Co-production and pro bono

‘Co-production’ can sometimes sound like a challenging or dry piece of jargon, but it is making us sit up and think more about who it is we are here to help: the pro bono client or end user.

At the heart of co-production is the simple idea that clients are equal partners in the outcomes achieved and the service delivered. In 2017, LawWorks invited Edgar Cahn, both a legal clinician and innovator in co-production approaches, to the UK to share his ideas with the pro bono community. In this article we describe what LawWorks has subsequently been doing to bring the client experience into our learning and programme development.   

Through our “Better Information project” LawWorks undertook in-depth sampling and feedback on client experiences in clinics, and the outcomes.  A number of clients who were interviewed for the project expressed their willingness for follow-up interviews, and to engage in an ongoing basis in reviewing their outcomes. Key findings from the project include:

  • 95% of clients felt the clinic listened to them very well or quite well, and 92% of clients felt they understood their legal problem very well, or quite well;
  • Most people received what they hoped for, and 88% would recommend the clinic to someone else;
  • 21% of clients said that their legal problem was settled or partially settled, while for 50% it was too early to say, and for 17% further action to tackle their legal problem was possible
  • 78% of clients said they had a better understanding of their next steps. Nearly half of the clients interviewed (47%) said they were thinking of going to court or tribunal, but a quarter changed their plans following advice;
  • For 68% of clients, the help or support received had reduced their stress level; 65% of clients felt more in control of their situation and 75% said  they felt more confident to deal with their problem, or a similar one, in the future

The project has been a catalyst for looking more critically, and in a client-centric way, at the effectiveness of pro bono clinics. In collecting data and planning new clinic initiatives, we need to think not just about outputs (e.g. the number of clients seen relative to clinic capacity), but also about outcomes. What interventions have the biggest impact for clients? Soft outcomes, such as improvements in clients understanding, capability, and reduced stress can be as important as the immediate resolution of a legal issue. Often visiting the clinic is the start of journey to resolution rather than the end. The project has also given us much richer data for our clinics report.

Exploring co-production in Wales

Exploring the co-production approach, LawWorks held a workshop in July involving pro-bono clinic co-ordinators in Wales, followed up with a report. The workshop, run by an external facilitator, used a mix of discussion and participatory techniques that allowed an in-depth exploration of the type of current client engagement activities, the reasons for engaging with clients and potential approaches to extending user engagement.

The report, also reflecting findings of a questionnaire sent to pro-bono clinic providers in Wales prior to the workshop, found that most clinics do currently gather feedback from service users, and use both positive and negative feedback to improve their services. The added value that client engagement and follow up can demonstrate - to stakeholders, policy makers, funders and service design and delivery managers - was well understood by clinics. However, there was mixed feedback about whether user engagement is something that clinics might want, or have the capacity, to do more of, and few clinics currently involved clients in service design. 

LawWorks will be running a learning session event for pro bono advice providers with the Co-production Network for Wales in October. The Network's remit is to grow good practice, support policy and decision makers to shape a positive context for co-production, aiming to transform public services. The session will be open for anyone in the pro bono sector with an interest in co-production and service user involvement; it will cover both the theory and practical elements of how to start building a toolbox of methods and techniques.

Whilst our initial focus has been in Wales, where there is a favourable policy environment for co-production, we aim to explore the approach more widely, and produce some useful bespoke resources. Resources on co-production can be found from the following organisations:


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