European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL) provides free, independent legal assistance to asylum seekers in Greece. They deal with complex scenarios in really challenging circumstances, operating across several islands. Their efforts are supported with tools built with BRYTER, which now underpins all their internal processes.
Leveraging resource to have a greater impact
ELIL’s work is fundamental to the rule of law: many refugees do not know they need to see a lawyer when they arrive but getting asylum in Europe involves a complex legal process. After the journey they had before arriving on islands like Lesvos, it is no surprise that legal research is not a priority. This is why a personal consultation with a lawyer is critical. And ensuring that lawyers spend their time on those consultations – the things that matter – is the key to helping the most people.
In the first part of the project, teams at BRYTER and ELIL worked together to develop a seamless tool to help the ELIL team register cases more efficiently, provide legal assistance more effectively, as well as closely monitor and oversee the advice given. One year later and the impact of using BRYTER is clear: “Using BRYTER saves us one full time staff member’s time per day”, explained Philip Worthington, Managing Director of ELIL. Instead of spending hours on manual tasks, like copy and pasting email updates to facilitate accurate reporting, staff members are free to spend their time on the really valuable work: helping more asylum seekers access legal advice.
Using BRYTER saves us one full time staff member’s time per day
The mindset shift
Philp explained, “Because it’s so easy to build with BRYTER we use BRYTER tools for everything.” While ELIL may be using BRYTER for everything now, there is no shying away from this was not always the case: there was some real skepticism about using tech and automation at the outset. “I was skeptical about tech, and I had a lot of question marks on how we could actually use BRYTER. However, one of the great things about working with BRYTER was how they expanded our horizons. BRYTER is not a tool for just one problem, it is flexible and can be used to solve almost anything.”
Dreams becoming reality
At the very start, ELIL had dreams of what they wanted to do with BRYTER. “We have a complicated case management system and a sophisticated supervision structure that is difficult to co-ordinate. It involves multiple layers of supervisory lawyers and volunteers working across two islands. One of our challenges is that we needed a mechanism for the information on each case to be processed and made accessible and visible to everyone within this structure” explained Phil. In summary, ELIL wanted an automated process that would work within their supervision structure, including email notification with generated documents to the supervising lawyer. They also wanted everything flowing into the case list in real-time.
Automating all of the manual work was the dream – and now it is the reality.
“All of the tasks involved in this supervisory structure is incredibly time consuming. Valuable time is spent copy and pasting updates into case lists.” Now, their dreams have become a reality. Working with BRYTER ELIL created a fully integrated, automated process to manage their day-to-day work. The registration process is automated and integrated – when a case is registered, the information goes directly into the case list. The daily updates accessible by the whole team are also automated and flow directly into the case list. The drop-in advice sessions now have an audit trail set up with minimal effort from the lawyer – they just put the information into a form on their smartphone, and BRYTER does the rest. Having an automated case management system allows the volunteers at ELIL to focus on more important things. “Now there is no human involvement, everything flows automatically, which is a huge time saver and it’s much better for accuracy”, according to Philip.
Every time something comes up, we always think, oh, I wonder if we could have a BRYTER tool for that?
Providing the best services to their users
While ELIL’s place of work may not be traditional, its approach to delivering legal support is. “We are traditional in how we approach things. We do one-on-one consultations with qualified asylum lawyers” explained Phil. “We replicate the exact situation you would have in a law firm, with an even greater emphasis on personal data, confidentiality, providing a safe space”. One of the key benefits in using BRYTER was how it enabled ELIL to provide a better, more professional service.
Using BRYTER is much better in terms of data security, data protection, everything stays within the system.
Using BRYTER also meant that ELIL could continue its work effectively during the pandemic because the entire organizational process was automated, cloud-based, and a single data loop ensured that everyone had all the information they needed – wherever they got stuck during a time of travel restrictions.
ELIL uses BRYTER for everything now – and this is just the second phase of our partnership. From recruitment to complex case management, service automation saves time and valuable resources while increasing accuracy. “When people want to apply to volunteer with us, they do it through a BRYTER form embedded on our website”, says Philip. Using BRYTER ensures that the right and relevant documents go to the most suitable person in the organization – “all of that, from an internal perspective, is extremely helpful”.
What next for ELIL?
Now that ELIL uses BRYTER for everything internal process related, they are turning their attention to external-facing applications uses. They know BRYTER can be used to deliver tailored legal information in a matter of minutes to the asylum seekers. Philip told us that “information provision, to refugees and asylum seekers as they go through the process, is the next step in the process of what we’ll build with BRYTER”. “Many people don’t realize they’re going through a legal process, they don’t realize the criteria that need to be met”. BRYTER can be used to deliver interactive questionnaires which provide tailored legal information and help asylum applicants navigate through the process. As Philip put it, “BRYTER is a tool that can be tailored, to do almost anything”.
BRYTER will continue to support ELIL by providing free access to the no-code platform and support the ELIL team in creating automated services to free up the lawyers and experts.
So, what advice does Philip have for other NGOs thinking about using BRYTER?
“The key thing about BRYTER is flexibility. Any problem you have, it can help. And there is almost nothing that it can’t be useful for. BRYTER is a tool that can be used and adapted and tailored to each individual way of doing things and each individual issue. I’ve come to realize that actually, BRYTER is a toolkit rather than a ready-made product. It is as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. It can be used easily by people with almost no computer skills. Or you can make incredibly complicated decision trees. It’s adaptable for everybody because this is not coding, it’s not highly complicated. Absolutely any lawyer, any person can use BRYTER without any problems. You don’t need to be a technical wizard.”
As we speak to other non-profits, I think there is a mental block: both that this is too complicated, and I don’t have the time. BRYTER is definitely a time saver. Every hour you invest in creating and developing a tool with BRYTER pays back in 10 hours saved. So it is definitely a net time gain.
Serena Ariello, Project Officer in Lesvos, adds that using BRYTER and having automated services helps “not only with time-saving but also knowing that things will flow, even if you don’t act on them. And you have this guarantee”. It’s not just about the immediate efficiency gains, it’s about having the right system and processes created to have confidence in the day-to-day running of operations.
Put a different way, and with an analogy, Philip explains: “Before BRYTER it was like a plane that was falling apart in mid-air. We were always trying to fix it whilst it was still flying. You had somebody on the wing, patching it up, and everyone is trying to put out a fire in the engine. Whereas now, I feel like we have a high-functioning plane that we don’t need to do any maintenance on. So we can just focus on the actual work.” And focusing on the actual work – helping more asylum seekers access legal advice – is exactly what the ELIL is now able to do.
Helping non-profits focus on actual work is what BRYTER Open is all about. If you’d like to find out more about BRYTER Open, apply for free access to BRYTER.
How you can support ELIL
The European Lawyers in Lesvos gGmbH relies on donations to continue to do its valuable work. You can donate on the ELIL website, via PayPal or per bank transfer to:
European Lawyers in Lesvos gGmbH
IBAN: DE95 1007 0024 0088 9998 00
Payment reference: Donation to European Lawyers in Lesvos gGmbH.