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6. Strategy 3:
strengthening and
scaling justice services

Trend Report 2021 – Delivering Justice / 6. Strategy 3: strengthening and  scaling justice services

Having ensured that justice services can provide high-quality treatments, the task force should turn to effective delivery of such treatments. Together, the available services need to reach tens or hundreds of thousands  of people for each pressing justice problem every year. To achieve this, services need to be able to deliver each of the interventions needed in a seamless and scalable way. In order to achieve scalability, the way the service is organised should be financially sustainable. In simple economic terms, the service provider should ensure that the marginal cost of serving one more user with a justice problem is considerably lower than the extra revenue this user will generate. This margin can then be reinvested to improve the service, achieve further scale, manage risks and reward investors.

We now explore what is needed to turn a promising and game-changing service into an investable opportunity. A sound plan for a scalable justice service has a number of mutually reinforcing elements, which are described below.

Pilots, startups and new courts: the early initiatives with potential

Game-changing justice services are being developed. Community justice services exist in many countries. Mature startups deliver contracts online. Problem-solving courts are widespread. These promising service delivery models started small: in the first neighbourhood where Colombia’s houses of justice were piloted; in a single court in Brooklyn; or the first version of LegalZoom’s website.

Entrepreneurial judges, lawyers and IT professionals have turned ideas for new services into pilots and justice startups. These startups and pilots are an important part of the justice ecosystem. The number of innovation attempts in the justice sector is substantial. In 2011, Oxfam alone supported 800 rule of law programmes, most aimed at better justice services for vulnerable groups. Courts around the world often run multiple pilots in parallel.

Once the taskforce has decided which gamechangers are needed, it can cooperate an accelerator programme to select the most promising existing service providers. The table below identifies examples of early stage services that follow the path of promising game-changing service delivery models. They are taken from the HiiL Accelerator Programme that scouts, selects and supports justice startups.


Gamechangers category
Community justice services
Bataka Court Model (Uganda) HiiL Accelerator cohort 2018-19 Houses of Justice/ Casas de Justicia (Colombia)
User-friendly contracts
Creative Contracts (South Africa) HiiL Accelerator cohort 2017-18
One-stop dispute resolution (Netherlands) HiiL Accelerator cohort 2013-14
Problem-solving courts
Mental Health Courts/ Therapeutic Jurisprudence (US) HiiL Accelerator cohort 2013-14
Claiming platforms
Haqdarshak (India)  HiiL Accelerator cohort 2018-19
Prevention programmes (fraud, violence)
Yunga (Uganda) HiiL Accelerator cohort 2019-20 Ushahidi (Kenya) HiiL Accelerator cohort 2015-16 Appruve (Nigeria) HiiL Accelerator cohort 2019-20
Online legal information/advice
DIY Law (Nigeria) HiiL Accelerator cohort 2015-16

Alternatively, the task force can support initiatives to develop a new service. The Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) in British Columbia is an example of this. The CRT was set up as a result of an initiative by a group of justice leaders in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The first problem-solving court in the United States was also created as a new court instead of a pilot within an existing court. 

Governments often choose to set up new tribunals outside the existing court structure. Ombuds services, specialised tribunals and houses of justice did not emerge from existing courts. This follows a more general innovation practice. Mature, large organisations that want to break new ground have learned that the corporate structure – with all its regulations and social norms – is not ideal for innovative ventures. Typically, they base their startups outside the existing organisation. Eventually, when the new way of serving users has matured, it can be brought back into the corporate structure. This happened with the many separate tribunals in England and Wales (for employment, social security and child support, immigration and asylum, mental health) that later became part of an overarching organisation of courts and tribunals.

  • The HiiL Accelerator Programme works with justice startups (HiiL n.d.-x). These innovators are primarily in the private sector, but also include entrepreneurs working from within justice sector organisations. Justice innovation hubs have been set up in Johannesburg, Kampala, Kieve, Lagos and  Nairobi. 
  • Several ministries of justice run their own innovation programmes, including the ministries of Netherlands, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates (Singapore Ministry of Law 2020; Alfaham 2021; Ministry of Justice and Security Netherlands n.d.).
  • To learn more about the houses of justice in Colombia, see the case study Casas de Justicia in the annexure to this report. 
  • To learn more about LegalZoom, see the case study LegalZoom in the United States in the annexure to this report. 
  • To learn more about the growth of problem-solving courts, see the case study Problem-Solving Courts in the United States in the annexure to this report. 

Proving the concept: conducting a feasibility study and piloting

Let us consider a service that already exists, or has been piloted. In business language, it should have market validation. In language more fitting to government services, a feasibility study is needed. Unless the selected service is already on track towards effectiveness, scale and sustainability, it can be regarded as a pilot or an early-stage startup. A pilot and the experiences of a startup deliver a wealth of knowledge about justice needs, effective treatments, possible revenue models and barriers to bringing the service to scale.

The validation or feasibility study confirms to what extent the service is already effective, and what should be improved. This work is usually carried out in partnership with independent evaluators. It identifies a gamechanger’s main barriers to scale. A feasibility study consolidates the learnings from the existing service or pilot with knowledge from other sources. It details what improvements are needed and assesses how likely it is that these improvements can be made. The feasibility study identifies the main points of attention for the gamechanger and explains how they will be addressed.

Standardising delivery and individualisation

Small-scale justice services are often distinctive in how they are delivered. A mediator sets up a restorative justice programme with the local police. A judge develops ways of talking with the parties during a court hearing and achieves many settlements. Family lawyers in a city form a network with therapists so that couples who are in the course of separating can be helped more effectively. 

This can lead to early successes and increases in the resolution rate. But such initiatives depend on the skills and experience of a particular person or group.  An online platform referring people to lawyers is only as effective as the lawyer who ends up handling the case. If each lawyer listed on the platform has their own approach to solving conflicts, with varied outcomes and rates of success, what do users gain from this platform? 

Scaling implies standardisation and effective outcomes, which is closely linked to evidence-based practice and to financial sustainability. Better quality services are more likely to lead to a revenue model that is sustainable and scalable. Users, governments and communities are more likely to pay for a service that solves most land problems or most domestic violence issues. This, in turn, will provide a better business case for investments.

In an effective and investable service delivery model, outcomes are well-defined and monitored, making the quality of the service visible (Bal et al. 2019). 

Standardised, effective treatments need to be delivered through standardised channels. Generally, the user side can be a justice worker in a community or a website. Additional assistance can be organised through a telephone, help desk, or chat function. Research clearly shows that people today expect hybrid service delivery models, offering multiple ways to interact and exchange information (Creutzfeldt and Sechi 2021). The guidelines for treating the justice problem need to be translated into practical steps for employees operating each channel, including scripts for key interactions with users. Once tasks are defined and allocated, the time that they take can be estimated. This further standardisation can lead to new gains in efficiency. 

At the same time, the individual person seeking justice should feel heard and be served as an individual. Justice problems often have a high impact and cause distress. People need to feel they are listened to and that they are respected. This is a challenge for any court, police station or startup delivering justice services. 

Individualisation should be built into every delivery model for justice services. Disrespect is the most common feeling associated with injustice. For justice services, therefore, treating customers respectfully and not as a case or a number to be processed is crucial. Effective legal help offered online should be combined with options of, for exzmple, in-person or telephone assistance. 

Value proposition and delivery channels

In order to benefit from a service, users need to know that it exists. Individually, they are unlikely to encounter more than one land problem, one major crime issue or one separation in their lifetime, so most will not immediately know where to seek a solution. Searches on the web or consulting friends should lead to the game-changing service. Substantial investments in marketing are needed for this. Currently, people go to many different agencies and individual service providers, each of which is trying to compete for attention online or in communities. Widespread awareness can be achieved, however. Colombia’s houses of justice are known by 70% of the population, even though only 2% of the population (10% of the poor) use them. 

Awareness on its own is not sufficient. Game-changing services need to develop a clear value proposition. In HiiL’s work with justice innovators, this has proven to be an important element in bringing a service to scale. Gamechangers aim to offer a standardised service with a high resolution rate. Traditional justice services are not always clear about such outcomes, however. A lawyer, for example, typically tells a client that he or she may either win or lose the case depending on how a judge sees it. Research conducted by the Legal Services Board of England and Wales revealed how difficult people find the task of selecting legal services. This is due to the stress of the situation, their limited knowledge, and a lack of consistent and objective information. Generally, they prefer providers that offer clear and useful outcomes, and provide the needed specialised skills in an honest and professional way. They focus on good rapport, understanding and responsiveness as proxies for a favourable customer experience. 

Building on these insights, the value proposition for a one-stop procedure for land conflicts, for example, could include a stable agreement about rights of use and ownership, delivered by a specialist platform in a responsive manner. For clients of services providing user-friendly contracts, the value proposition can be a satisfying and effective employment relationship or a happy and prosperous family life, with clear indicators of the mechanism’s track record. A defendant struggling with substance use and repeated police involvement would like to know what a problem-solving process would deliver for him. How would his life change after participating in the process? 

The value proposition of justice services provided by courts needs the most work. Judges routinely tell parties to a conflict that a decision will not solve their problem. Prosecutors in the United States and Uganda, for example, talk about diversion, that is keeping cases out of court and sending them elsewhere. This suggests that the service a court provides is not effective and that a new value proposition is needed. Community justice services, by contrast, have a more convincing value proposition: a peaceful resolution that restores social harmony and is supported by the community.

To learn more about the houses of justice in Colombia, see the case study Casas de Justicia in annexure to this report.

Bringing in sustainable revenues: the financial model

A justice service cannot scale without a sustainable revenue model. Task forces are likely to underestimate the potential of justice services to generate sustainable revenues. In our 2020 Trend Report, Charging for Justice, we investigated in detail the possible sources of revenues for justice services. Generally, we found that the demand for fair solutions and the impact of justice problems is huge. Substantial revenues can be expected if the value proposition is clear and the service consistently delivers fair solutions or prevention. Here we provide some of the highlights from this report. 

People with justice problems are prepared to spend on solutions. Surveys that have investigated willingness to pay find that this is considerable, even in low-income countries. This can be explained by the significant impacts that justice problems have on people’s lives and by the large benefits of finding a solution. Although the high price of lawyers – that is, the cost of the service they provide – is generally seen as a barrier to justice, legal needs surveys paint a different picture. Only a small percentage of people with justice problems who do not use a lawyer mention price as the main barrier to resolution. 

Based on these data, our report hypothesised that the quality of justice services is the main obstacle when it comes to willingness to pay. From a user perspective, hiring a lawyer is unattractive. The outcomes are uncertain and one of the possible end points of the justice journey, a court judgement, may not deliver the result a user hopes for.

Game-changing justice services, which focus on the outcomes people need, can be more attractive for users and, in turn, increase their willingness to pay. Smart fee systems can be developed, with pay structures that make use of services more attractive. Smart fee systems optimise who pays for what and when they pay. For instance, user contributions are possible even when the target is a low-income group. In Uganda, the Local Council Courts charge fees from users in rural areas which helps to cover the costs of the tribunals. Providers of justice services can also consider taking contributions from the other (“defending”) party to the dispute, who may have deeper pockets, being a landlord or an employer. In many countries, court fees are also collected from defendants or rules exist that allocate legal costs to defendants. The community, too, is often prepared to contribute to the costs of justice delivery. A municipality may hope to de-escalate conflicts in order to prevent costs downstream. Volunteers may be willing to act as third parties. Civil servants may act as mediators. Government subsidies for courts or legal aid are of course common. An effective gamechanger can attract targeted subsidies for the most vulnerable users. 

The size of a smart fee should have some relationship to the costs of the service delivered. Pay-as-you-go systems have been developed in which accessing information is free, but support to achieve a settlement generates a fee. This fee can increase if a client needs mediation, adjudication or additional interventions that may be required in complicated situations. Government subsidies or cross-subsidisation can be used to avoid a situation where the people who need a solution most are unable to afford it. Germany implements cross-subsidisation through fee schedules that charge high fees to corporate plaintiffs with substantial financial claims.  

Task forces can also consider the timing of contributions. Court fee systems are often poorly designed, so providers of problem-solving courts or one stop tribunals should look into them. The user – who is likely to suffer financially from the justice problem –  often has to pay up front, many months or even many years before the court provides relief. This arrangement also misses the opportunity to incentivise courts to deliver judgments earlier on. Smart fee systems optimise all of this.  

Vital public services like health care would ideally be free at the point of service for a basic package. The same is achievable  for vital justice services, but this needs time. In order to achieve an ideal health care system, countries engaged in decades of innovation, resulting in improved quality of services leading to greater willingness to pay; increased revenues leading to greater investment in better services; the development of private and public insurance models; government coordination; and willingness to contribute to the health of fellow citizens. All of this helps to ensure 100% access. But trying to start with free justice services for all is unlikely to succeed and was not the trajectory taken by other public services.

Scaling the service: reaching the target population

The transition from reaching hundreds of people to covering a country’s entire population is best done on the basis of a scaling plan. Setting up or improving community justice services is often done geographically, area by area. One-stop shop procedures are most often implemented for a single problem type at a time. 

Contracting platforms typically develop standardised wills, family relationship contracts, employment contracts or rental contracts before they go live. This kind of minimum product package is needed before scale can be achieved. Integrating customer feedback to achieve the optimum product-market fit is also important.

LegalZoom: scaling and improving

LegalZoom is often characterised as a ‘disruptive innovation’ or an innovation that brought about a paradigmatic shift. Time and again, the company has introduced cutting-edge services that have had success in the commercial market and simultaneously made legal services more affordable. To date, the company has over 4 million customers. An important factor that has enabled LegalZoom to scale is the company’s problem-solving outlook. 

LegalZoom did not become complacent once its first venture – legal documents – became commercially successful. Rather, it sought to resolve other problems people faced, one of which was obtaining legal advice from qualified lawyers for a modest fee. To address this problem, the company offered a prepaid legal plan to customers. As per the plan, customers can schedule unlimited 30-minute consultations with lawyers on personal and business matters for a fee starting from 10 dollars a month. 

By diversifying its services, LegalZoom was able to tap into different sections of the market, expand its customer base and position itself as an attractive innovation to investors. 

As one interviewee in the case study said, 


Many times, innovators are [so] carried away by the strengths of their innovation that they forget to further innovate. After all, the innovator is trying to resolve problems. By limiting the innovation to a certain set of problems, the innovation limits its own growth. Instead, if the innovator adopts an attitude where he or she is looking to resolve new problems, it automatically broadens the scope of the innovation. By continuing to address problems, the innovation boosts its own effectiveness and ability to reach out to more people than before.

Rolling out a service is a specialism. High fidelity to the treatments that have been agreed to is crucial. The leadership and staff needed to ensure that the service is rolled out effectively are usually different from the leadership and staff needed at the initial innovation stages. Useful experiences can be obtained from other public services, such as financial inclusion and providing electricity to low-income areas in the world. These services have made important strides in recent years in achieving scale. These services often started as private sector initiatives backed by impact investors. Later, such services can be included in or validated by the relevant government agency. In these ways, justice services can reach many more users.

M-PESA and scaling justice services

The proliferation of mobile phones in developing countries is contributing to more equal treatment of vulnerable groups. Their use – in financial inclusion, increasing access to education, and many other Sustainable Development Goals – cannot be underestimated. 

M-PESA is a large-scale mobile phone-based payment service based in Kenya that works towards ensuring financial inclusion. The scaling history of M-PESA provides interesting lessons. Launched as a public-private partnership by Vodafone and Safaricom with the support of a grant from the UK government, the initiative began as a pilot programme. The overwhelming positive response M-PESA received from Kenyans encouraged the company to scale it across the country.

Initially, the service was launched as a phone-based micro-lending initiative. However, after realising that customers were using the product for a number of alternative purposes, the team decided to change the value proposition to allow people to make payments through the application.

Studies of M-PESA provide evidence of this public-private partnership’s success in increasing financial resilience and saving as well as in allocating resources more efficiently.  In 2016, a research paper by MIT estimated that the initiative had lifted 2% of Kenyans out of poverty. It also found that the impact of M-PESA on female-headed households was more than twice the average measured. 

Leaders in the justice sector may want to consider similar public-private partnerships. Hospitals, police stations, supermarkets and social media platforms are examples of services that already operate huge networks, mastering the associated logistics. Under what conditions could the delivery of justice outcomes happen with the help of  these channels or by licensing their expertise? 

Securing investments: an investment plan that entices funders

The task of securing investments for justice services warrants a separate report. Here, we mention a few key learnings from our work.

One insight is that the public and private justice sectors use different kinds of investment approaches and invest for different reasons. In the public justice sector, major investments are made in court buildings and IT infrastructure. These investments often seem only to cover the costs of maintaining services that are slipping. Investment plans for the public justice sector are often accompanied by talk about “dilapidated” court buildings and “paper files.” New court buildings and paperless offices are the deliverables.   

Our view on investment is closer to that of the private sector. Investments should aim to expand justice services and improve their quality, and should not be confused with maintenance. An investment plan details the resources needed for the game-changing service to scale. Investments come in different rounds to support the scaling process. As a service reaches more people, its revenues grow. The investments are needed to finance the scaling process until further scaling can be paid from the growing revenue stream. 

The justice sector can do a much better job in securing investments. The Overseas Development Institute, a development think tank, has investigated funding mechanisms for justice in several studies and found that investments in justice by international donors have stalled (Manuel, Manuel and Desai 2019). Private investments in people-centred justice are also minimal in comparison to investments in legal tech initiatives that primarily serve major law firms and businesses (HiiL 2020).  

A second observation is that game-changing justice services cannot scale on the basis of the usual grants of a few 100,000s euros from NGOs and international donors. The resources necessary to bring a service to scale will generally require investments in the range of millions and tens of millions of euros. This kind of money is needed to sustain a strong team, to validate a product, and for standardising the service and execution of the scaling plan. This includes awareness raising (marketing). 

A third insight is that compared to the social benefits of a game-changing justice service, the investments required are small. The gamechangers tend to have low fixed costs compared to other investments in national infrastructure, such as internet connections, electricity grids and networks of hospitals with extensive medical equipment. For example, fixed costs for community justice programmes consist of the money needed to develop treatment guidelines, standardised working methods, IT infrastructure, and a team that can ensure delivery of consistent and high-quality services by justice practitioners in communities. 

Delivering justice primarily involves sharing information and connecting people through sophisticated interactive processes. An infrastructure for data collection on outcomes is also crucial. This infrastructure requires considerable investment but once the necessary laws, processes and interaction formats are in place, justice services can be brought to city neighbourhoods and rural areas at much lower cost than those necessary to extend road and 5G networks.

The team leading the game-changing service should carefully consider what type of investors will best match their mission. Private investors may be guided by a short-term horizon and financial returns. Innovators in the HiiL Accelerator that come from the start-up scene are often interacting with the type of investors who stimulate them to move towards additional revenue streams that can be accessed easily. Conflict resolution is more complex than providing contracts and documents, for example, and requires more sophisticated revenue models, 

Justice sector investors sometimes struggle to understand that more substantial growth can come from linking services to courts and other government justice services. Understandably, they are reluctant to support scaling plans that need the cooperation of government agencies. They see this as high-risk and unpredictable. 

Social impact investors and public-private partnerships may be more suitable sources of funding for game-changing justice services. In five of the seven gamechanger models, the submission problem of having to satisfy two parties with different objectives is a barrier to growth. Cooperation with the government can solve this problem and open up a path to rapid expansion. Investing in lobbying for a level playing field may be a way to secure access to the market for mandatory services that are certified by the government.

The team leading the game-changing service should carefully consider what type of investors will best match their mission. The case study in the box above illustrates this. Private investors may be guided by a short-term horizon and financial returns. Innovators in the HiiL Accelerator that come from the start up scene are often interacting with the type of investors who stimulate them to move towards additional revenue streams that can be accessed easily. 

Justice sector investors sometimes struggle to understand that more substantial growth can come from linking the services to courts and other government justice services. Understandably, they are reluctant to support scaling plans that need the cooperation of government agencies. They see this as high-risk and unpredictable. 

Social impact investors and public-private partnerships may be more suitable sources of funding for game-changing justice services. In five of the seven gamechanger models, the submission problem of having to satisfy two parties with different objectives is a barrier to growth. Cooperation with the government can solve this problem and open up a path to rapid growth. Investing in lobbying for a level playing field may be a way to get access to the market for mandatory services that are certified by the government.

Enhancing leadership and teams with specific scaling skills

Setting up or substantially scaling a gamechanger requires effective leadership. Private investors are extremely conscious of the teams of the innovative ventures they consider funding. For justice services implemented by governments, these teams should also be a major point of attention. 

Access to the right mentorship is important at different development stages of an innovation. This is especially important when an innovation is expanding, raising additional funding and increasing the market share for the justice service it offers. Whether the service is based within a government agency or startup, it needs growth in user numbers. Simultaneously, the organisation will be scaling and partnerships need to be strengthened.

Problem-solving courts: some promises and pitfalls of scaling

According to our case study, strong leadership is essential to problem-solving courts’ ability to deliver the treatment outcomes people need at scale. Without the leadership of visionary judges and other leaders aiming to do things differently, these courts would never have come into existence in the first place. 

Because of the tendency to hold on to the status quo, individual problem-solving courts rarely get off the ground without a strong champion. The reason for this can be traced to problem-solving principles and practices: the goal is not to force people to change, but to make them change because they want to. 

Problemsolving courts require committed leadership. This can sometimes pose problems for the courts’ long-term stability. For example, a community court in North Liverpool  in the United Kingdom was championed by prominent national politicians. Their leadership was important for the court’s establishment and initial funding, but changes in national leadership and the lack of local support were major factors in the court’s ultimate demise.

Problemsolving courts – as well as similar innovations – may also struggle when their early champions move on. To avoid this and prepare for the eventual departure of the personalities driving change, it is important to put the courts’ internal methods of working in writing. As previously discussed, it is also necessary to obtain evidence that the court’s approach works, as in the long run this is a more important driver of funding than is good leadership.

Mid-level leadership within problem-solving courts matters. Since staff are often employed and supervised by various partner agencies – rather than the director of the project as a whole – it is important they be selected with care, trained in the project’s mission, policies and practices, and incentivised to work as part of a single team.

In the scale-up phase, innovation leaders need a fixation on managing growth. In our innovation practice, we have noticed that justice innovators are often heavily involved in improving the service. Many judges and lawyer-innovators continue to handle individual cases during pilots. IT experts continue to improve the innovation’s web interface while also leading a team. Successful leaders of scaleups are leaving this to others and only work on the conditions for increasing the number of users, the revenues and the supporting networks.

A team should have a range of skill sets and methods. Scale-up programmes mention up to 20 different capabilities (ScaleUpNation n.d.). For example, they focus on developing an innovation’s competitive edge – a unique advantage that makes the service distinctive. 

Data on private sector scale-ups illustrate what kind of teams are successful in bringing a justice service to scale. Most services that scale are established by three or more founders with previous experience in setting up new activities. Half of the founders in the justice sector are insiders, and the most successful founders have set up many ventures. They tend to have considerable experience in previous management roles. 

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