Series 3 | Chicago

Series 3 was our most competitive application process. After interviewing the finalists we selected the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago (LAF).


LAF provides free civil legal assistance to people living in poverty and other vulnerable groups in Chicago and suburban Cook County. Their clients include survivors of domestic violence, veterans, seniors, people impacted by HIV-AIDS, and people with disabilities.  Most of their client household incomes are below 150% of federal poverty guidelines. In total LAF serves over 18,000 individuals directly and 10,000 indirectly through their families. In the process, they coordinate over 100 grants with different requirements and conditions and serve clients in four languages.

Technology has enabled new ways for individuals to access services and organizations to serve them. However, those technological benefits haven't reached everyone equally. LAF asked CivX to explore how they might better use available technology to improve service efficiency.


We started as always with research internal to LAF and out in the field. Given LAF's huge service volume and diversity of services the service journeys clients navigate was understandably complex. But opportunities emerged. The team learned that service challenges begin when expectations are set early in the client relationship—prior to the online application and when the client first encounters legal aid services. Clients often expect imperfect customer service in all areas of their lives and attribute that experience to their social status and worth. By redesigning this very early part of the service relationship, LAF could create positive downstream effects for the applications process, staff utilization, and service outcome.

We once again split into two teams. One team focused on setting expectations on the website. The second team focused on how to build client confidence as they navigate the service process.


The results of the validation study weren't what the team expected. Some forms of media on the website (i.e. explanatory videos) turned out to be useful, but not magical. Users also shared that they wanted to be shown rather than "sold" to--allowing them to take in information and make decisions. The first team recommended diversifying the types and forms of information to give clients self-directed options rather than formal paths.

The second team drew on their research with analog organizations to recommend a new social contract during the service journey. Initially there was an imbalance in the service relationship. LAF spent huge amounts of time attempting to reach clients while the clients were passively waiting with little information. This dynamic turned out not to align with the client expectations or their schedules leading to wasted staff effort and missed service opportunities--thereby reducing service efficiency. Instead, the CivX team recommended that LAF implement an appointment framework for follow-up. More like a doctor's visit rather than an E.R. visit. The team's research suggested this would boost client confidence by giving them more information and greater control over their interactions.