The Community Legal Assistance Services System (CLASS) is the replacement application for the Community Legal Services Information System (CLSIS).
CLSIS platform was designed for Community Legal Centres and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services to manage and record legal cases and advices, to record community legal education work and law reform activities, and as a reporting tool to government.
The need for a new data recording and reporting system for CLCs and FVPLS has been widely recognised. In 2015 the Australian Government Attorney-General's Department provided funding to the National Association of Community Legal Centres to project manage the development and rollout of a database to replace CLSIS. Under this arrangement, NACLC will retain ownership of the application. The Commonwealth has reallocated the funding previously provided for data system support into the National Partnership Agreement. This is distributed by states and territories to various Community Legal Centres according to the needs of each jurisdiction.
One of the biggest technological advances utilised by CLASS is moving away from software that runs on each individual CLC or FVPLS office computer to a single ‘cloud’ based application.
Utilising the cloud means that instead of the information being stored on your local hard drive in your office computer, or on shared hard drive(s) accessed via your office network, your data will be stored on remote servers accessible via the Internet.
Cloud utilisation is now used in products like Gmail, Facebook, Google Drive or Dropbox. Many widely used Microsoft products have also more recently moved to the cloud, such as Office 365 and Office 2016, which means tools like Outlook can make emails simultaneously available to users’ desktops or remotely via the cloud.
CLASS will be run on servers managed by an Australian service provider and physically located in Australia. This is important as Australian laws and regulations on privacy and legal confidentiality will apply to these server service providers.
There are many reasons why cloud computing is increasingly popular for running applications like CLASS, including:
- The minimisation of local office technical support. Only basic Internet ready machines will be required, and the reliance on locally maintained networks is significantly reduced.
- No more local back ups or disaster recovery is required. Such services will be collectively managed to the highest standards.
- No more time consuming upgrades and security patches for each individual machine.
- Updates will be carefully scheduled to minimise work-time interference, and will be rolled out to the entire network all at once.
- The new application will be available on any major platform (Mac, Windows etc.). Computers simply need a recent version a web browser (Google Chrome is recommended) and Internet access.
- The system is remotely accessible, wherever the Internet is available. This means simpler access for outreach work, or in courts and tribunals.
NACLC understands that CLASS data security is a critical priority. As providers of legal services, the highest possible security and practice management standards are required to protect privacy, client legal privilege and confidentiality, and CLASS design is also bound by strict rules from all Australian jurisdictions.
The question over the relative security of cloud verses local data storage is and has been for some years, a lively ongoing public debate.
In CLC and FVPLS offices, many computers and networks are currently well maintained to the latest security standards, with critical security patches and updates being applied in a timely manner. However, in some offices security has been less robustly maintained.
For CLASS, the highest possible standards will be maintained at four levels: at the server maintenance level, at the administration level (IT Magnet and NACLC development and support), at the centre level, and at the worker/user level.
The technical solutions built into the CLASS design include a comprehensive server firewall, self-encrypting hard disks, and rigid server level access control. Data access will be limited, even for admin access by a new data masking process and partial data encryption for all records. There will be robust implementation of all Windows Security Patches and Application Security. At the centre level there will be a flexible and powerful access control regime. For user / worker access, best practice login security protocols will be required.
All client records and service information is entirely private to individual centres. There is still general information that will be accessible to funding bodies, state managers and NACLC, but these reports contain no personal information on clients or details on their matters.
This sharing is largely the same as it was in CLSIS.
Yes, all CLSIS legacy data was copied across to CLASS, both core and locally customised data. However it should be noted that certain fields were changed in order to comply with the new National Legal Assistance Data Standards. This means some information or fields may be located in different places or called something different.
NACLC understands that quite a number of service providers have moved, or are planning to move, elements of their workflow to other databases such as M-Files, LEAP and Community Data Solutions. This may be due to CLSIS limitations, reporting requirements, or due to requests from funding bodies. Each of these systems will require time and resources for investigation and then a build solution for CLASS interactivity.
The priority for NACLC is to complete the development of CLASS as an independent program. Once this has been achieved, we can consider options for interactivity. This will require resource contributions from the relevant service. More information is available on the NACLC website.
Due to funding requirements CLASS was built and initially rolled out to previous CLSIS users. We may be able to consider providing access to suitable external legal service providers, but this process will be gradual and individual to assist these legal service providers in as smooth a transition as possible.
Centres had access to CLSIS until the 31st March 2017. The Attorney-General's Department then decommissioned CLSIS. Centres did maintain access to their CLSIS for cross-referencing with CLASS for a short period after. Centres were instructed to not use CLSIS for data entry beyond the start of your migration to CLASS.
The replacement for the 'CLSIS Forms', sometimes known as contact sheets or data capture forms are found here. These forms have been updated where necessary, to be consistent with the National Legal Assistance Data Standards Manual as well as CLASS. These will be a template form and centres are encouraged to update and customise their forms for their individual requirements. Feedback on these forms is encouraged.