Quality in Legal Aid

This section of the toolkit will describe the steps to follow to ensure that you are delivering high quality legal services. Please read the following information.

There are seven main ways to guarantee that you are providing quality legal aid to your clients:

1. Identify the most important unmet needs in the community that you want to serve.

Talk to local refuge populations and other organizations that work with them in order to discover what legal needs the refugees have.

2. Set program goals and objectives that address these legal needs.
3. Periodically, evaluate your objectives and service delivery methods and adjust them as needed.

It is important to continue to assess whether your work is meeting the needs of the refugee community. As you implement your work, take time at regular intervals to evaluate whether your work is focused on addressing the needs of the community and if it is effectively serving your client community.
An example of some questions that you could ask yourself are:

  • Do you feel that your legal aid services are addressing the needs of the population comprehensively?
  • After examining case files and talking to your staff about their clients, are there new issues that your clients are experiencing that your office should tackle?
  • Are there more efficient ways to help your clients?
  • Is your service delivery method allowing you to reach the appropriate people?
4. Regularly review case files and your staff’s work.

Review files to ensure that your staff is identifying the client’s issue and possible remedies, that the cases are handled in a timely manner, and that your staff had good client contact.
If it becomes too difficult to review every case file, consider having an independent person periodically review a random sample of cases. Consider setting up a system in which cases are peer reviewed.

Other good ways to review your staff’s work is by:

  • Interacting frequently with staff members.
  • Pairing junior staff with senior staff so that they can work on a case together.
  • Having staff write brief, frequent reports to their supervisors on their case statuses and results.
  • Always reviewing files after a complaint has been made to identify whether there were any problems with how your staff handled the case.

Some questions you could ask yourself are:

  • Are cases handled in a timely manner?
  • Has your staff been able to have adequate client contact and did they follow the procedures?
5. Ensure that your staff is well-qualified, well-trained, and well-treated so that they can provide quality legal services.

Provide ongoing training to all management and staff on issues and developments in their areas of responsibility.

  • Lawyers need to be trained in the substantive law in which they work and in office skills.
  • Non-legal staff need to have a basic knowledge of the program’s mission and all aspects of their jobs.
  • Avoid staff burn out by promoting fair pay, fair benefits, and good working conditions.
  • You should also implement an adequate screening policy.
  • Cases should be assigned to the person who is best able to take them based on the person’s experience, training, and available time.
6. Make sure that you are providing services equally to men, women, boys, and girls.

Review the gender sensitivity in legal aid section of the toolkit to find out more about how to do this.

7. Adhere to the Nairobi Code’s ethical obligations.

Following the duties and standards in this code will ensure that you are providing ethical services to your clients. It is not possible to provide high quality legal aid unless the work that you are doing is ethical.
Review the Nairobi Code section of the toolkit to learn more about these obligations.