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Legal Design - Explained Part 1

‘Legal design’ is a new field of work taking the legal industry by storm.  But some of you may be asking – “what, er, actually is it?” In this four part series also featured in the SCL, Legal Design Engineer, Charlotte Baker, explains what we mean by the increasingly popular term ‘legal design’, the principles and tools involved, and explores various real-life examples of legal design in practice.

Part 1 - What is Legal Design?

Legal design is about delivering the law differently – according to the needs of the people the law is intended to serve – so that it is more engaging, easier to understand and more accessible for people.

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Design-Thinking

As the name suggests, legal design is where we apply “design-thinking” to the law. We combine legal expertise with a design thinking approach by embracing visualisation, plain language, simplicity and smart use of technology (I’ll elaborate on this in Part 3 of this series!). This allows us to improve any aspect of the law – from legal contracts, policies and legal advice, to workflows and organisational structures that lawyers operate in.

User-Centricity

Legal design means making the law more user-friendly. The ‘user’ of the legal system might be, for example, someone needing legal representation or someone needing a contract to formalise an arrangement. Users of the legal system can also be lawyers themselves, who want to operate as effectively as possible and deliver the best outcomes to their clients. Legal design compels us to engage and empathise with our users to understand their needs and then designing for their specific needs, to create tailored legal solutions that actually work.

Challenge the Status Quo

Legal design is a creative process to imagine what the future of law might look like – challenging the “conventional” and “old school” ways of doing things. It is a new approach to problem-solving and innovation – thinking creatively to come up with new products and services and challenging the status quo.

Need an Example?

Legal contracts can be long and difficult to digest (even for lawyers!). As consumers, most of us don’t even read them, we just sign them (think website terms & conditions). This is because they are still written by lawyers, for lawyers. Rethinking a contract from the perspective of the actual user, i.e. the person who derives rights and obligations from the contract, puts a whole new light on how to present the information. By applying legal design to a contract, we might re-write it in plain language, remove jargon, include helpful summaries, and add visualisations of information, diagrams, icons, timelines and pictures.  This helps to make the contract engaging, visual and easier to understand.

 
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Charlotte Baker is part of Wavelength’s market leading legal design team who expertly apply creative and design thinking to the law. This includes using design thinking approaches to focus on the user experience in the legal processes and solutions Wavelength develop.

You can find out more about Charlotte’s journey to becoming a legal designer or get in touch to find out more about legal design. Her article is also featured in the SCL.

Charlotte Baker