The access to justice discourse is increasingly focused on modernization. This involves drawing on technology as well as new methods to guide the development of justice system improvements. The user experience (UX) figures prominently in modernization efforts. It underscores what Usability.gov – the leading authority on UX best practices for both the public and private sector – describes as, “a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations.”
As a generation, Millennials are squarely at the modernization and user-experience intersection. Their comfort with change and technology is disrupting industries by reshaping work and consumer habits. By 2019, Millennials will make up the largest block of voters in Canada – a fact that is top of mind for politicians across the political spectrum.
Born between approximately 1980 and 2000, Millennials have a wide age range for a generation but these variables are consistent across the group: they are the most educated, secular, culturally diverse and of course technologically savvy generation in the country. Within this cohort, women are the most educated and make up the majority in the professions. In addition, Millennials are the children of Baby Boomers who have the highest rates of divorce of any generation – something that older Millennials are reacting to as they are now starting their own families.
This is a critical time for justice sector stakeholders to be paying attention to Millennials. They are the largest share of Canada’s population, make up the largest portion of the labour force at 37%, are the largest group of consumers in the country and are the most likely to use the internet to purchase goods and services. These numbers will continue to rise making this next generation of justice system users and legal professionals central to access to justice improvements – those aimed at modernization, user-experience and beyond.
This context guided the development of a new report from The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG). Millennials, Technology and Access to Justice in Ontario was released in October in an effort to help answer questions that access to justice advocates – particularly those focused on modernization and user-experience based efforts might be asking: Why would Ontario Millennials seek justice through technology? Are Ontario Millennials ready for disruptive services in the justice sector?
Abacus Data was commissioned to do an online survey of 1000 Ontario resident Millennials. Here are some selected findings:
- More than half (58%) of Millennials say finding information about even the basics of the Ontario’s legal system is a key challenge.
- About four in ten (41%) Millennials have sought legal information online, but many also reach out to public librarians, legal aid clinics or legal professionals for information. This means that Millennials are combining digital with face to face approaches.
- The most frequent legal challenges experienced by Millennials were employment and work-related matters (16%) and housing law (16%). As they age and face a broader range of potential legal issues this will likely change.
- One in ten Millennials is aware of Steps to Justice, a website that presents plain language information and related next steps about common legal problems in Ontario. Respondents were almost two-times more likely to be aware of Steps to Justice if they had visited a public library, legal aid clinic or legal professional. In-person engagement has been critical to informing awareness of this digital resource.
- Millennials show keen interest in a range of access to justice initiatives. The most appealing was an online legal database that allows user to search for information about common legal problems, learn from other people’s experiences or find a legal professional in their area. Nine in ten (91%) respondents felt this initiative was a good or very good idea.
- Millennials are also interested in unbundled legal services, (87%) felt this approach was a good or very good idea.
- Over 6 in 10 (61%) Ontario Millennials are uncomfortable uploading legal identification such as a passport or driver’s license online due to fears of identity theft. Single women, those with lower educational attainment and from lower income households, and those living in rural communities were the most likely to be uncomfortable with these processes.
What are these results telling us? That continued efforts to modernize and raise awareness of existing digital resources is key. In addition, Millennials want to combine digital tools with in-person engagement. One possible response to these findings could entail users accessing legal information or other tools online prior to or, after meeting with a legal professional. This would align with this group’s established digital behaviour, such as the inclination to search online for information about a major purchase or health symptoms before engaging the appropriate expert.
By examining a specific segment of the population we are able to highlight key issues, habits and potential ways forward. Engaging the public about their views is critical to creating relevant and effective access to justice responses. The modernization and user-experience agenda is served by not only collecting and sharing this kind of information but by putting it to use. The data tells the story – the opportunities and the challenges. It’s up to us to respond.
– Sabreena Delhon is the Manager of External Engagement and The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG) at the Law Society of Upper Canada. Follow her @sabreenadelhon