What is the legal concept?
The goal of legal design is to find an innovative way to explain the law in order to make it more interesting, easier to understand and more accessible. Legal design, as the name suggests, involves the application of design thinking: it combines experience in the legal field with an approach from the design profession, using graphic representation, clear language and simple and new technologies.
The need for legal design stems from a problem that is both extremely old and very relevant today: how to craft easy-to-understand laws and regulations so that people are better able to protect their interests. Legal conception also means making the law more user-friendly. The users of the legal system may be citizens in search of a lawyer, or people who need legal advice when drafting a contract, or even lawyers themselves, who want to adopt best legal solution to offer to their clients. Legal design helps build empathy with users, who thus feel better placed to understand how to achieve their goals.
Take contracts, for example. As they are usually very long, detailed and difficult to understand, instead of bothering to read them, we often go directly to the final signature (a typical example is the website terms and conditions). This happens because contracts are written by legal experts to be read by other legal experts. Rethinking a contract from the point of view of the actual user (i.e. the person who has rights and responsibilities flowing from the contract itself) gives new ideas on how to structure its content. Using legal design in this context may mean simplifying the language. remove jargon, include tables of contents and add graphical representations of certain information through diagrams, icons, calendars and pictures. This helps to engage users, improves clarity of information and generally facilitates understanding.
Why do we need a legal conception?
- It makes customers more satisfied. – Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes, understanding their needs and offering them something understandable and valuable tends to be highly valued by customers. By listening to customers and working together to create accessible solutions tailored to their needs, you increase their confidence in your business.
- It improves understanding and compliance with the law – If users are offered a simpler and more interesting legal product (such as a contract), they will feel more secure in their rights and responsibilities and will be able to understand and to respect the agreements they conclude. On a large scale, this can lead to better compliance with contract terms and less litigation. It also potentially allows the creation of a legal system in which citizens play a more active role.
- It encourages innovation and value creation – Many professionals (and even non-professionals) have good ideas and suggestions to make, but often lack the technical skills to express them. Legal design provides a platform for these people, paving the way for opportunities and improvements. This new system could be used to expand existing services.
Legal design is a useful resource. Today, in addition to considering and implementing legal design, companies are increasingly exploring a “human-centered design” approach, for three reasons:
- People are tired of complex legal documents. Human-centered design is now the norm in all major companies (like Apple, Google and IKEA), which provide us with flawless products and services. People quickly get used to a “simplified” business relationship, and now we hope that this approach will be extended to all areas where there are relationships governed by law.
- Users are more and more demanding on what they expect from their lawyers and notaries, while wanting to pay less. This means that legal experts must evolve to offer services that meet specific client requirements. The legal design helps to highlight the points that are really important to clients.
- The legislation itself begins to require legal design. For example, the General Data Protection Regulation 2016 (GDPR) states that all privacy policies should be concise, transparent, and written in plain language.
What does the legal conception consist of?
The legal design uses a variety of tools and methods.
- Divergent thinking and convergent thinking. This process takes place in two stages: the first (divergent thinking) is to come up with many ideas from a single concept or a single piece of information. In the second phase (convergent thinking), a unique solution is then generated by combining a lot of data and information. In any legal design project, it is important to take advantage of both stages to grasp the essence of the problems to be overcome before solving them with ideas and solutions.
- Empathy and understanding of the problem. Users should always be the center of the design. Empathy is used to put yourself in the shoes of the users and understand the problem from their point of view. Achieving the optimal solution requires a thorough understanding of the problem, which can be achieved by analyzing every aspect of the user experience.
- A varied team. Having a team of people with a variety of skills is essential to ensure that the best possible solution is developed. In general, you need highly specialized people (in areas such as IT, psychology, law and design), as well as professionals who can represent users.
- Graphic representation. The way information is presented influences the way it is received and assimilated. In legal design, the presentation of information is an essential part of the process and the solution: the process involves sketches, drawings, sketches and case studies, while the solution can feature diagrams, icons. And images (choosing the language that best suits each specific project).
- The language. Generally speaking, the legal logo designs agencies aims to simplify the use of the language, avoiding jargon and making the structure of the text easier to navigate.
- Technology. As in virtually every field today, technology can enhance legal design solutions, making them interactive and accessible through digital platforms. In addition, technology facilitates innovation.
What does the legal concept look like?
Let’s take a look at some examples of legal design that use different techniques.
Case Study # 1 – BD Contracts
Robert de Roy, the founder of Creative Contracts, has created an innovative way to write employment contracts using cartoons.
The idea came from seasonal agricultural workers; as these people usually don’t have a lot of reading experience, a long and detailed written contract was not a good solution. Workers often signed their contracts without understanding the terms and conditions. The solution was to create a “cartoon contract” that outlined the rights, duties and tasks of employees in their work. Design, an almost universal language, has proven to be very effective, and the company has now drawn up twelve different contracts with more than 2,500 signatories.
Case Study # 2 – Privacy Policies
Following the introduction of the new GDPR rules, many companies have updated their privacy policies. Logistics software company Juror, was no exception and decided to create a user-centric document.
The challenge was to create a policy that was both solid and serious, while being easily understood by all. Juror created a simple and straightforward interactive document that included different sections and levels, icons and deadlines. This helped increase the satisfaction of the company’s customers as they found the policy really easy to understand as well as to advertise the company which helped attract new customers.
Case study 3 – Review and classification of real estate contracts
One of the most demanding jobs for any real estate agent’s legal team is renewing leases and preparing relevant documents for clients. In many cases, contracts are analyzed and updated manually, a process that takes several hours.
Wavelength worked with a real estate agent in London to improve their contract renewal process and created a “work package” divided into two models. The first (Marked up Lease) is the renewal contract itself, the relevant parts of which are automatically highlighted. The second (Draft Lease Report) contains the highlighted parts, organized in a table in Word. This allows lawyers to process only the second document, which speeds up the process. And because the end product is summarized in tabular form, it’s also easier to navigate…
The ultimate goal of legal design is therefore to improve legal practices and the processes used to draft laws and contracts. Additionally, as a user-centric discipline, it seeks to improve the experience for all who come into contact with legal products and content. The legal conception is important because, if the method continues to be adopted more and more widely, it will help to improve the understanding of the rights and responsibilities of individuals.