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Being a minister of justice

As minister, I am at the centre of the justice system. Sometimes, I feel lonely.

I am supposed to enact laws for every injustice. My head of government expects me to deliver law and order. Different agencies look to me for money.

In reality, I have limited authority. The courts adjudicate, police investigates, prosecution indicts, enforcement agents enforce, prisons keep inmates, notaries public verify.

I am a coordinator on a precarious political assignment and need success.

How can I ever respond to these competing demands?


I am looking for guidance

I want to safeguard justice during my tenure. I want to contribute to improving the legal system. 

Many promising innovations emerge.

New ways of working – such as online mediation and investigations of crimes by citizens – are disruptive. Justice workers from my field like certainty.  

Every country has these challenges. So we can learn together:

  • The OECD advises me to start from justice needs and to focus on “what works.”
  • Here are the findings of the Taskforce on Justice.
  • It is amazing how many access to justice commissions have advised similar things.


Read more

So, this is what
I am trying to achieve

Ensure stability
and compliance with rule of law in cooperation with justice sector institutions
Enable justice workers
to find and apply the best treatments.
Map injustices experienced by people and businesses
Help to innovate courts and legal services, so an army of justice workers can remedy injustices at scale.
Monitor outcomes
Help the sector to focus on what people get when their problem is resolved.
Ensure my Ministry enables innovation of treatments and supports the most effective delivery models. Making this work financially.
Help justice leaders to develop the skills and strategies they need to work evidence based.

Data on problems, impact
and outcomes

Prevent and resolve
problems at scale

The best treatments

Justice workers want to provide the best solutions to their clients. So see here how they are supported with best practices and evidence on what works to achieve outcomes.

As a Minister, I am the guardian of successful solutions for justice problems in my country.

I am supporting research into the best treatments. 

The health care sector needs vaccines, non-invasive treatments and painkillers. 

What would happen if the justice sector would aim for the best treatments for domestic violence? If governments and the private sector would develop the best possible work contracts, promoting fairness at work and preventing conflicts?

The best services

Like the health care sector needs great hospitals and community health care workers, I am also promoting innovation in the design of justice services. 

Court leaders and providers of innovative service providers are working on these models.

The best systems

Let me expand on my primary task to create the enabling environment for justice. I need to ensure that the best treatments and services can be implemented. For this I need to provide:

Regulation that enables the best treatments and services
Models for financing services sustainably
Investments in innovation so the best treatments and services are developed.

Regulation that enables the best treatments and services.

Innovations can only be successful if they can replace existing ways of working. 

The ministry is the guardian of many rules about what justice workers can do.
Judges are supposed to adjudicate following rules of procedure (often very old ones, written down long ago).
We also have rules about what lawyers, mediators, prosecutors and even informal justice providers can do.

Innovation blocked by rules codifying ancient practices

When an innovative new justice service is developed, the rules have to change as well.

  • Lawyers can only act for one party. They can be very effective in creating solutions that work for both sides.
  • Prosecutors are supposed to prosecute a crime. They now also support victims and help perpetrators to get the right kind of therapy.

In the 1920s, lawyers codified their best practices for organising the legal profession. Law professors helped judges to design their procedures in the 1850s. These rules should not limit the good things that justice workers can do.

  • Judges are supposed to listen to claims and evidence and then to issue a judgment. They can be very effective as facilitators of a settlement agreements that work for both parties.
  • Village courts, community paralegals and other local justice workers are not supposed to deal with assault or money claims higher than a certain amount. They can solve many conflicts locally, even when some violence has occurred, or when the monetary stakes are higher.

Court leaders and innovators who want to deliver treatments that work, always have to lobby for a change in the rules.

It can take long to change the rules of civil procedure or the self-regulation by lawyers.
So few innovations succeed.
Then citizens are deprived of good services.
The result may be that they get justice services designed for their great-grandparents, who were living in a time when electricity lit the first light bulb.

I am now working on a new system where justice workers can be quickly allowed to apply the best treatments to problems.

My vision is to have independent quality review of new solutions.
If a new treatment for neighbour conflicts is better than the existing court procedure, it should be able to replace the existing one.

New models for regulating legal services are emerging. 

The following models exist that I can use:

  • Independent regulators.
  • Regulatory sandboxing. 
  • Value based regulation of procedure. 
The map bellow shows where these initiatives are developing.

Financing justice services in a sustainable way

Every justice sector organisation is always asking me for money. 

The budget for the justice sector is based on budget proposals delivered by the police, the courts or the legal aid lawyers. 

I am financing dozens of organisations in this way. 

How do I ensure justice sector organisations  deliver good value to the people? 

This is what the experts on financing justice have to say: 

I have to develop a better system for financing courts and other services.
Somehow, revenues need to come in to pay for excellent justice services to be delivered.

So where can more revenues come from? Ministers of justice in all countries have tried the following sources of revenues:

  • Ministries of finance: getting a bigger slice from the government budget and letting taxpayers foot the bill.
  • Other government agencies: making them pay for solving the justice problems they create or can manage.
  • People seeking access to justice: user contributions.
  • Other parties: making the perpetrator or the defendant pay.
  • Community contributions: others benefiting from peace and justice, from family members to local councils, or people volunteering as judge or mediator of disputes.

Somehow, citizens will pay. The question is how.

Smart contributions: who pays and when.


Investments in better treatments and services

Financing current justice services is not enough.
The justice system also needs investments.
Court buildings or computers are needed.

But wait.
Is real estate or a computer network really the core business?
Is it an investment or just the costs of services?

Better treatments for personal injury cases need to be developed.
Current ways to prevent cybercrime need to be updated.
This is the core business we need to invest in.

Justice Sector Innovation and R&D

Until recently, governments had no systematic approach to justice sector R&D.
Few justice sector budgets had budget lines for innovation.
Universities are mostly research laws, not what works to solve or prevent injustice.
Innovation at courts had to be financed from current revenues.

Some countries launched big programs bringing paper based procedures online.
Which was hard to do and not really addressing justice needs of citizens.
Startups developing new legal services relied on NGOs or good contacts with civil servants. The few $10.000s they raised were not the serious money needed to build a service that can solve 100.000s of problems effectively.

We can learn from other sectors.
In healthcare, the water sector or for climate change, governments focused on funding the basic technologies.

Governments funded GPS and most other tech that was scaled by Apple and Samsung later.

This happened in the past in the justice sector (remember Napoleon’s codes?).
Right now, we live in a world awash with private money.
Social impact investors are looking for great investments.

Donors are supporting security and justice programs in low income countries.

How can we mobilise that money for precious peace and valuable justice?
And how can we safeguard that private money will be used properly to achieve a public good as justice?

It is hard for me as minister in one country to invest in all of this. These are things needed in every country. So call me and let us do it together.


With over a decade of experience of supporting justice innovations from all over the world, HiiL has gathered significant insights into the kind of innovations that become the Game Changers – the opportunities for disruption that are sustainable, scalable and those that have potential for attracting investment.

Legal aid in criminal cases

One stop journey for family justice

Online platforms for contracts and other legal documents

Local delivery for basic justice


Let us make a
transformation together