[District of Columbia, August 23, 2022] – The DC Bar Foundation (DCBF) announces the release of its latest report Designing a Coordinated Intake & Referral (CIR) system for Civil Legal Aid in the District of Columbia. This report is a compilation of the input we received during the client focus groups about the design of a Coordinated Intake & Referral System. Part of our work at DCBF is to reimagine how District residents get help for their civil legal service needs. With more than 50 providers in DC, finding legal help can be an incredibly difficult task. Legal aid is a complex system, and, unfortunately, many people never reach the door of a legal services provider to get the help they need. To address this problem, DCBF is spearheading the development of a CIR system in the District of Columbia. This system will be a streamlined process for DC residents to access legal aid through a single phone number or website. While it will not replace existing intake structures, it will supplement them. Coordinated Intake & Referral will be a user-centered, secure, and accessible system, and a critical part of accomplishing that is engaging community members and getting their feedback. Understanding the importance of centering the user, from December 2021 – April 2022, DCBF hosted 72 individuals in 13 client focus groups. These individuals shared the challenges they have experienced trying to access civil legal aid in DC and how being denied assistance multiple times left them feeling discouraged. While participants said the current system can make users feel hopeless, they all agreed that having a streamlined process for accessing legal services would be a benefit to many District residents. “One of our top priorities is to center the user, especially people from marginalized and vulnerable populations,” says Kirra L. Jarratt, CEO of the DC Bar Foundation. “The client focus groups allowed us an opportunity to hear directly from legal aid clients and community members about the challenges they have experienced, and we appreciate their candor and feedback. We look forward to using the proposed recommendations to design and develop a system that will benefit and transform the DC legal aid system.” This report explores participants’ challenges and the general recommendations they would like to see implemented in the CIR system, touching on everything from the website to intake processes. But one constant theme throughout was how important it is to be treated with respect and empathy. As they go through what is likely a traumatic life experience, they first and foremost need, want, and require compassion. To read a full copy of Designing a Coordinated Intake and Referral (CIR) System for Civil Legal Aid in the District of Columbia, please click this link. To learn more about the DC Bar Foundation and Coordinated Intake & Referral, please visit the CIR section on our website. The study, which consisted of the client focus groups, was funded by an Opportunity Grant from the American Bar Endowment.
About the DC Bar Foundation: We are committed to transforming DC's legal aid network so that all District residents have a fair and equal legal experience. Through our network approach, we actively work to bring together all invested stakeholders to identify and address the unmet civil legal needs of underserved DC residents, create solutions with a critical eye for racial justice and equity, and demonstrate meaningful impact.