In this article, I’ll share with you a ‘recipe’ for Legal Design. We’ll measure out the right mix in crucial ingredients – like a multi-skilled team, visualisation, plain language and technology – and follow the instructions – involving empathy, user centricity, design thinking and divergent and convergent thinking – so that you too can create freshly-baked legal solutions tailored for the needs of your users.
To make the most crowd-pleasing Legal Design solution, we use only the best ingredients – and generous helpings too!
1 ripe Multi-Skilled Team
Gather a diverse team with a range of skills and viewpoints. This might include people specialising in technology, people and culture, psychology, design, law and, most importantly, your users! To generate the best ideas, we need people to think outside the box and challenge existing ways of doing things.
A large dollop of Visualisation
Make your Legal Design process, as well as your solution, as visual as possible. Information presented visually is easier to absorb and interpret. Include intuitive diagrams, icons, timelines, summaries and any other helpful visualisations of information.
Lots of Plain Language (jargon removed!)
Use ‘human’ language wherever you can – avoid complex legalese and jargon. It takes real skill to uncomplicate legal terms. The legal profession often has deep-rooted ways of saying things – so question the language used. Be clear and succinct.
A pinch of Technology (add more to taste!)
Incorporate technology, if it makes sense for your solution. Technology can augment your solution and provide your users with easy integration and access. But remember – many of the best Legal Design solutions are simple (but clever!) and may not need to utilise technology at all.
STEP 1: Preheat your empathy oven!
Use empathy to put yourself in the shoes of the user and work to understand their perspective. What do they need? What frustrates them? What do they love? Empathy is one of the most important principles of Legal Design and needs to be used right throughout the process. Only when you have properly understood your users problems, can you design the right solution.
STEP 2: Add the ingredients to your users’ taste
Make sure your user remains at the very centre of your design – always think about their needs when designing your solution. The goal is to build legal solutions that are more user-friendly. We must engage with our users to understand their needs, then try to translate those needs into the design of our solution. That way, we can create tailored legal solutions that actually work for them.
STEP 3: Mix design thinking with legal expertise
Next, we mix our legal knowledge with design thinking principles to creatively solve problems. This allows us to improve any aspect of the law – from legal contracts, policies and advice, to workflows and organisational structures that lawyers operate in.
STEP 4: Combine divergent and convergent thinking
Get a nice balance of “divergent thinking” and “convergent thinking”. Use divergent thinking to generate lots of information and ideas; then use convergent thinking to make sense of those ideas, focus your thoughts and make decisions.
STEP 5: Get your hands dirty!
The creative process behind Legal Design is all about doing stuff – not just talking about it. So, get your hands dirty!
Get your thinking down onto post-it notes for everyone to see, cluster thoughts visually on a wall or whiteboard, sketch your amazing ideas and build usable prototypes.
Once your design has risen and is browning at the edges, remove it from the oven and let everyone have a taste! It doesn’t need to be perfect – even if it sinks in the middle or you realise you added too much salt – listen to what people liked or disliked, learn from your mistakes and improve it for your next batch. The results can be fantastic.
We can create innovative new legal products, services, systems and environments – leading to more efficiency and value. Legal Design allows you to unlock the brilliant, innovative ideas lying dormant in the minds of your team. These might be completely new innovations or adjustments to existing ways of doing things.
The users of the legal system will be happier and more satisfied. If we make the effort to step into their shoes – listen and engage with them and think about their needs – our relationship with our clients and customers will be greatly enhanced. Collaborating with clients can be rare in the legal sector, but by getting together and co-creating with our clients, we can create tailored solutions that actually work for them.
Improved legal understanding and compliance
Well-designed legal solutions will enhance our communities’ understanding of the law – increasing engagement with the legal system and compliance with legal obligations (meaning fewer disputes and shorter negotiation times!) Legal Design allows people to more clearly understand their rights and obligations under the law, and participate in the legal system.
Serve and enjoy user-friendly legal solutions that are more engaging, easier to understand and more accessible!
(one-pager complete recipe, see below)
About the Author
As a member of the international Legal Design team at Simmons Wavelength Limited, Charlotte Baker applies creative and design thinking to the law; which includes using these approaches to focus on the user experience in the legal processes and solutions that Wavelength develop. Charlotte is also an experienced commercial and corporate lawyer, before becoming a Legal Design Engineer, she worked in-house as a lawyer at the BBC and Cambridge Assessment, and in private practice at the law firms Allen & Overy (the Netherlands) and Chapman Tripp (New Zealand) where she specialised in mergers and acquisitions, equity capital markets and general commercial and contract law.
(Wavelenght was the first regulated legal engineering firm in the world, operating globally)