Legal Aid NSW Grants Tracker

Image Credit : Jackie Garfield - Experience Designer at Portable



Project Overview

One of the most pressing needs for clients accessing legal aid is the ability to receive timely updates on the status of their application for a grant covering their legal support. Portable has been working with Legal Aid NSW to research user needs, design and build a Grants Tracker tool.

Portable began working closely with Legal Aid NSW (LANSW) in 2018 through undertaking a user needs analysis for a range of new services and digital tools to improve the user experience of people living in NSW accessing legal aid support and services. Portable and LANSW collaborated together to help implement user-centred design and technology in the delivery of services for the largest legal aid body in Australia. The teams also identified quick wins to help improve the experience for those accessing LANSW’s services.

Portable prioritised the design and development of a minimum viable product (MVP) – a Grants Tracker – as an effective product to meet urgent client needs, and reduce the anxiety that LANSW’s clients experience when waiting to hear of the outcome of their application for support.

The MVP Grants Tracker has been operational since July 2019 and available to legal aid applicants in a pilot run by LANSW. We have been working with LANSW since January 2020 in the development of a scaled-up Grants Tracker that will be launched in late July 2020, which has expanded features and will be made available to LANSW’s clients throughout the state.

Project Commissioner

Legal Aid NSW

Project Creator



Lauren Manning - Digital Producer
Allison Snow - Senior Digital Producer
Luke Thomas - Senior Design Strategist, Legal Design
Jackie Garfield - Experience Designer
Jake Hogg - Design Lead
Ashlee West - Design Lead
Andrew Fulton - Technical Lead
Chris DAloisio - Head of Development
Debra Cupitt - Developer
Simon Goodrich- Managing Director
Justin Ramirez - Quality Assurance
Russell Vinluan- Quality Assurance

Project Brief

As part of their 2018 to 2023 strategic plan, LANSW committed to improving access to justice through integrated and tailored digital legal aid services that focused on client needs and took into account their capability, disadvantage and means.

To help guide their vision, we ran a discovery phase for a client portal using human-centred design methods to research the problem from the client's perspective. We ran a series of co-design workshops with clients of LANSW, prototyped an interactive online tool and tested it with users at Legal Aid NSW to develop early-stage designs and identify quick wins. It was from this user research that we determined that the Grants Tracker could be a low-cost, effective, and user-friendly way to meet an urgent client need. We are working with LANSW on building out the other digital tools which will make up the client portal, with the Grants Tracker being the priority.

The aim of the project was defined as being focused on the design of a mobile-first web application for clients who have applied for a grant of legal aid.

Our goal was to enable clients to receive a text message that allowed them to track the status of their application at any time, without needing support from the LANSW team.

Project Need

Given Portable’s specialisation and dedication to working on projects which improve access to justice and bring a user-centred approach to design, working with LANSW directly aligned with our mission to improve how Australians experience the justice sector.

One of the most pressing needs for LANSW’s clients was identified in the discovery phase – this was the ability to receive timely updates on the status of their legal aid application—all while worrying if they'll be able to get a lawyer before they're due in court.

Understanding this client need helped us to prioritise a quicker and cheaper MVP solution, run it for a pilot (July 2019 to August 2019), and identify how the digital web-based application could be expanded and rolled out across the state in the scaled-up Grants Tracker (due to launch in late July 2020).

The scaled-up Grants Tracker will allow for statewide roll-out and will have new features, including the ability to manage and view updates for multiple applications concurrently, and expanding the scope of these updates to include more stages of user grant management. We’re excited to see how we can build out this application to better meet the needs of Legal Aid NSW clients in the future.

Learn more about the Grants Tracker in the video created by Legal Aid NSW.

User Experience

The user experience has been informed directly by the insights gained from the initial discovery phase. We took these insights to inform the design of the Grants Tracker and iteratively refined a prototype through feedback gained in user testing sessions. We conducted eight interviews with existing Legal Aid clients and staff, using a clickable high fidelity prototype in order to test our assumptions around plain language, content, interactions and visual communication. Participants were overwhelmingly receptive to using the Grants Tracker.

“It would reduce stress to receive an SMS. I had to send a few emails to the grants team before I heard back. The timeline would be helpful” - Female, Late 30s, Family Law, Haymarket

Key findings from user testing:
-The timeline presents the application stages in a visually clear way
-The FAQ topics resonated with clients
-Clients liked the idea of a tracker and felt it would have provided reassurance
-The icons conveyed information as intended
-The next steps in the process were clear

What we changed as a result of feedback from clients:
-Reviewed the language and redrafted content screens to make them simpler
-Changed ‘FAQ’ to “Learn More’
-Increased bold type on FAQ buttons
-Moved the application number to the bottom and brought the overall time an application takes to the top
-Simplified the process to a three-step timeline
-If more information is required from a client, it appears as a message within the three step timeline.

Project Marketing

This web-based application is designed to fulfil a gap in government services to improve the experience of clients in New South Wales accessing legal aid support and submitting an application for grant funding for support. The Grants Tracker provides clients with up-to-date critical information and personalised SMS notifications on the status of their grant application.

A pilot was run over an eight-week period from 4 July to 29 August 2019 with over 600 client users.

Our evaluation of the pilot found that:
-20% of applicants consented to use the tracker when prompted (622 applications)
-388 of these applications for legal aid were approved
-Out of the 39 survey respondents, 80% of users gave the tracker a rating of 4 or 5 stars
-While it is too early to determine if the tracker will lead to long-term drops in call volumes to the LANSW admin team, August 2019 call volumes were 10% lower than those in August 2018
-34% of applicants used the Grants Tracker outside of office hours, revealing that it fulfilled a need for users who wished to engage with the application out of LANSW’s business hours.

As of April 1, 2020, the tracker has been used by 2990 clients for 3128 applications. The Grants Tracker is part of the service offered by LANSW, when people apply for legal aid, they can opt in and that moves their data from the client management system into the tracker for SMS updates.

Project Privacy

The proof of concept was co-designed to meet client’s security needs and accessibility expectations. It was user-tested throughout the design process. Part of scaling the pilot was to ensure that data sent between Legal Aid NSW’s grants management system and the Grants Tracker application we built, was sent privately from Legal Aid’s government cloud data center to Portable’s AWS cloud environment. This means greater security and mitigation against attacks as none of the grants data transfer is exposed over the public internet.

We built the platform for sending SMS notifications, which was triggered by updates entered into the LANSW grants management system. Once a client receives an SMS notification, they can log in to the Grants Tracker (using a code they've been sent in a separate SMS) and view a web page which lets them know the status of their grant application, any important messages and answers to FAQs about the process.

Access is personal to the client and secure, using personalised SMS codes.

The provision of timely government services has been transformed as applications and sites are developed and implemented to either replace or complement previous methods. Be it the delivery of current and up to date critical information, compliance, community support and engagement, notification and registration or providing greater accessibility to government resources.
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