In October of this year, the Foundation released the DC Bar Foundation’s Family Law Learning Network (FLLN) Summary Report, highlighting the accomplishments of the FLLN. The FLLN, comprised of six DC Bar Foundation grantees working on family law cases in DC – Amara Legal Center, Bread for the City, DC Affordable Law Firm, DC Volunteer Lawyers Project, Legal Aid Society of DC, and The Safe Sisters Circle – operated between April 2020 and September 2022 with funding support from the DC Bar Foundation.
The network’s purpose was threefold: (1) to build grantees’ capacity to use data for monitoring, evaluation, and decision-making; (2) to connect legal services professionals to support knowledge sharing and collaboration; and (3) to help grantees apply data-related principles in real-world contexts.
The October FLLN report, created in partnership with NPC Research, summarizes four key findings that emphasize the value of taking a network approach for expanding civil legal aid and increasing access to justice in the District:
1. Relationships are key to success.
“When it comes to impacting systems-level change, like improving access to justice for low-income people and those from marginalized populations, networks are essential. Moving the needle on problems of this magnitude requires a multi-pronged and multidisciplinary approach—more than any single organization can do alone.”
2. Network coordination must provide sufficient, but not excessive, structure.
“Network coordination refers to the set of actions, performed by a single dedicated network coordinator or a small team of partners, that creates and maintains an infrastructure to support network health, growth, and collaboration…There needs to be enough structure so that there is a guide for the network cultivation process (especially early on) that supports members’ engagement without driving the direction.”
3. Integrating evaluation into legal services environments will require both training and resources.
“The FLLN demonstrated that it is possible to increase the data-related knowledge and competence of legal services staff. Legal aid attorneys and staff are skilled professionals with an inherent aptitude for logic and linear thinking, positioning them well to develop research skills. The FLLN showed that even a relatively small investment of time (e.g., 1 hour per month) can yield knowledge gains for providers.”
4. Legal services providers in the District have an appetite for collaboration.
“DC legal services providers understand the need for, and the potential benefits of, better coordination among the civil justice community. When invited into a collaborative context that does not require them to sacrifice their organization’s interests, providers are inclined to generate innovative approaches to better serve the client community.”
We invite you to read the full report on our website.