If you haven’t noticed the world is changing. Nearly all aspects of our lives, including our working environments, are being affected; some would say enriched, by new ways of thinking and behaving. The old ways of doing things are disintegrating as a new industrial age bears down upon us. As Gandhi said it’s time for us all to: ‘be the change you want to see in the world’. And that includes the legal profession.
Driving these changes are technology, new communications channels and a slew of creative answers to what were complex issues. These modern approaches use techniques that may have been seen as too outré in the twentieth century but are now the way forward.
In the dusty world of The Law, these pioneering ideas are known as Legal Design. And those legal firms that embrace the fundamental disciplines of this developing philosophy are the ones most likely to find favour as the pace of industrial change marches on.
What Is Legal Design?
Legal Design is all about applying the principles of design thinking with the knowledge and content of the legal profession. By combining these ideas, you can see the way legal services will be delivered in the future. Crucially, Legal Design ensures that users of the sector get a much more coherent and relatable service irrespective of which legal expertise they are using.
Let’s look at some of the core ideas that make up Legal Design and how they can be used to transform any forward-thinking legal practice. There are seven core principles:
This concept underpins the whole Legal Design approach. It is made up of four stages that ensure a problem or issue is fully explored before a solution is agreed. The Discovery and Define steps look for the insights and information required to address the problem.
The Develop and Deliver phases use this information to generate ideas and decide on the best approach. As the name suggests, it’s an iterative process of using divergent then convergent thinking to ensure we explore all possible strategies and that broad insight helps to inform the best solution.
It’s a world away from the way the legal profession currently diagnoses solutions based on black and white legal concepts and ‘we know best’ thinking.
User Centricity And Empathy
This element is about taking an outside-in approach. We put ourselves in the shoes of the client as we do our work. It’s an empathetic viewpoint that seeks to understand how the legal process is impacting clients. By its nature, this aspect of Legal Design means adjusting our language and behaviours to align more closely with a client’s perspective. In short, it’s about acting like thinking, feeling human beings.
Adopt A Problem Led Focus
John Dewey famously wrote: “a problem well put is half solved.” It’s a great way to describe this element of the Legal Design process. It’s an approach right out of the creative thinker’s handbook. It’s crucial to understand the problem before committing to a solution. It means taking a considered and holistic approach to understanding the root causes of an issue. In turn, this could very well lead to a radically different outcome. Looked at that way, taking a problem-driven approach is always time well spent.
Build A Multi-Skilled Team
The ability to apply Legal Design principles depends on having a multi-skilled team working together. Naturally, this includes legal expertise but may also include elements of business psychology, technology, creative design and HR. Most importantly, one team member should represent the end-user to ensure the solution will work in practice.
Pictures speak louder than words it’s said. And in Legal Design, the use of highly visual media to run the process and present the solution is considered essential to success. This means the use of flowcharts, organograms, infographics and mindmaps. Not only do these techniques make the process easier to conduct, but they also make it much easier to communicate the outcomes.
Use Plain Langauge
This is the need for the legal profession to improve the way it communicates in writing. While the letter of the law is often convoluted, there’s an urgent need to present it in a way the average client can easily understand. Ordinary people don’t understand terms like ‘torts’, ‘conveyancing’, ‘pro bono’ or ‘pursuant’. Legal Design principles we must explain these concepts in much simpler terms, and it’s not before time.
It would seem inappropriate for an innovative approach like Legal Design not to embrace some form of technology. Indeed the use of a tech’ solution may be the logical and desired outcome of the design process. But even if the result isn’t always a groundbreaking new app, it could mean adopting existing mainstream solutions. How about communicating with clients by WhatsApp or using Slack to run a legal project?
Create Desirable Outcomes
Most who grasp these principles will see they can only lead to good things if adopted and applied assiduously. The approaches will mean simper, better written legal documents that are no less impactive but are significantly more engaging.
Legal Design will help to demystify the legal sector. The principles will aid in demonstrating the added-value and contributions that the legal profession offers to society. And once widely adopted, these methods will ensure the behaviours, practices and impact of legal experts will be enhanced to the benefit of the whole profession. Perhaps most important is that clients will be happier and gain a better understanding of not only their legal issues but the law in general.
That’s plenty of reasons why Legal Design if broadly adopted can only be a good thing both for the legal sector and those who rely on it.
Design Your Future
LexSolutions are experts in the development and implementation of Legal Design principles for a range of legal companies and can help you to quickly apply these ideas to help your clients and legal business.
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