Additional Functionality Required
Cook County partnered with Clarity Partners to build their new portal website which also presented content for the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender (CCPD). Towards the end of the project, while Cook County was updating and migrating their content into their content management system, CCPD identified the need for a standalone website to serve their target audiences with more functionality than the portal site could provide. The nature in which public defenders are appointed prevents the majority of their target audience from requesting services directly, however, the office still provides a number of legal resources for various audiences including:
- Forensic lab services and professional development opportunities for the legal community
- Reports and statistics for grant writers and policymakers
- Expungement workshops and public events for the general public
A key pain point for the office was responding to after hour inquiries from voicemail, which required follow-up within 1-2 days. Due to the high call volume and amount of staff available, it was difficult for their office to provide timely responses to inquires. Addressing this pain point was especially crucial because so many inbound inquiries were time-sensitive, such as questions about an upcoming court date or locating a loved one who had just been arrested.
Replatform and Redesign
The newly launched website for CCPD was designed and built by Clarity, using a basic version of Drupal with pre-configured settings to meet Cook County government website guidelines called the Clarity Gov. Core. The new site allows the Public Defender’s office to advertise its legal resources, share information with the legal community and Cook County residents, and provide transparency into the legal process. The CCPD core team wanted to focus on user-friendly terminology throughout the site. A key example of this is on the homepage which features links to quick instructional guides such as, “Help, someone just got arrested” or “Help, someone has a court date.” These guides provide clear and concise instructions on navigating the next steps in these cases. The public defender directory is synced with the department’s own data, eliminating the need for time-consuming manual data migration and ultimately preserving a single source of record. The map functionality on the site allows site visitors to easily locate the nearest office or courthouse.
Improved Accessibility for County Residents
The website as able to accomplish the following goals:
- Highlighted the office’s legal resources, forensic services, professional development, and reports as well as allowed these materials to be discovered more readily from a general search.
- Provided 24/7 access to important and specific contact information by managing public-facing contact information on hundreds of public defenders.
- Overhauled the process by which content was edited, approved and updated on the website and trained internal staff to manage their own content.
By implementing these goals, the Cook County community now has easy and direct access to key information they need without having to call or place an inquiry via voicemail. In fact, interacting with the Public Defender’s office is now a 24/7 possibility. Answers to inquiries are no longer confined to office hours and those working with a public defender are able to get the contact information of their public defender at any time by searching the directory for public defenders.