These best practices are designed to help you make your information trusted, understood and used.

Information is essential for access to justice

Information is essential for people to access justice. To resolve a dispute, to assert their rights, to avoid legal problems, to be an engaged citizen — people need information.

With the internet, information is more accessible than ever. But too much information presents its own challenges. Research shows that when faced with more information, people find it harder to decide what information is relevant (Metzger & Flanagin, “The Use of Cognitive Heuristics“).

How people cope with information overload

To cope with information overload, people take shortcuts. They will attempt to lessen their cognitive load by ignoring some information and looking for signals of credibility and relevance. These signals are called “cognitive heuristics.” They help people make decisions quickly and with less effort than more complex methods.

Research shows heuristics not only help people cope effectively with the great volumes of information we encounter every day — but they very often lead to accurate decisions (Gigerenzer & Todd, “Simple Heuristics that Make Us Smart“).

“The good news is that there is an enormous amount of publicly available legal information in Canada… But there are significant challenges. It is not always clear to the user what information is authoritative, current or reliable.”

Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matter, A Roadmap for Change

Shortcuts to relevant legal information

A group of British Columbia organizations that produce public legal information teamed up to learn more about this phenomena. We set out to identify the signals and shortcuts people use when looking for legal information. We dug into the research on how people find information. We compared notes on our own practices. We did testing with people directly.

We learned a number of things. We learned, for example, that people put great value in knowing the source of information. We learned they look for signals that legal information has been reviewed by an expert — someone who knows the law. We learned they look for signs the information is current.

Best practices for public legal information

We took this learning and distilled it into a set of public legal information best practices. Using these practices can help make your legal information stand out and more likely to be used. They can help your information be understood and truly impactful for your audience.

“Source information is crucial to credibility because it is the primary basis upon which credibility judgments rest.”