December 27, 2021

What is Legal Design and Why it Matters?

For an average person, decoding the law can be very challenging. What is more and legal experts will (surely) agree, is that law can be sometimes hard to understand even among lawyers. In this hyper-regulated world with uncountable number of legal rules, explaining the law has sometimes became mission impossible. If we add unstructured legal content, we can quickly found ourselves in a world of chaos.

So the question is, how can one avoid frustration when confronted with legalese text with loopholes and confusion in a way that law would became more interesting, easy to understand, quickly to navigate through important information and lastly, more accessible to everybody. Margaret Hagan (Legal Design Lab, Stanford Institute of Design) defined Legal Design as is the application of human-centered design to the world of law, to make legal systems and services more human-centered, usable, and satisfying. Speaking differently, everytime a client or a company faces trouble to understand a contract, a policy, or any other legal information this represents a red flag that massage is too complex for the addressee. With other words, such information is not human-centered and that is the reason it could and should be presented differently. By using Design Thinking principles, one of the solutions is surely using graphical representation, clear and simple language and new technologies. Massage based on Legal Design principles needs to be tailored to the addressee and thus consider who is the target audience. The level of Legal Design abstraction and complexity usually increases with the level of addressee’s expertise.

Legal documents are normally drafted because they are necessary and not because drafters want to have them. Legal documents are usually quite long, detailed and difficulty to read, so the reader usually go straight to the signature section. This is why people are tired of complex legal documents. More and more companies are using Legal Design principles as a standard in their legal documents (Apple, Google, IKEA, etc.). This simplified commercial relationship are highly desirable among people and companies in all areas where the relationships are regulated by law. A nice example is ClemenGold Comic Contract created by Creative Contracts which purpose is to present rights and obligations between employer and employee in clear and simple way.

After the adoption of GDPR rules, many companies and organisations need to update their privacy policy. Privacy may also be simple and engaging while delivering all necessary information. A nice example of Legal Design Thinking implemented into privacy policy is the example from Melbourne-based digital marketing agency, August.

On the other hand, corporate clients do not expect to get nice graphic representation of contract rules. Clear language, proper document structure and avoiding unnecessary words may be enough to improve users experience. But Legal Design is much more than delivering legal information in open and understandable manner. Its ultimate goal is also designing better organizations and products.

Lawyers are often involved in the development of new products or services. They are usually the gatekeeper before certain product or service enters the market. Often lawyers are called to find loopholes to make legal what, in reality, should be designed in a different way since the beginning. Furthermore, as cleverly pointed out by Joshua Kubicki in his contribution “Is Legal Design Bullsh*t?”, where he claims that law firms are typically not easy to do business with. Neither are many in-house teams as their internal business customers will share. This is why it is important that lawyer should not only be trained in law (law-centered way), but also in the design (human-centered way), so they will be able to improve communication, increase service quality, develop new ideas and support culture of innovation. And this is where Legal Design steps in.

What do you think? Is Legal Design important and how does it impact your practice Feel free to post your thoughts and comments.

This article was prepared by Marcel Hajd.

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