The Law Centres Network (LCN) is a registered charity and the membership body for Law Centres. Law Centres work to defend the legal rights of people in the area of social welfare law, and together with LCN, strive for a just and equal society where everyone’s rights are valued and protected. LCN supports 42 individual Law Centres who deliver legal advice to some of the most disadvantaged communities in England, Wales & Northern Ireland, ensuring access to justice for all.
We’ve been collaborating with the LCN on a project that will:
- Provide a single source of data for HR, funding and office management staff
- Enable better document access and management (no more spreadsheets!) and less siloed working
- Drive efficiency gains for the back office team, ensuring they can spend their time where it matters most
- Give users better visibility of data, allowing management to make data-driven decisions
- Protect sensitive data, improving data protection and GDPR compliance
- Enhance collaboration by bringing all back-office users onto the same platform
- Give users a platform designed for them, tailored to their specific roles and requirements
- Drive technology interest across the Network, and give centres confidence to develop skills
Law Centre Network's key objectives
The LCN is an infrastructure organisation with three key, high-level objectives:
- Help Law Centres thrive so they can meet the needs of their clients & respond to their communities
- Strengthen the Network of Law Centres so they can learn, act and grow together
- Amplify the voice of Law Centres and their clients to better champion rights and challenge injustice
Like many nonprofit organisations, individual Law Centres inevitably find that staff and resources are prioritised for delivery of frontline services. Even though management can see that IT is important, it’s difficult for small organisations to take time away from vital service delivery to take a holistic look at areas such as IT and digital systems, digital literacy and data strategy.
Law Centres Network are a step back from the front-line. They have a broad perspective of the Network’s ecosystem, and can see systemic issues that happen across the Network rather than just the specific picture that individual centres might see themselves.
LCN conducted user research on operations across the Network, and confirmed that back-office systems weren’t as efficient as the infrastructure supporting frontline legal work. Manual, paper-heavy processes (and a reliance on spreadsheets) hampered user efficiency and productivity, and a lack of centralised data storage and succession planning posed business continuity risks. While Law Centres could meet their obligations to their service users, they needed to ensure that they could continue to do so in future years while keeping up with rapid advances in technology and ensuring that enough time is devoted to delivering services to those that desperately need them.
Agreeing our approach
Law Centres Network have been using Salesforce since 2014, leveraging the platform for all back-office operations. As LCN’s Salesforce Administrator, Alex Charles could see the potential for Salesforce to be used across the Network to resolve some of their systems and data challenges.
After a successful demonstration to Law Centres, Alex and the digital team at LCN kicked off a pilot project to explore how they could build a package for Salesforce that would meet requirements for managing back-office functionality, while making it easy for LCN to deliver it to individual Law Centres. Starting from scratch at each Centre would be difficult to achieve within the budget available, and the ‘package’ approach would allow LCN to deploy Salesforce more easily to the Law Centres to deliver economies of scale.
LCN firstly identified which areas of the project they could manage themselves, and which areas would require additional support. They managed contact with the Centres, project scope, design and Salesforce configuration. Hyphen8 acted as a sounding board for best-practice, and gave developer support to package up what had been built, ready to be deployed to individual Law Centres.
The ethos of this pilot project was to roll out the package to four Centres, letting LCN measure its impact, and to understand whether it should be rolled out across the wider Network. It also allows LCN to understand whether they can manage this process themselves.
Launching the pilot and gaining feedback
Since the pilot launch at the start of 2023, Law Centre users have been getting to grips with the Salesforce platform, and they’ve already been feeding back the benefits. Most users had no experience of Salesforce and were impressed by the ability to streamline previously admin-heavy tasks such as recording annual leave and HR information and creation of funding pipeline reports for trustees.
I showed Salesforce’s reports features to my colleague who is involved in writing reports each month on our funding pipeline – I built her a quick report, hit the refresh button and magically all the latest funding data appeared in the report - they were utterly blown away!
Alex Charles, IT & Digital Officer at Law Centres Network
Users who had struggled to move away from paper are now being converted to this new way of working, as LCN have ensured that stakeholders have been brought along for the journey through user-led design. Staff have had the opportunity to define what they want to ensure that the system will meet their needs. The design hasn’t been dictated to them, as key stakeholders have had input throughout. As LCN have let users shape the solution themselves, they feel ownership and excitement for how this can make their lives easier, and how this will improve frontline service delivery. Their continued feedback will allow LCN to further improve the package, and to explore what the second phase of the pilot could entail.
The Hyphen8 team have been so vital to the delivery of the project, both in terms of addressing where I have doubts or a lack of knowledge, and also for general advice and guidance. They REALLY understand it! Whilst Hyphen8 hadn’t been part of the initial requirements gathering process, they were able to easily translate what we said and then make it make sense in Salesforce – it’s been so valuable having them work with us!
We were given a dedicated contact who always made time to make a call to talk through problems and to explore solutions. It’s also given me a chance to develop my own skillset in Salesforce. This is fantastic for our self-sufficiency, and will let us continue to evolve our platform. I can’t help but compare this experience with IT companies I’ve worked with before who want to hold onto knowledge – Hyphen8 have imparted their wisdom at every stage which has been so useful, from initial design through to launching the package to the pilot Law Centres.
Alex Charles, IT & Digital Officer at Law Centres Network
This project has already helped Law Centres to devote more time to defending the legal rights of people who can’t afford access to a lawyer and will continue to deliver benefits as new versions are rolled out across the Network.
To find out more about the work of the Law Centres Network, see their website: https://www.lawcentres.org.uk/