What Is Legal Design, and Why Does It Matter?
As the legal landscape continually evolves, new and innovative approaches are necessary for lawyers to stay ahead in an industry that is becoming ever more client-focused. Herein lies the relevance of legal design — a paradigm shift in how law professionals approach their craft.
Not only must those in the industry define legal design, but they must also discuss its importance for lawyers, law firms, and in-house teams. Overall, legal design can improve existing services and create new ones. Below, you can delve into how legal design works and find tips on how lawyers can start adopting this approach. Review legal design examples, and learn to navigate the transformative journey of legal design.
What Is Legal Design?
Legal design is about reimagining legal services from the clients’ perspective. Lawyers who apply legal design to their processes and services leverage visuals, simplified language, empathetic problem-solving, and innovative strategies to render their offerings more accessible and effective to clients.
The legal design extends beyond just making legal contracts visually appealing; it’s about the user experience.
Consider, for instance, legal design contracts. A contract is typically filled with complex text and legal jargon. With legal design, the contract can be transformed into a visually stimulating, easy-to-understand document replete with diagrams, images, and clear language. This way, the parties can grasp the contents of the agreement more easily, thereby creating a more positive user experience. Lawrina, for instance, uses legal design principles when creating and assembling content for Lawrina Templates.
In another legal design example, consider a firm’s client onboarding process. It may involve numerous tedious steps and exhaustive paperwork — a surefire way to frustrate new clients. However, by employing legal design, the entire process could be streamlined and more intuitive, potentially resulting in higher client satisfaction and retention rates.
Why should lawyers care about legal design? Remember the old maxim, “The customer is king.” Legal design embodies this phrase. Essentially, this approach enables lawyers to make their services fit their clients’ unique needs and perspectives. This, in turn, can foster a rewarding customer experience and cultivate trust in the attorney-client relationship. A few reasons why legal design is vital for lawyers include:
- Embracing a client-centric approach: Legal design focuses on the end users, the clients. It helps lawyers to understand their clients’ perspectives and tailor services to suit their needs better.
- Simplifying complex legal jargon: Legal design helps with simplifying complex legal terms and jargon, making it easier for clients to comprehend legal documents and processes.
- Enhancing client engagement: With visuals and simplified language, engagement rates can significantly improve as clients find it easier to interact with the legal process.
- Gaining a competitive advantage: Embracing legal design can give attorneys a competitive advantage, setting them apart in a crowded marketplace.
For example, consider a U.S. law firm that decided to embrace the legal design approach for its estate planning services. Traditionally, estate planning can be daunting with its complex language and extensive documents. However, this firm applied legal design principles to transform its approach and used visual aids to explain estate planning components. This simplified the entire experience for the firm’s clients, making comprehension easier, thus increasing client satisfaction and enhancing the firm’s reputation.
Legal Design: Translating Law To Human
Legal design is not just about making pretty documents. Nor is it about force-fitting legal practices into a designer’s template. So, what is legal design, and how does it work? Legal design is a meticulous process of understanding the client’s needs and then delivering accessible and engaging services.
At its core, legal design is about translating the complex rigmarole of law into understandable, consumable bite-sized portions for potential customers, such as in the following examples:
- Simplify legal language. Dense legal prose can be pretty daunting for many clients. By replacing legalese with straightforward, layman-friendly language, legal design aids in clarity and understanding. For instance, instead of using, “the party of the first part bequeaths unto the party of the second part,” simply state, “the first party gives to the second party.” The message instantly becomes more apparent.
- Employ visuals. Visual aids like infographics, flowcharts, and pictograms can effectively demonstrate complex concepts, relationships, processes, or flows. For example, an attorney could use a flowchart to explain the steps involved in a dispute resolution process, making it easier for the client to visualize and understand the process.
- Harness bullet points and lists. Bullet points and numbered lists can break down intricate procedures or legal concepts into digestible chunks. A list of steps could map the journey of a legal claim from inception to the decision, making it far easier for a client to grasp and reducing the amount of time spent explaining and answering questions.
- Utilize meaningful illustrations. Relevant and well-designed images or diagrams can give a more accurate and sometimes immediate understanding of complex legal matters. A pie chart may be used to demonstrate the division of an estate among heirs, or an illustration may show the stages of a merger or acquisition process.
- Encourage interactivity. Turning a static document into an interactive one can significantly enhance client engagement and understanding. For instance, transform a lengthy terms and conditions document into an engaging click-through webpage with expandable sections for more detail to make the complex legalese less daunting.
- Think about the client. Understand the client’s journey in using legal services. Identify areas of potential difficulty or confusion. Redesign those elements to provide a better user experience. For instance, a law firm may use legal design to revamp its appointment booking process, making it more intuitive and user-friendly based on client feedback.
Why Do Legal Pros Need Legal Design?
Legal design contracts, procedures, and systems carry immense potential for lawyers and their clients. Law firms and in-house legal departments should lean toward adopting legal design for any of the following reasons.
Through legal design, teams can develop efficient processes, mitigating time and cost pressures significantly. This is a boon for lawyers, who often grapple with exhaustive workloads.
Incorporating legal design can enhance the role of the legal business within the wider corporate structure. It can help in-house teams transition from legal firefighters to strategic partners, driving the company’s vision with insight and innovation.
Law firms can gain a competitive edge by embracing the path of legal design. Not only does it offer new ways of thinking, but it can also open the doors to innovation.
Through clear user-centered communication, legal design can empower various business stakeholders to understand and manage legal matters more efficiently.
Legal design focuses on gradual alterations and smooth transitions. It’s a gentle way of encouraging the evolution of traditional systems.
With legal design, law firms and teams can offer unique services that attract more clients and, consequently, more revenue.
By using an approach imbued with empathy and clarity, lawyers can reflect their values effectively, which may lead to stronger connections with clients. Burnout is a major issue in legal professions. Utilizing legal design to focus on efficiency and user-friendly processes can help retain talent in law firms, reducing attrition and its associated costs.
How To Apply Legal Design in Practice
Legal design might seem daunting for a beginner, especially given the traditional nature of the legal industry. However, the beauty of this paradigm shift lies in its easy adaptability and the potential for substantial improvement in client satisfaction. To help the novice legal designer navigate this domain, the following detailed step-by-step guide contains.
1. Understanding the problem: Start by identifying the legal challenge that needs to be addressed. This could be anything from complex contract language to unclear legal procedures.
2. User research: Identify your target audience and understand their needs and pain points regarding the legal process. This could involve conducting interviews, distributing surveys, or observing their interactions with the legal system.
3. Ideation and concept development: Use the insights from your user research to brainstorm solutions. Look at the legal challenge from different angles and think out of the box. Develop a few design concepts that can address the problem at hand.
4. Prototyping: Turn your ideas into tangible designs. These don’t have to be perfect; they are merely a physical representation of your solutions. These prototypes can be tools, interfaces, or processes that make the legal system more user-friendly.
5. Testing and iteration: Use the prototypes to get feedback from your target audience. Test your solutions under different scenarios and collect data on their functionality and usability. Analyze the feedback and iterate your designs accordingly until you have a refined legal design solution that effectively addresses the problem.
Remember, legal design isn’t just about making the law look better — it’s about making it work better for everyone involved.
Use Cases for Legal Design
Legal design is multi-dimensional and adaptable. It can be wielded effectively in various legal scenarios, from negotiation and dispute resolution to contract drafting, ensuring smoother regulation compliance, and enhancing legal education. The potential for the application of legal design is only bounded by imagination and a determined commitment to enriching the client experience.
In other legal design examples, during negotiation processes, lawyers can use visual aids, storyboards, or simplified narrative language to make their arguments more comprehensive and compelling. These may help the parties reach mutually agreeable resolutions faster. Moreover, legal design can be employed during dispute resolution to make the process more client-friendly and less intimidating. Complex processes can be broken down into simple steps, using graphics to explain the possible outcomes and illustrative timelines to convey realistic time frames.
Lawyers and law firms can harness the transformative powers of legal design when they design legal services, making them more customer-centric, efficient, and innovative. This goes beyond simplifying contracts and invades every facet of a law office.
To design legal services with your clients in mind, consider utilizing infographics and animations to explain the legal process of a lawsuit, making the journey more understandable and, therefore, less overwhelming. Similarly, during legal consultations, you can opt for using visual presentations to explain the implications, thus positioning the client better to make informed decisions.
Innovation of legal design
Legal design opens up a new frontier of innovation in the legal profession. It’s not just about how to better design legal services that already exist. It’s also about broadening the horizon to conceive and create novel legal services.
For instance, lawyers can harness the power of legal design contracts to develop interactive documents where each clause is explained simply with corresponding visual aids. Attorneys can use legal design principles to create visualization tools for case strategy, visually depicting each significant step of the legal journey. Lawyers can also develop client-friendly apps to provide essential legal guidance, document templates, or even schedule consultations or meetings.
Legal design, thus, equips the user with the tools to reinvent not just current services but the entire legal practice. Design legal services to be more user-friendly, efficient, and appealing to your clients.
Is Legal Design For You?
Legal design is not a quick fix or a bandage for superficial issues. It goes much deeper, resembling more of a full-fledged operation to resolve institutional challenges. If you feel stuck in a system mired with convoluted processes, mysterious documentation, disgruntled clients, or disillusioned teams, the legal design could be just the transformative remedy you’ve been seeking. However, embracing the mindset to design legal services with a focus on the client requires introspection, an open mind, and a commitment to change. Here’s some food for thought:
Do your clients often express confusion or frustration? If your clientele often struggle to understand the legal documents they’re handed or if they express dissatisfaction with the complexity of procedures, legal design may help. It speaks to improving the client experience by simplifying language, using visuals, and implementing greater clarity and transparency.
For instance, simplifying a complicated divorce agreement with straightforward language and clear headings could significantly enhance each party’s understanding of the document. A visual timeline of a personal injury lawsuit, annotated with key milestones, could give a client a clearer sense of what to expect and when, or at least in what order.
Could your business processes be more efficient? If you often feel buried under paperwork or if your team spends inordinate amounts of time on non-billable tasks, legal design can offer solutions. By streamlining processes and introducing efficient new systems, you can save time and resources and improve customer satisfaction.
Consider digitizing your contract review process by incorporating semantic AI tools to review and analyze contracts more efficiently. Streamline your compliance checks by creating a graphic checklist or flowchart, thus reducing the time required for these tasks.
Are you looking for a competitive edge? Implementing legal design can set you apart from the crowd. It’s a uniquely innovative approach that shows clients that you’re forward-thinking, empathetic, and dedicated to meeting their needs.
Design legal apps, user-friendly mobile apps developed to help clients track their case progress, schedule appointments, or access useful legal resources. Not only will you be enhancing your services, but you might also be tapping into a niche market opportunity.
Is employee satisfaction and productivity important to you? Legal design can even transform internal processes, improving your team’s efficiency, morale, and job fulfillment. By decluttering and redesigning workflows or creating interactive visual training materials, you can make work more engaging, understandable, and fulfilling for your team.
Detailed onboarding materials can incorporate visuals, flowcharts, and interactive elements to improve a new team member’s learning experience immensely. Designing efficient, visually engaging workplace systems can boost productivity and job satisfaction.
If you found yourself agreeing to any of the above, then legal design may just be the innovative framework you need to catapult your legal practice or business into a realm of enhanced understanding, client satisfaction, efficiency, and growth. Trying out legal design could be the first step toward a more effective, modernized legal service delivery.
To sum up, if you want to remain competitive, deliver exceptional client experience, and foster innovation in your firm, it may be time to seriously ponder this question — what is legal design, and why does it matter? By adopting client-focused designs for legal design contracts, documents, processes, and services, you might revolutionize the way you work and the entire legal service landscape.
What are some legal design examples?
Legal design is versatile and can be applied across numerous contexts within the legal domain. Examples of how to design legal services with the client in mind include:
- Simplified contracts: Replace dense legalese-filled contracts with simple legal design contracts in plain language, breaking down complex clauses with bullet points or visuals for easy understanding.
- Visual aids: Use infographics, flowcharts, diagrams, and pictograms to explain complex legal concepts, processes, or relationships.
- Interactive documents: Transform static legal documents into interactive ones to enhance user engagement and understanding. Design legal documents online with expandable terms and conditions or fillable forms.
- Client-friendly websites/apps: Design law firm websites or apps to keep client needs in focus. This could mean clear, readable fonts, easy navigation, engaging visuals, and interactive features like appointment booking or live chat.
- Efficient legal processes: Streamline legal services or internal operations using legal design. This could be a visual representation of a firm’s services or a step-by-step flowchart of the lawsuit process.
What are legal design tools?
Legal design tools primarily include software, apps, or methodologies that aid in implementing legal design principles. Examples include:
- Diagramming software: Tools like Lucidchart or Microsoft Visio to create diagrams, flowcharts, and visuals.
- Design and illustration software: Adobe Creative Suite (including Illustrator and Photoshop) or online tools like Canva or Piktochart to create graphics and illustrations.
- Prototyping tools: Software like Adobe XD, Sketch, or InVision to design and prototype digital experiences like apps or websites.
- Document automation tools: Software like Loio to automate the drafting and review of legal documents.
- User research/feedback tools: Software like UserTesting, Google Forms, or SurveyMonkey to gather feedback from users.
- Project management software: Tools like Trello, Asana, or JIRA, specially tailored for legal projects, to significantly help manage and streamline legal design implementations.
How to find legal design services and consultants in the U.S.?
While numerous firms and consultants offer legal design services in the U.S., a good way to find them is through online research. Here are a few steps to guide you:
- Online search: Open your favorite search engine. Enter relevant keywords like “legal design consultants U.S.” or “legal design services in the U.S.”
- LinkedIn: This is another excellent platform to find professionals specializing in legal design. You can search for “legal design” in the search bar and filter by people, jobs, or companies.
- Industry events or conferences: Legal tech or legal innovation conferences often host professionals from the legal design field. Consult the list of speakers or exhibitors.
- Professional networks: Reach out to your professional circle through platforms like your local bar association for recommendations.
Remember, when evaluating legal design firms or consultants, review their portfolios, see if their expertise matches your needs, and consider client reviews or testimonials.