From there, they will connect you with the appropriate provider (or providers). For example, if your situation requires help with housing and elder care, you will be connected with providers for both. If you opt to use the website, there will be an online database system that includes all DC legal aid providers, including contact information, areas of service, and eligibility criteria.


When is the Coordinated Intake and Referral System going to be available?

The coordinated system is set to launch in late 2024.


How can I get the latest updates about CIR?

We will update this page as we hit key milestones, and we will continue to share reports and highlights as we move through this process. You can also follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and we publish a monthly newsletter that includes all updates about CIR and DCBF. You can subscribe here and check out the latest issue online.


Will community members be able to test or provide feedback on the system before it launches?

The Coordinated Intake and Referral system is designed to be a user-centered system that is easy to use. We know that in order to build a system that works, we need input from the community. During the client focus groups, community members shared many of the challenges they have experienced and what will make this new CIR system better for the user.


Some obstacles users have experienced include calling multiple legal services organizations and not having their calls returned; lengthy intake processes; or being denied multiple times, which leaves many people feeling discouraged. To make the system better, participants said they would like a straightforward intake process, intake specialists who are empathetic and knowledgeable, and for the applicants to be centered during the process.


These recommendations will help us build out a CIR system that is user-centered and easy to navigate so that every resident who needs help gets the access and resources they need.

Where can I read more about the feedback and recommendations that you received during the client focus groups and the Request for Design Feedback and Input?

DCBF, in partnership with NPC Research, published two reports in 2022. The first report was released in July, and it focused on the feedback we received from clients and community members. The second report was released in September, and it focused on the feedback we received from legal services providers and allied organizations.

Read the full reports here:


ICYMI: Provider Directory Database Webinar

The DC Bar Foundation held a webinar to give the DC legal aid community an in-depth overview of the CIR provider directory database. The webinar covered how the system will work, how to update your profile, and more. If you were unable to attend, the recording is now available. You can also review the presentation slides to help you follow along.  

Questions or Comments?

If you have questions or comments about the Coordinated Intake and Referral System, please send an email to  

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