Through networks of university-based entrepreneurship law clinics in the US and Europe, and a US-wide network of legal incubators supporting entrepreneurial lawyers, the LTL Community has access to a collective set of data on entrepreneurs and start-ups and their barriers to innovation. Project SUNI (Standards for Understanding Networked Impact) fully leverages law incubator datasets and seeks to identify, address and ultimately eliminate the legal and economic barriers to innovation in three main areas: (i) the provision of legal services, (ii) building legal awareness, and (iii) policy making.
Currently, there are no common standards for evaluating the impact of these programs or the interventions they support, and there are few standards for evaluating the impact of legal services generally. There is no common way of measuring or deciding what works or doesn’t. To the extent policy finds praxis through the delivery of legal services, there is also a gap in our ability to evaluate the impact of policy. On a qualitative level, we have isolated, anecdotal data on impact, but we can do better. Project SUNI will focus on developing a system to produce, use and share high-quality evidence that can lead to better recommendations on law and policy changes, better decisions to improve how interventions are funded and delivered, and the dissemination of best practices that promote affordable access to quality legal services.
The project team has established the baseline framework for the Evidence Hub and the Standards of Evidence, along with the relevant evaluation framework, translating this with reference to strategic impact measurement best practices, into the Legal Services context - this framework will be used for collecting and evaluating interventions from participating incubators.
With this in place, the Project Evaluation Plan and Theory of Change for one intervention by Justice Bridge involving their use of interns and paraprofessionals, has been completed for the purposes of evaluation against Standard 1 of the Standards of Evidence as a template for other incubators and subsequent interventions to use as a precedent. Along with the baseline framework, this precedent Evaluation Plan will be distributed as a Project SUNI “Primer” for additional participating incubators.
Based on this Evaluation Plan, the project team will be conducting interviews and research to measure client interactions and outcomes using questions on delivery technique practices developed by Legal.io and Justice Bridge to measure impact for attorneys who currently participate in the Justice Bridge law incubator, comparing attorneys who took advantage of the intervention against attorneys who did not.
Going forward, the project team will be continuing to onboard other incubators and inviting evaluation of various other entrepreneurial delivery interventions by incubator attorneys, as supported by Justice Bridge and other incubators. The Texas Opportunity and Justice Incubator has already been onboarded to the Legal.io service delivery and outcome data collection platform, and are awaiting distribution of the Primer.
The team will be reporting back on the establishment of the Evidence Hub and Standards of Evidence, and the outcome of this intervention at Justice Bridge this past summer and its broader, potential impact in facilitating the representation of modest means clients by attorneys. The team will work primarily with the Justice Bridge program to test the questions that we will then use to study other incubator programs, their delivery techniques and outcomes. Our team plans to present our findings and the framework for the Evidence Hub and the Standards of Evidence to onboard other incubator programs at the annual Incubator Consortium conference in April 2018.