This paper was prepared in 2014 as part of the Justice Standards, Evaluation and Research Initiative (JSERI). JSERI is an effort by the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), in conjunction with the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services, to build the capacity of public defense agencies across the country to conduct in-house research and data analysis to improve their programs.
The goal of this paper is to answer basic questions of why defender leaders should collect data and what type of information should they collect. It also offers suggestions for how to collect and utilize that information. The intended audience includes managers of all types of indigent defense programs, including public defender offices, assigned counsel programs, and contract counsel programs. The paper recognizes the wide variety in size, resources and administrative capacity among defender organizations across the country. Depending on an organization’s capacity, the answers to what data and how to collect them will vary somewhat. But all organizations, regardless of size, should prioritize core data collection.