Posts in MyLawBC Development Blog
How the Abuse & Family Violence pathway can help you

Did you know that abusive behaviours can take many forms besides physical violence? If you’re in an abusive relationship, your safety may be at risk. You can get help through the Abuse & Family Violence pathway. The pathway asks you questions to help you think about your relationship with your partner, provides information about abuse to help you assess your current situation and your level of risk, and gives you an action plan for the future.

You’ll be guided to in-person services and resources to help you address your safety concerns, legal needs, and other issues specific to your situation. You can print out information about the steps you can take now or do later. You can also use sample checklists to help you with safety planning.

It will take you about 25 minutes to go through the pathway. Your answers are completely confidential and deleted when you leave the pathway.

MyLawBC can help if you’re facing foreclosure

Have you missed making a mortgage payment on your home? Or are you worried about missing a payment? If you answered yes to either question, the Foreclosure pathway on MyLawBC will guide you to people and services for help. The pathway will ask you more questions like these to find out about your situation. Then it will give you answers to help you keep your house, condominium, or townhouse. You’ll receive practical information on how to avoid foreclosure and where to find financial and legal help. A handy checklist and general tips are included.

If you decide to go to court, you’ll get an overview of the court process, information on how to prepare for court, and links to sample court documents.

When you’ve completed the Foreclosure pathway, you can print the action plan for your situation. It will list who to contact for free legal help and where to get free publications about foreclosure.

You can go through the entire pathway in less than 20 minutes. Your answers are completely confidential and will be deleted when you leave the pathway.

Foreclosure is one of several pathways on MyLawBC. They all guide users to solutions for their legal issue.

What you can find on MyLawBC

MyLawBC is fast approaching. In a few months, the site will throw open its doors and start helping people from all across BC. In the lead-up to the launch, we’d like to give you a closer look at what you can expect from MyLawBC, starting with an overview of the site’s structure and how users will navigate the site:  

sITE mAP

You can see there are seven guided pathways users can go through, and that the pathways fall into four categories — family violence, family (separation and divorce), foreclosure, and wills and personal planning. Each pathway will take you to a unique endpoint depending on your particular situation. An endpoint is a customized Web page (that you can download or print) that will set out your next practical steps and provide useful resources. The family endpoints also lead to the dialogue tool, an online negotiation platform you and your partner can use to work through the details of a separation or divorce. There is also a publications section where you can download public legal education and information materials or order print copies to be delivered to your home or office for free.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring each of these sections in more detail.

Why MyLawBC?

MyLawBC is a different type of website. It takes an active role in engaging the user, helping them find the information they need — and only the information they need. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about how MyLawBC is a different type of website, but we haven’t spent a lot of time talking about why we’re taking this new approach. Different people absorb information in different ways. For some people, a book is the best way to learn, while for others it’s a video. And some people learn best one-on-one.

There’s a multitude of fantastic legal resources available to the public, but most of them follow a fairly similar format, which works for a lot of people but may not be ideal for others. MyLawBC is our approach to addressing this problem.

Many people just want the information they need right now. They don’t want the background details and they don’t want to know why something is the way it is. Finding out the whys can wait until they know what they have to do next. MyLawBC is for these people.

We did a recent survey of our clients that reinforced this approach. Many didn’t want to go searching online for fear of being overwhelmed by general information. Instead ,they want information specific to their case that will directly help them.

Just like other PLEI sites aren’t for everyone, MyLawBC won’t be for everyone. But it does give you another option for how you want to digest the information you need. And it reaches out to an audience that hasn’t been catered to up to this point.

When will we see MyLawBC?

MyLawBC will be online and ready to help people by the end of January 2016! MyLawBC is a big project. It’s also a very different type of project than what we normally work on. Over the last few months, we’ve been chipping away at MyLawBC and checking off things on our to-do list: designing pathways, writing the content to go in them, creating the look and feel of the site, doing user testing of the prototype, and more. It’s a lot of work, but we’re moving forward at a steady pace.

Right now all our content — the questions and answers for the pathways and all the information you get at the end — are being locked into place. Over the next few months, we’ll flow all the work we’ve done into the final website platform and make all the final design touches.

That should all be done in December, and from there we need to pore over everything to make sure that it works as intended and make our final tweaks. We want to check that no wires got crossed and that you’ll get the answer you need when you use the site. Along the way we’ll also start getting the word out so that people will know what MyLawBC is and what they’ll be able to use it for.

That takes us to the end of January, when we’ll be ready to throw the doors open to the site and start helping people solve their everyday legal problems.

User testing: Round 2

User testing is an important part of the process of making MyLawBC. This site is different from every other website we’ve made. We want to make sure that when the site launches, it won’t just be full of useful information but that everyone can use the site to find the solution they need. Our first round of user testing happened in February. We took the brainstorming and sketches we had put together by that point and made a quick prototype. In that round of testing, we were concerned with how people would react to the idea behind MyLawBC, whether the guided-pathway approach was how people would want to find information. Rechtwijzer proved that the idea could work, but we needed to make tweaks and changes to the formula to have it translate to BC.

Feedback was great, and we learned a lot about how people interact with a site like MyLawBC. We went ahead and started working on the next version of MyLawBC.

This summer we held our second round of testing (which recently wrapped up). We ran users through a new prototype of the site. Each user spent an hour working their way through a guided pathway. We watched how they interacted with the site and asked them about their experience once they finished. That feedback has gone into helping us make more improvements to the site.

User testing can be time consuming and difficult, but it’s also invaluable to gather feedback from the actual people who will be using the site so that we can make a better MyLawBC for everyone.

A look at MyLawBC’s emblem

We’re happy to announce that MyLawBC now has an emblem! Our search for an emblem started out in October of last year with a handful of different designs. Since then, we’ve debated here at LSS and taken the designs on the road to get feedback. More than 200 people from across BC weighed in to give us their opinions. We recently took all that feedback, sat down, and decided on the emblem, which you can see below in a few contexts.

It’s important for any website to have a strong visual identity. When someone visits a website for the first time, they should be able to get a sense of what the site is about at a glance. For MyLawBC, that means that we want them to feel that the site is friendly and approachable.

The way people will interact with MyLawBC is different from any other website about the law in Canada, and this emblem reflects that. It’s simple, recognizable, and personal. As you work your way through MyLawBC, you’ll receive a personalized action plan. This emblem reflects the approachable pathways we use to guide you to your action plan. Its design brings to mind the act of highlighting the information that is important specifically to you.

This emblem isn’t the be-all and end-all of the look and feel of the site though. From the video above, you can see that the design of the site is coming together. We look forward to sharing more of it in the future!

User testing on the road: Terrace and Duncan

Late last month we wrote about the user testing we did of the MyLawBC prototype in Vancouver. Our testing wasn’t just limited to people in the Lower Mainland though. MyLawBC is a tool that’s meant to be accessible and useful to everyone in the province. During the first round of testing, I was lucky enough to be able to take the usability show on the road and see what people in Terrace and Duncan thought of the prototype.

Together with local staff, I met with four people at our office in Terrace. I had heard it was raining when I packed my bags, so I was a bit confused when I flew in on a cold Monday night to learn it had been snowing all day. Thankfully, I was able to borrow a pair of boots! Despite the weather, meeting with people who would actually use the site to discuss the prototype was helpful. There were many positive comments on the MyLawBC prototype, as well as some valuable insights into how to improve the site.

During our community workshop in Duncan, I had the chance to review the prototype with two service providers. I also met with two members of the public in Cowichan Bay to review the website. This time there was no snow, but I did find it hard not to get distracted by the view. We again received positive comments, as well as helpful and constructive feedback.

Thank you to the staff in both Terrace and Duncan for setting up the interviews with clients, dealing with my footwear, and for making the experience so much fun!

-- Alex Peel, Publications Development Coordinator

MyLawBC frequently asked questions — Part 5

MyLawBC is a big project and we’ve received a lot of questions about it. We’ve compiled answers to some of the most common questions and, over the course of a few posts, we’ll answer those questions. If you want to read all of the FAQs, you can find them here.

MyLawBC – Working with HiiL

Why is LSS partnering with HiiL? HiiL is a not-for-profit research and advisory institute for the justice sector in the Netherlands. Together with the Dutch Legal Aid Board, it developed an interactive legal information and empowerment site called Rechtwijzer (“Signposts to Justice”). This website is one of the main inspirations for MyLawBC.

HiiL provides not only an innovative and tested platform for providing legal information in guided pathways, but also the knowledge behind creating those guided pathways. No other provider could give us both the technology and the expertise that we need to make MyLawBC a reality.

How did LSS choose HiiL? We investigated the options available for software to create the guided pathways. We found that HiiL (with its partnership with Modria) was the most qualified to work with us and deliver the end product we envisioned. The Rechtwijzer platform builds on solid experience with interactive information platforms, best practices for online dispute resolution for family problems, and research knowledge obtained from users, professionals, and top academics.

Rechtwijzer charges users; will MyLawBC charge users too? Rechtwijzer has a robust separation section. This section walks users through the separation process from start to finish so that former partners can build their own separation agreements. It also gives optional access to mediators and adjudicators who help ensure a fair separation agreement for both sides; Rechtwijzer charges user fees to access this section of the site as a way to fund the service and to pay the mediators and adjudicators for their services. MyLawBC won’t include these services when it goes live, so it won’t charge for them.

Could MyLawBC include online dispute resolution services? The MyLawBC platform is based on the Rechtwijzer platform and could be expanded to include online mediation and arbitration services. However, this is outside of the current project’s scope.

MyLawBC frequently asked questions — Part 4

MyLawBC is a big project and we’ve received a lot of questions about it. We’ve compiled answers to some of the most common questions and, over the course of a few posts, we’ll answer those questions. If you want to read all of the FAQs, you can find them here.

MyLawBC funding

How is MyLawBC funded?

LSS is funded by government and non-government revenues. Our most significant source of non-government revenue is a core grant from the Law Foundation. Other sources include interest-based grants from the Notaries Foundation and interest from LSS accounts.

For MyLaw BC, we reallocated core non-government funding, primarily that portion of the Law Foundation grant that will be eliminated in future years. This will fund MyLawBC’s one-time development costs.

As our non-government funding depends on interest rates, it is subject to increases and decreases. Directing some of this funding into online services that can withstand decreases and scale up in the event of funding increases enables us to provide consistent service delivery.

Will MyLawBC be expensive to maintain?

We’ve budgeted for ongoing site maintenance comparable to other sites such as our Family Law Website. By spring 2018, LSS will have gathered useful data on the site’s usage, which will allow us to make an informed decision for its future direction, including how best to sustain the site.

Why is LSS spending this money on a website rather than more in-person services? We know in-person services are important. When we decided to develop MyLawBC, we allocated additional funding to support in-person services through our Community Partners and Aboriginal Services departments. A robust community service network across BC means we can better meet our mandate to provide not only legal representation, but also public legal education and information. People are a key component to the success of our online services. By delivering this information online we’re able to reach a wider audience than would otherwise be possible.