Improving intake processes
Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota (LASNEM), Legal Aid of Western Missouri (LAWMO), and Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) are collaborating to design and test a framework to improve the intake processes of legal aid organizations. This framework will be available to other legal aid organizations interested in replicating the process.
LASNEM, LAWMO, and SMRLS are working with professionals to identify and address areas of opportunity to improve their intake workflow, staffing, and technology. The purpose of the project is to show how an improved intake process can have a measurable impact in access to justice. Also, this projects looks to eliminate waitlists, reduce wait times, extend intake hours, and utilize staff more efficiently.
Recognizing its importance
Nationally, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) formally recognized the importance of business process analysis in 2013 by including it in“The LSC Report of The Summit on the Use of Technology to Expand Access to Justice” as one of five main strategy components in an integrated delivery system. In the report, LSC cited: “The expectation is that the pilot projects will clearly demonstrate the benefits of business process analysis, both with increased access and a positive return on investment so that other states join in these efforts.”
LSC formally expressed its commitment to fund process improvement projects under its Technology Initiative Grant (TIG) guidelines.
LASNEM, LAWMO, and SMRLS submitted a TIG application, requesting LSC funding to conduct a process improvement project to improve their particular intake processes. That same year, LSC awarded the Technology Initiative Grants (TIGs) to 30 legal services organizations totaling $4,230,718. LSC’s grant awards included the business process improvement projects for LASNEM, LAWMO, and SMRLS.
LASNEM received additional funding from LSC to create a process improvement learning place for all legal aid programs. This website is part of that effort. The funds also support identifying all PI training and projects that legal aid programs have done or are doing. A report will also be published with recommendations for expanding process improvement education and adoption throughout the legal aid system.
Process Improvement Cycle
DMAIC (an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) is an improvement cycle used for improving, optimizing, and stabilizing processes.
Define and scope the problem and why it has to be solved. Ask yourself: what does the client want? Use this as a reference point for assessing changes and impact before and after the process improvement. Process mapping, project charters, and other tools could be helpful to start a project.
Measure the current performance of the process. Ask yourself: How is our process currently working? What are the results?. To achieve this, you will need to have a data-gathering plan that will enable your organization to review all data collected.
Analyze the results of your data and assess the areas for improvement. During this phase of the project, you should be able to identify the causes that are creating undesirable effects on your process.
Improve the process by generating solutions and alternatives. Identify, implement, and validate process changes. Ask yourself: how can we improve? For this step, you will need to brainstorm and prioritize your ideas. Furthermore, you will need to involve subject matter experts who can give additional insights to improve your process.
Control the process and ensure that improvements are sustainable and benefits are delivered. Ask yourself: Are you following the new process? This step will need measuring the new process and the benefits that are resulting from it. During this phase, you’ll need to conduct pilot tests and review the results.
Goals for Legal Aid
Why Process Improvement for Legal Aid Organizations?
Process improvement (PI) is a discipline that helps organizations optimize their operations and services.