Although this was not my first time attending NLADA, one aspect of this year’s discussions hit me harder than it had in years past. While it could be the session I attended, it seemed that amongst the many innovative workshops a growing number focused on data and statistics. Not just why agencies must collect data, which seems to be moving from the focus of discussion to a premise, but into more complex ways of collecting, using and visualizing data. The following are just a few of my personal take-aways from this year’s conference:
I am generally math-phobic… and I should probably get over that.
I am definitely one of those people on whom statistics is lost. Friends have joked that the reason I became a lawyer is that there is no math on the LSAT. But having a working knowledge of types and quality of data and more information on reporting not only makes reading and understanding statistical data easier, but allows for a more thoughtful and reflective experience. Ken Perri, Executive Director at Legal Assistance of Western New York, Jeff Hogue, Supervising Attorney at LawNY, and Bonnie Hough, managing attorney at the California Administrative Office of the Court, Center for Families , Children and the Courts distilled many of these concepts incredibly well, and their materials are currently available from the session: “The Difference We Make”.
Gathering Data: Not just for reporting.
With more and more of an emphasis on collecting data collaboratively, two of the early sessions focused on LSC’s project aimed at data collection and utilization. In the session “Using Data to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services” James Sandman, President of the Legal Services Corporation, and two outside consultants – Dr. Sanjeev Khagram of Innovations for Scaling Impact and David Donbright of Keystone Accountability, described the findings of a survey they conducted regarding how legal services collects and utilized data, as well as next steps for the project. The information presented can be found on LSC’s website. This was also reviewed in a second session “Relying on Data: New Initiatives to Increase Access to Justice”.
Also of focus in the latter session, Chuck Greenfield, Chief Counsel, Civil Programs at NLADA showed NLADA’s own Civil Legal Aid Search site. This provides information on studies that have been done and that are currently in progress to quantify issues impacting civil legal services and that can be used to think through new and different studies we would like to see in this arena. In addition, it looked back on statistics results and methodologies of past studies.
Once you’ve collected it… Data Visualization!
One interesting addition to the legal services data visualization world is a forthcoming site designed to visually capture a national justice index. In the same session, “Relying on Data: New Initiatives to Increase Access to Justice” David Udell and James Gamble from the National Center for Access to Justice and the Access to Justice Index Project previewed this site, which measures access to justice on several axis, and makes sense of the data in a geographically based interactive ways. Check out the Access to Justice Index page at the National Center for Access to Justice at Cardozo Law School.
Los Angeles Central Library is incredibly beautiful
This has nothing to do with data, but if you ever get a chance to check out the LA Public Library at 630 West 5th Street, it is an incredibly beautiful public library space. If you’re just visiting the city, it’s worth a special trip to see, and if you live in LA – consider yourself lucky! In addition, the LA Law Library, just up the street, has a really robust partnership with the legal services community, and was one of the featured programs in the Libraries and Access to Justice webinar series.
All in all, a really amazing conference in a beautiful city- can’t wait for next year in Arlington Virginia, to see where the data-driven discussion goes next!