Why every organization needs Legal Design

6 reasons Legal Design will change the way you and your team work.

Photo by Tom Ritson

Legal design is an approach that combines the lawyer’s legal expertise with the designer’s toolkit and technological possibilities to the practice of law.

It is quickly being recognized as a powerful approach to re-energize and re-shape legal systems, education, services, products, processes and environments.

As a legal design consultancy, Dot. works with a diverse range of clients — from public and private companies, educational institutes, government bodies, law firms and non-profit organizations. The application of legal design is broad and no client project is the same. One day we are designing new ways for a fashion house to communicate their privacy policy online, the next we are working with a university to develop a legal design curriculum. At the end of each project we ask our client what they found valuable about the legal design process.

Here is a shortlist of 6 reasons why every organization needs legal design:

1. Powerful engagement of your target audience

At the heart of legal design is human-centeredness and empathy — a deep understanding of users intellectual, social, emotional and physical needs. Currently, law can lack this. You’ll notice that contracts are mainly drafted by lawyers for lawyers, court systems are not easily navigable, terms & conditions and privacy policies are incomprehensible for most consumers and company compliance procedures are often little understood by staff. This results in a large gap between the law, lawyers, companies and the end users of legal information and services.

Legal design addresses this gap by integrating human needs into the development phase of legal solutions. Applied to everyday legal tasks and operations, legal design results in legal information, services, products and processes that are transparent, accessible, visually clearer whilst simultaneously being legally sound, understandable, useful and engaging for your target audience.

2. Breaking down silos through collaboration

Legal design requires collaboration in interdisciplinary teams throughout the process. This means working with professionals from other disciplines including, but not limited to, designers, engineers, psychologists and even clients to help tackle legal challenges. From a company perspective, it means getting people from different business units, working together. Think strategy, marketing and in-house legal teams sitting down and joining forces to tackle a legal challenge. At first this may seem counterintuitive for many people and teams, especially those operating in silo structures.

However, design principles have proven that often the best (and perhaps more innovative) ideas and solutions are borne from co-creation and leveraging off diverse expertise and perspectives. Legal design workshops provide companies and their staff with the right tools, tricks and techniques to help extract big ideas, which lead to creative, strategic and innovative results. The legal design process is a tool that helps organizations break down the silo structures and truly capitalize on their diverse talent to create impactful legal solutions.

3. Increased innovation

Through legal design, the legal profession can reap the benefits of increased innovation, inspiration (yes, it’s needed in the legal industry) and competitive edge. Research tells us that when design methodologies are applied to an organization’s strategy the success rate for innovation significantly improves. According to a 2014 assessment by the Design Management Institute, design-led companies such as Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola have outperformed the S&P 500 over the past decade by a staggering 228%. Design principles have since been incorporated by other service related industries. Legal design’s premise of combining design principles with legal expertise is the driver for increased innovation, creativity and change within the legal industry.

4. Successful implementation

Ideas are abundant in the legal sector, however, too often money and time are spent on new legal concepts or legal tech that go unshared until considered to be ‘perfect’. Legal design adopts the designer’s ‘fail fast’, ‘iterate often’ approach. Rapid prototypes are quickly put together, shared with others and tested. This continuous testing and iterating process allows weaknesses to be identified and weeded out early on, resulting in higher rates of successful implementation and thus greater cost and resource savings.

5. Stronger relationships, greater loyalty

Legal design takes a human-centered approach to the law. When using legal design to tackle a legal challenge, the process first requires companies to actively interact with their users (be it customers or employees) — ask them questions and get to know their needs, wants, goals and desires firsthand. For example, when working with one of the Nordic’s largest pension insurer’s, we designed and hosted a series of user workshops that helped our client identify key information that their customers really wanted in pension decision letters. This key information was then used as a basis to develop an engaging, understandable and legally solid decision letter.

The collaborative and interactive nature of legal design builds empathy and understanding between all parties involved in the process. It also gives users of legal information an opportunity to be heard and better understood, resulting in stronger and more enduring relationships between a company and its customers, clients and employees. Stronger, positive interactions with customers, can lead to greater brand loyalty and brand reputation.

6. Forward thinking cultures

Legal design is much more than making things visual. To paraphrase Margaret Hagan, Director of the Legal Design Lab and advisor to Dot., legal design has the capability of driving large system level changes in courts, law firms, companies, government, legal departments and legal aid groups — to promote more nimble, experimental and collaborative cultures. Legal design is a catalyst for shifting mindsets and paradigms within the legal world.