Face to face legal services and their alternatives: the global lessons

This project drew on a global network of legal aid administrators, policymakers and researchers (the International Legal Aid Group) in order to identify the conditions for success of telephone hotlines and internet services.

It concluded that websites, telephones, video communication and other means of digital communication can, if properly used, assist in maintaining access to justice in a time of austerity. 

In their report, the researchers emphasise the need to devise models of delivery that take account of the fact that not everyone can use websites and telephones. They also highlight the example of NHS Direct, an integrated telephone and internet project that was abolished just as it seemed to providing results.

However the report also says that much could be done through:

  • Leadership from the Ministry of Justice in maintaining access to justice despite austerity cuts - a positive commitment to helping citizens to help themselves where they can and continued free access to legislation and cases.
  • The fostering of innovation through awards, recognition and, as in the US Legal Services Corporation’s Technical Innovation Grants programme, funds for strategic projects.
  • Rigorous testing of channels of delivery including the use of dummy clients.
  • Integrated ‘digital first’ but not ‘digital only’ delivery as happens in jurisdictions like New South Wales and New Zealand where internet advice is linked with telephones and face to face provision if required.
  • Dynamic digital systems that assist a person through a process such as obtaining a divorce, for example, the rechtwijzer.nl site in The Netherlands.
Project details



Professor Alan Paterson, University of Strathclyde

Mr Roger Smith, Justice

Funding Programme:

Law in Society

Amount and duration:


January 2012 - October 2013