Legal design is approaching the mainstream within the legal industry, as firms, teams and vendors look to make legal processes more human. The term ‘legal design’ typically refers to the implementation of human-centered design within the legal industry, making legal services, products and systems more user-friendly and understandable.
As a traditional and quite protective industry, legal gravitates towards the “by lawyers, for lawyers” approach - which often defeats the purpose. The end users of legal services are frequently not lawyers - only by putting the end user at the center of everything we do will we change mindsets and genuinely move to a more inclusive legal industry.
To do that, we need to learn from design-focused companies, and how they create processes that place the end user first. Products from companies like Google, Slack and Intercom create processes that are structured to be as intuitive, efficient and engaging as possible.
That’s a positive reputational change for lawyers, but beyond that, can effective legal design actually affect a business’ bottom line?
The answer is yes. Here are some potential revenue upsides that can follow a design approach to legal processes:
Get contracts signed faster. As a customer, there’s nothing more enjoyable than realising you don’t have to spend hours wading through dense legal text when signing up for a new product or service. The quicker a company’s prospects can identify the main points in your contract, the easier it’ll be for them to understand the conditions - and the faster they’ll sign. At Juro, we love Verity White’s reverse sandwich layout as a great example of a design-led structure that encourages signature. The faster a contract is signed, the more deals sales teams can close - and they’ll thank you for that.
Encourage inclusive processes. Contracts aren’t the only touchpoint between your team and end-users, of course; there are any number of processes like comms, billing, matter management and so on, where you can find opportunities to remove friction, use plain language and make processes as easy as possible for end-users. Each touchpoint is an opportunity to improve relationships and drive efficiencies, which should ultimately translate to better commercial outcomes.
Make legal more collaborative. At Juro we’re always trying to make legal more human, with a specific focus on contract management - but it doesn’t end there. It’s vital that legal fosters collaboration with other business units, because lawyers often possess strategic and commercial acumen that could be invaluable to revenue growth. Changing the way lawyers present information can assist with this; user-focused, design-friendly documentation will help legal teams appear more understanding and approachable, reducing friction between teams - so legal can actually deploy that expertise to help the business hit its targets.
So how do you start?
Sometimes we’re met with hesitation from clients at Juro, who want to use legal tech to save themselves time and resource, but worry about adoption when it comes to process changes. Too many people in this industry have been burned by failed deployments before. The same concerns also apply to legal design projects, with people bought into the general idea, but uncertain as to how to get started.
Fortunately, some of the same solutions that help with tech adoption also apply to design projects. Here are three to try:
Start small. Changing the routines and processes of any team is difficult, never mind risk-averse lawyers. It’s best to start small - pick one discrete project or process you’d like to rethink, and start there. If you’re experimenting with legal design sprints for the first time, don’t bite off more than you can chew - get your team comfortable with the process before trying to reinvent the wheel.
Collaborate. For your design project to be successful and lead to widespread adoption, you’re going to need the opinions and insights of a multidisciplinary team, whose feedback you’ll incorporate throughout. Cast the net wide when you’re thinking about who needs to be involved and who could input: designers, IT, colleagues from different business units - they all have a role to play. That’s without even mentioning the most important participant ...
Include the end user. Perhaps the most important point of them all; if you’re redesigning to be more user-friendly, then include real end-users throughout the process. You’ll learn more about colleagues or customers you aim to serve, and how you, as lawyers, can help them. Even if your design project doesn’t lead to a new, adopted solution, this exercise in itself will ultimately prove valuable.
None of this is new. Legal design has been a popular topic for some time when it comes to giving stakeholders a better experience with legal; but not enough attention has been drawn to the fact that better designed legal processes can positively influence your company’s bottom line. We see this every day, with those legal teams prepared to take a radical approach to contract management finding that customers or new employees sign faster; but there’s no reason why this approach can’t extend to any in-house legal process.
About the Author Richard Mabey is the co-founder and CEO of Juro.