January 2013

Report: Legal Capability for Everyday Life Evaluation Report
Report commissioned by: Lisa Wintersteiger, Law for Life
Report author: Liz Mackie, The Gilfillan Partnership



This report presents findings, conclusions and recommendations from an external evaluation of the Legal Capability for Everyday Life project. The project was developed and delivered by Law for Life, a charity dedicated to ensuring that people have the knowledge, confidence and skills to deal with law-related issues. The external evaluation of the Legal Capability for Everyday Life project was carried out by The Gilfillan Partnership.

1.1 About the Legal Capability for Everyday Life project

In April 2012, Law for Life secured funding from the Baring Foundation to pilot a new approach to developing public legal education (PLE) practices with advice agencies. PLE refers to education, training or other interventions which aim ‘to transform people’s abilities to deal with law-related events in their lives, to bring about beneficial changes at least partly through their own efforts’.The Legal Capability for Everyday pilot project took place from May to December 2012. Law for Life invited advice agencies to become partners in the project and held a workshop for prospective participants to outline the aims of the project and introduce the concept of legal capability. Three advice agencies were selected to take part:

  • Afghan Association Paiwand (Paiwand), a community organisation supporting refugees from Afghanistan living in Brent, Barnet and neighbouring north London boroughs;
  • Community Links, a charity based in Newham, east London, delivering a range of community services including a network of Community Hubs for local people;
  • Disability Law Service (DLS), a national charity providing information and advice to disabled people, working in partnership with the Attend ABI project (Attend) which supports adults who have an acquired brain injury.

Law for Life worked with the three partner organisations to design and deliver a PLE course, including through a one day seminar with all partners to develop content in accordance with the needs of learners and appropriate methodologies for teaching within the community setting.

The PLE course delivery took place from early October to early December. Each partner organisation recruited between 10 and 15 of their service users to participate in the course. The PLE course was intended to be delivered over six weeks, with one two hour session each week and with the same group of 10 to 15 participants taking part in all six sessions. The courses delivered with Community Links and Attend/DLS took place over six weeks, as originally envisaged. Paiwand considered that a shorter delivery period would better suit their users and so the programme there took place over three weeks. Details of the three PLE courses are shown in Table I and an outline of what was included in each of the six course sessions is in Annex One.

Table I: The three public legal education courses

Start date End date Number of
Length of
Paiwand 3 October 17 October 3 4½ hours day
Attend/DLS 11 October 15 November 6 2 hours evening
22 October 3 December 6 2½ hours afternoon


1.2 Project aims and intended outcomes 

The following aims were established by Law for Life for the Legal Capability for Everyday Life project

  • To improve the levels of legal capability of the participants;
  • To test the conceptual model of legal capability;
  • To implement and test the PLE evaluation framework in the context of advice agencies;
  • To improve advice agencies ability to undertake PLE within their local communities;
  • To begin to assess the potential wider socio-economic impact, the social benefit, of PLE projects.

The Legal Capability for Everyday Life project was intended to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Learners will be enabled to cope with the law in their everyday lives by improving their ability to deal with common law-related issues and situations;
  • Partners will have a better understanding of the domains and elements of legal capability and how they apply to different groups of learners;
  • A PLE evaluation framework will be tailored to adapt to advice agency delivery of PLE and to more rigorous data collection on the socio-economic impact of legal capability;
  • Advice agencies will better understand the skill suited to delivering PLE in their communities

1.3 The public legal education evaluation framework

In November 2011, Law for Life, in partnership with the University of Bristol, published the Public Legal Education Evaluation Framework.3 This sets out a framework for defining legal capability and for evaluating the impacts of PLE interventions in developing legal capability. The PLE evaluation framework conceptualises legal capability across four domains:

  • Recognising and framing the legal dimensions of issues and situations;
  • Finding out more about the legal dimensions of issues and situations;
  • Dealing with law-related issues;
  • Engaging and influencing.

Within these four domains, the PLE evaluation framework sets out 21 measures for evaluating what has been achieved by a PLE intervention. The domains and evaluation measures are shown in Table II. The Legal Capability for Everyday Life project offered the opportunity to test the PLE evaluation framework in two important ways;

(1) as a framework for the design of resources to deliver PLE within the advice sector, and

(2) as a framework for evaluating the effectiveness and impact of PLE initiatives.

In this report a distinction is made between the PLE evaluation framework document, the PLE evaluation framework, and the legal capability matrix. ‘PLE evaluation framework document’ refers to the full document published by Law for Life and University of Bristol. ‘PLE evaluation framework’ refers to the evaluation measures, questions and techniques that are identified for each legal capability domain. These are presented in a series of tables in Section 4 of the PLE evaluation framework document. ‘Legal capability matrix’ refers to the summary of the legal capability dimensions set out in the PLE evaluation framework document. The legal capability matrix is reproduced in Annex Two of this report.