In 2014, Margaret Hagan used the term Legal Design to give a name and theorize the set of design practices applied in the Legal field. Today, when we talk about Legal Design, we are talking about all the projects and initiatives at the crossroads of the Design and Law disciplines (as we can talk about Medical Design for instance).
As a reminder, Design formalizes services and products by questioning individuals about how they experience their environment (spaces, things, websites, posters…). On the other hand, Legal rules the relationships between entities and people (laws, contracts, terms). The convergence between these two disciplines invites legal services or products designers to place legal services users at the center of their thinking and to question their legal experience (perception, interactions, actions, feelings, interpretations…), the aim is to adapt and rethink legal services or product for those who use them. Therefore, Legal Design gives rise to new processes, interfaces, or visualization for examples.
Law wants to define the responsibilities and to protect, so, many “end users” wants to limit their experience of law to the minimum because if we live this experience, that means that we get involve into a problem. The current experience of the law has certain characteristics such as the perception of the subject as boring or complex, the lack of understanding of technical terms, the habit of accepting something without reading it (the T&Cs scroll for example), the fear of doing something wrong, etc... This should create a real mutual understanding (on the legal professionals and designers sides) of the added-value of involving designers in legal delivery to respond to common issues as accessibility, intelligibility, trust, or transparency for example. From the collaboration between Designers and Legal professionals, but also engineers, developers, project managers and so on, new uses and experiences of law emerge to meet the current stakes.
The main goal of Legal Design is to restore the Law to its true strategic and its performative functions in society.
Designing Legal information means thinking about its content and format for its users to reach them and meet their need(s). There are still too many legal contents that aren’t designed, at first, for their users, for those who read and use them. They are blocks of technical and jargonous texts which fail in their real function, beyond only protecting the legal professional in a court in case of litigation. Legal Design is thus to be equipped with a new panel of expressions means (diagrams, infographics, plain language…) to make law understandable and accessible. But it is above all to establish user-centric methodologies (tests, interviews, prototyping…) to design a content, a format and a life cycle (distribution, communication, archiving) that will be adapted to users and their behaviors. Therefore, Legal Design can’t be reduced to a simple visual input, it’s a whole strategy to implement.
''Legal Design is often referred as mostly the visual part of it. But in fact it's a change in the way we communicate and practice law.''
Lieke Beelen - Founder of Visual Contract.
One of the driving stakes of Legal Design is to make law accessible to all, whatever the documents, laws or approaches context. Originally, the law is the set of rules of living together that govern our society. But the rules are not obvious by their only content. It subsists a clarity problem in the texts and especially a lack of transparency and visibility on legal procedures. Being aware and understanding the rights, the steps to follow or finding support require constant rethinking. To do so, we must strive to deeply understand the Legal user’s journey, agents as much as citizens, companies as much as consumers and think of all the steps or support their encounter. Legal Design is also a systemic approach, from the informational design to the journey and tools creations until the services reorganization to finally be able to create a Legal experience which makes sense for every one of us.
''A user-centered way of practicing law to make legal documents and processes accessible, actionable and engaging. Very strong democratic and societal stake.''
Marie Potel Saville - CEO at Amurabi
Legal Innovation involve rethinking practices to meet today’s tomorrow’s needs. It is questioning its own habits and their possible evolutions in order to produce ever more efficient and meaningful legal services and products. Redesigning documents or tools is often only the tip of the iceberg of Legal Design. If we want to offer a more performative legal experience to these users,it’s often necessary to fundamentally rethink the services offered and so the way to design law, work practice, business model.(It is often necessary to fundamentally rethink the services offered and thus the ways of conceiving the law, the work practices, the economic model that produce them.).Innovating can sometimes destabilize a company if not introduced properly and thus Legal Design must be facilitated by acculturation to innovation and working on legal professionals culture and mindset as much as on deliverables. This can be done by the support from innovation experts, the sharing of experiences, interdisciplinarity, promotion of new skills or creation of new positions.
''Design is not just about solving problems, it's about innovating and criticizing the existing.''
Ariana Rossi - Postdoctoral researcher at SnT
The education and awareness of Legal Design is often discussed since it is an emerging practice, exercised in heterogeneous structures (from the law firm to the government ...) by multidisciplinary teams. Today, there are no comprehensive courses that combine strong bases of design and law principles. This is mainly learned by practice, incrementally, through working groups, short trainings or workshops conducted mostly by specialized agencies. From this lack of knowledge, there is a need to raise awareness, to demonstrate the return on investment of legal design. There are now more think thanks, labs, associations and soon even a journal are set up to learn how to design legal services and products. Legal professionals and designers are also trying to think of legal design in an academic way in law curriculum to make this practice more accessible and build the legal professions of tomorrow.
« Legal design is Building a new set of professional pathways and opportunities for people who (...) find that the traditional ways of law students and lawyers do not allow them to bring about the positive changes in society that prompted them to get into the law. »
Margaret Hagan, Law By Design, 2016
The value proposition of a legal department is clear: assess risks, avoid sanctions (especially financial) and protect a reputation. However, there are no measures to demonstrate and assess this concretely (fir example in widely-recognized KPIs). Even if the legal departments can be perceived as essential, protective, structuring, there is still some way to go to break this image of “blockers” and more deeply of the law as constraining and boring for any project. Legal Design must therefore demonstrate the added value of a legal department for an organization. Through its interdisciplinary aspect or the forms legal design takes, it can support lawyers as real partners who adapt to their clients and not the other way around. Legal design thus communicates another perception of law and its experts.
''Some believe that lawyers sometimes remain locked in their 'ivory tower'.''
Along with legal design, also emerges or re-emerges legal techs, legal operations and legal communication strategies. Intrinsically, they are the driving forces behind the transformation of the law. Indeed, legal design, through its user-centered research stages, can pinpoint issues that will be resolved both by the creation of a user-friendly document or a website and by the implementation of process, policies, reorganization, or the purchase and deployment of a technology. However, it may be tempting to directly seek the solution that will make the work of lawyers more fluid without understanding the problem and the context. We equate legal techs or legal ops with purposes and not means. It is necessary to accept and make accept that for any project of legal design, the result will depend on the research. Doing legal design means explaining an approach, raising awareness of a certain project management, gaining trust?
''Our customers understood that before tech, design was needed.''
Laura Fauqueur - Directrice Master Legal Design