An exciting new field of activity within Legal Technology is Legal Design. The underlying idea is simple: how can we apply principles of design (in the broad sense, including software design, graphic design, functional design) to the law in order to improve the user experience of all stakeholders? It is a vast field, to which books and courses are dedicated. So in this article, we will only be able to scratch the surface. If you are interested in Legal Design, and want to find out more, have a look at the websites of Margaret Hagan, www.lawbydesign.co, and of the Legal Design Lab of Stanford Law School and d. School, www.legaltechdesign.com.
How can Legal Design be defined? It is the application of human-centered design-thinking principles to the practice of law, to make legal systems, products, services and processes more useful, useable, understandable and engaging for all. “Legal Design is a way of assessing and creating legal services, with a focus on how usable, useful, and engaging these services are. It is an approach with three main sets of resources — process, mindsets, and mechanics — for legal professionals to use. These three resources can help us conceive, build, and test better ways of doing things in law, that will engage and empower both lay people and legal professionals. ” (Margaret Hagan)
Legal Design can be very useful. Virtually every aspect of our lives is regulated in some way or another. Unfortunately, there is a serious disconnect between the law and the legal consumers: contracts are made by lawyers and sometimes only understood by lawyers. The court system often is an incomprehensible maze that appears to be more interested in creating obstacles than in offering solutions for legal issues. Every product you buy or every service you use has terms and conditions that typically need to be studied in detail before you can understand them, etc.
With Legal Design, we can reduce that disconnect by focusing on a “human-centered approach in which the users’ needs, wants and desires are first identified and then used as a basis to design and develop solutions. The result is legal information and services that are transparent, accessible, visually clearer and as mentioned above, useable, understandable, useful and engaging. When applied in a strategic manner, legal design can improve performance, innovation, brand perception, audience engagement, conversion rates and many other metrics” (Meera Sivanathan).
As such, Legal Design aims to deliver legal services and products that are (1) usable, (2) useful, and (3) engaging. Legal Design therefore has three orders of goals:
- Helping the lay person and the legal professional;
- Creating a better front-end to the legal system and a better back-end;
- Working for incremental short-term improvements and breakthrough long-term change.
Some examples: somebody’s will or a contract or a regulation can be made more comprehensible if it is shown in a chart of infographic. Legal chatbots and robots like DoNotPay make taking legal action as easy as filling out online forms. Legal education, training and practice benefit from improved (typically visual) communication tools, etc.
Legal Design is already being applied in the following areas:
- Legal Design Process (which typically deals with analysing processes and systems in order to streamline them and create a better user experience),
- Visual Law and a Visual Law Library,
- Access to Justice,
- Legal Education & Practice,
- Justice Innovation,
- A better Legal Internet,
- New Models of Legal Organizations,
- Legal Communication Design, for which Smart Legal Tools (Communication) are being developed. Have a look, e.g., at the Legal Design Toolbox: legaltechdesign.com/LegalDesignToolbox/
In her online book, Law by Design, Margaret Hagan explains that Legal Design offers the following benefits:
- Improved Problem Solving: To be more forward-thinking and creative in generating solutions for problems.
- Client-centered Services: To put the focus on the client, and win clients in better ways, deliver them better services tailored to their explicit (and buried) needs — and to communicate information to them in clearer, more compelling, and more usable ways.
- Better Communication: To communicate information — particularly complex legal information — in a clearer, more compelling, and more usable way.
- Richer Legal Profession: To build a new set of professional paths and opportunities for lawyers, with new kinds of jobs and competencies.
- Better Legal Organizations & Worklife: To develop new ways of collaborating, improving processes and decision-making, and build stronger communities inside of legal workplaces.
- New Products & Services: To generate ideas of how to serve clients, lawyers, and the general public in new ways — through technology or otherwise, and to build ideas into viable products and businesses.
- lawbydesign.co and www.lawbydesign.co/en/legal-design/