Future Thinking: The True Value of Legal Design
Contracts may be designed by lawyers but it seems that they’re also primarily designed for lawyers, instead of for the actual businesses and people that need them. In addition, our court systems are not easily navigable for most people. Terms & conditions and privacy policies are incomprehensible for the average consumer while company policies are often not understood by staff. The result of this system is an extensive disconnect between the law, lawyers, companies and individuals. This is why legal design is proposed as a way to improve the legal industry.
Legal design, a new discipline, takes design principles from different industries in order to better convey complex information and to ultimately improve the practice of law. According to Alix Devendra: “[m]any different design disciplines are relevant to the legal industry. For example, graphic design relies on type, space, image and color to achieve effective visual communication. Similarly, information design is the practice of presenting information in a way that fosters efficient and effective understanding of it. Another relevant discipline is user-experience design, which is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product or service.” Legal design takes human-centric design methods and applies them to the legal industry.
At the heart of the legal design ethos is human-centeredness — a deep understanding of client intellectual, social, emotional and physical needs. Currently, the law can lack this. Legal design transforms this by applying a human-centered approach to the law, where client needs, wants and desires are first analyzed and then used as a basis to design and develop solutions. On a larger scope, legal design results in legal information and products that are transparent, accessible and visually clearer, whilst simultaneously being usable, understandable, useful and engaging.
Legal design requires lawyers to look at how they provide services and information and to come up with ways to provide their services in more useful, understandable and engaging ways. For example, Visual Contracts takes actual contracts and turns them into interactive documents that also integrate visual components. They take complex legal documents and make them more accessible and understandable, achieving the purpose of legal design.
A deeper consideration of legal design uncovers the many positive outcomes from its application. Legal design requires input from interdisciplinary teams throughout its process and impacts all parts of the legal industry. For example, legal technology, which encompasses everything from machine learning, AI, blockchain, smart contracts and other technological innovations, will fundamentally change how legal work is performed. But legal design considers legal technology within a human-centered approach. The use of legal design in the development of a legal tech platform such as dealcloser ensures that the end product is user-friendly and engaging for lawyers and their clients, while simultaneously being compliant with the law. And because dealcloser was designed with legal design in mind, dealcloser allows lawyers to take a large and complex process, the deal closing process, and make it more accessible, useful, understandable and engaging to their own clients.