As with any new discipline, there are many ways of defining legal design.

It is:

  • A movement to make law more accessible, usable and engaging (Emma Jelley)
  • A merger of legal and design thinking to improve processes and outcomes (Helena Haapio)
  • Preventing legal problems and empowering the users (Stefania Passera)
  • A user-centred approach to solving legal problems and developing legal innovation (Meera Sivanathan)
  • Delivering legal services based on user needs so they are more engaging, accessible and easier to understand (Charlotte Baker)
  • Using human-centred design to make legal systems and services more human-centred, usable and satisfying (Margaret Hagan)
  • Applying design-thinking to make the law more accessible and easier to understand for users (Emily Allbon)
  • Understanding the context and needs of users to create improvements based on these insights to make justice (legal systems) accessible for everyone (Visual Contracts)

I am a graduate of the Legal Creatives Academy and have been adopting more aspects of legal design in my work with contracts.

From the Academy and these definitions, there are various threads running through this discpline:

  1. it is inter-disciplinary so lawyers will need to work with UX (user experience), information/legal designers, visual artists and technicians
  2. it focuses on solving problems from the human/user perspective
  3. it is a form of creative innovation
  4. it requires empathy
  5. it leads to better user understanding, engagement, access and satisfaction; and fewer disputes.

What have I done?

When it comes to contracts, I started the process years ago by rewriting them in plain language, removing jargon, using descriptive sub-headings, simplifying them, adding colour, using tables, swimlanes, icons and timelines. I continue to work with an information designer to create more user-friendly layouts and structures for my 500-word contracts and for client projects.

I also focused my 10 essentials for content on meeting user needs during the project (a proactive approach) rather than legal enforcement if the project ends in dispute (a reactive approach). But there is no room for complacency when examples of great legal design are coming thick and fast…

What should you do?

Next time you pick up a contract, think whether it focuses on you and solves your needs. If not, tell the person who sent it to you! Legal design needs user champions to persuade the uninitiated or reluctant to reconsider their approach to contracts.

References: For the first 4 definitions, see legalgeek.

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