Legal Design, explained


You have seen the concept “legal design” many times but are not quite sure what it means? This short article is here to outline what this hyped discipline is all about.

What is legal design?

To put it in a nutshell, legal design is the application of human design thinking principles to the legal industry.

It is a set of methods and principles aimed at creating better legal services and products, as well as at better communicating legal information. Legal design is about making legal systems more understandable and “user friendly”, for all of us.

What are design thinking principles?

Applying design thinking principles means adopting design mindset, which differs drastically from lawyers’ mindset.

Legal professionals are taught to operate in a “perfectionist” way by delivering precise and legally correct results at all times. This is due to the high standards and ethical codes that the legal profession is bound by.

Design mindset, in turn, tells you the following:

  • Be more experimental. Iterative design process (define, ideate, prototype, test) forces you not to stick to one solution only and drive it perfection, but instead discover and test out different solutions – freely, without constraints and without being afraid of making mistakes. This is crucial for designing a good solution, but something that lawyers are not quite used to.
  • Adopt a beginner mindset. When creating a product or service, designers focus on how the future users of this solution (and all the stakeholders involved) will perceive it and interact with it. The goal is to create a seamless, delightful experience that will make you want to use this solution again. This means looking at the solution not just through professional lenses, but also through beginner lenses (or in the legal context, lay person lenses), and looking for ways that will make the end user life easier.
  • Embrace criticism. It is only possible to create a good solution after openly admitting the flaws of the previous one. Being open to admitting mistakes and starting again by developing a new prototype is a crucial element of the design mindset.

How exactly are design thinking principles applied to law?

Probably the most known area of legal design is info design or visual design. We all know how a typical contract looks like: pages and pages of complex legal terms in small print, difficult to read and understand. The goal of info design as applied to law is to create more understandable and visually appealing legal contracts and documents. The intention behind it is that those without legal background can better understand their rights and obligations. As a result, those readers have a better feeling and control over signing legal documents.

However, legal design goes far beyond just creating visually appealing legal documents. As follows from the infographic below, apart from info design this discipline encompasses product design (creation of legal tools and offerings), service design (structuring legal processes in a more user friendly way), organization design (creation of better legal practices in law firms and legal departments in order to make work of legal professionals easier) as well as overarching system design (rethinking how our legal systems’ structure as a whole: this also encompasses design on a legislative level).

Source: Law By Design , open source book by legal design pioneer Margaret Hagan

How can I learn more about legal design?

If this article sparked your interest in learning more about legal design, here are some further book and source recommendations:

Book a legal design workshop with us

You would like to see how you can apply legal design principles in your law firm or legal department? Then make sure to book a legal design workshop with us here. The interactive legal design workshop helps analyze and improve day-to-day processes in legal practices. It will make life of legal professionals and their clients easier.

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