Rethinking Supreme Court access
- Paper Giant
- Supreme Court Victoria
Court can feel intimidating and exclusive to the general public, making it less likely they will claim their democratic right to pursue justice. Access to justice can also be measured by the backlog of cases: are people who seek justice being heard in a timely manner?
The Supreme Court of Victoria Registry asked Paper Giant to design a researched-based strategy to make Court more inclusive and accessible, while improving process, culture and capability to achieve a low case backlog.
Together with Court users and staff, we co-designed design interventions to enable the court to develop and achieve their strategic goals.
Our design research brought to light gaps in the court’s service, and the participatory design model helped us determine how to fill them. Our goal was to design a solution that made best use of the resources at hand, was strategically sound and able to be implemented with ease.
By using a participatory approach throughout the design phase, we were able to strategically design solutions that directly addressed the key complaints of the user – that information was hard to find, processes weren’t clear, and self-service wasn’t readily available.
The fundamental work of the court is to provide access to justice, a key component in upholding Australian democracy.
Our research showed that, as funding for pro bono legal bodies has been cut, there has been a rise in self-represented litigants. Many of our research participants talked about the intimidation and exclusion they experienced when engaging with the court.
Our co-design participants’ enthusiasm drove the concepts forward, giving us the confidence that we had achieved our goal of making access to justice more open.
“Something like this would have made the court feel so much more accessible” — Co-design participant
Our aim was to future-proof the court so that they can handle the existing and future caseloads with more ease. By including our design research as a part of their staff training materials to build user empathy and understanding, the court has progressed the penetration of design within their own business.
By employing a strategic approach to design, we were able to create a solution with cross-functional buy-in, and importantly our participatory design method also gained us crucial advocates throughout the court who championed both our process and the outcomes.
We helped the court be more innovative by identifying a previously unrecognised key strategic problem: much of the registry staff’s time was spent on “simple” tasks (rather than more complex or unique tasks) because instructional material was unclear and inaccessible. We identified this through extensive research with users.
We used participatory design methods to make selected ‘invisible’ elements of the process ‘visible’ and therefore accessible through good design. This enabled users to make better decisions and further their cases without relying on staff for straightforward, procedural guidance, freeing up staff for complex tasks and people with higher support needs.
Our highly inclusive approach saw the participation of many members of court staff through research interviews, co-design, and weekly governance meetings with upper management throughout our five-month project.
This created high engagement in our process from the beginning, and an inside-out approach to design transformation within one of the oldest courts in Australia.
Through this approach we gained not only advocates for the project, but advocates for the design process.
“We bumped into each other in the hallway and we were just saying how much we love this process and all the things we’re making together”.