Get the picture? Legal design is taking over
The legal work field is from origin based on words, paper, and language, but that is going to change. More and more law firms are reaching into the possibility of legal designs to strengthen their arguments and prove their statements. The interest in legal design is growing, which opens up the way into the legal business for designers. New relations and opportunities arise for both parties. But what exactly is legal design? And why does it get this much attention? In this article, I will explain the use and value of legal design from the perspective of law firms and other parties in the legal process. I will finish the article with my personal opinion and prospect for the future.
Using Legal design
Legal design is used as a tool to deliver complex information through visuals. It is an innovative approach that can be used in court to support the clients’ point of view or outside the court to explain the procedure and its steps to the client.
But how does it work? The visual has to be designed and will eventually be the result of a collaboration between a (legal) designer and a legal adviser. It is made using knowledge of designing and behavioral psychology with the purpose to create a functional, factual and accurate survey of the legal information. Therefore graphic instruments and images are essential to visualize your message. The result will be a perfect combination of text and imagination.
The visuals can be used for many different purposes. For example in a contract design is the purpose of the visual to simplify tough documents and prevent misunderstandings by explaining the content through the visual. Another purpose can be retaining harmony among a group by clarifying everybody’s wishes and expectations, this is often called a stakeholders design. A third example is the strategy design, which is used in communication with the client. Litigation is well known for its complexity and the clients are most likely to suffer from this. Strategy design is a way to explain the process and to clear up some insecurities. These three examples show that legal design can be used for various but each very important purposes.
The added value
The essence of the value of visuals can be described with just one single Chinese proverb: ‘I hear and I forget; I see, and I remember’, but how does that show in the legal profession? One of the many advantages of using legal designs is the fact that it quickens the process of composing legal agreements by changing them from a hard-to-read contract into an efficient useful document. It becomes easier to concentrate on the content and to see (hidden) connections. In just one look it will be clear for each party which position they own in a specific matter. The parties can always rely on the visual whenever they are in doubt. This will prevent a dispute between them and saves expensive legal measurements.
The visuals are also very useful in court to explain relations, authorizations, structures or even the law. By not only telling but also showing your point you have higher chances of convincing the judge and making your story stick. It can make the difference between being right and succeeding. Besides legal design is good for business because it improves the product lawyers deliver, which increases its value.
I think that legal design has a lot to offer for the future of law practice. I suspect that not everyone will be ready for the innovation, but with time they will see the value and accept the new way of litigation. Especially when people with a more controversial opinion, see that using legal designs will reduce social damage. Litigation is expensive and can take up a huge amount of time. Civil procedures are often caused by miscommunication, these also are the cases that could be prevented easily. Legal design is the way to filter these cases out and make them disappear. The cases that remain are the cases that belong in the courtroom. In that way, there is more time and attention to the complex and difficult ones.
Another aspect of legal design which makes it, in my opinion very effective to implement, is the endless options it offers. There are no conditions, every firm is completely free in making the visual and they are very easy to adapt to the situation. This also makes it seductive to just try it out and to give it a personal touch.
Looking at larger firms we can already see the development of legal design. Some firms set up a department with advisers and designers, another option is educating the lawyers to create the visuals themselves. This can be very suitable for smaller firms. I expect that the interest in legal design will and should only grow, which causes education, departments, and companies offering these services the opportunity to expand.
Legal design is an innovation that shakes up
law practice and adds value to firms. It is good to see that there is already an ongoing interest, which I expect to only grow further in the future. Changing the way judges look at a case and clients look at the procedure in a rather positive way. Big firms will take the upper hand in developing visuals, which will be followed by start-ups offering collaborations to create high-level designs. Increasing the value of legal services by making them more efficient on the one side and saving money on the other by preventing disputes between parties.
It is an innovation and the future and I hope to be part of it someday.