Legal Design is here to stay

Tessa Manuello, Founder & CEO Legal Creatives

  • Tell us a bit about yourself and your professional course. What triggered your interest in Legal Design?

Legal design is a relatively new way of thinking about how we practice the law by promoting concepts and skills that are very new to most lawyers, such as creativity and empathy, to do 21st-century law. By placing the customer at the centre of everything that we do in law, legal design empowers legal professionals to communicate legal information in a more effective manner, deliver a much better service and experience to their clients, and lead innovation projects in the field of digital transformation and technological adoption.

Discovering Legal Design has been life-changing for me as it has allowed me to find more purpose, meaning, and fulfilment in my profession, innovate and have an impact while empowering others to do the same by following their own trajectory with more confidence, skills, and vision. Before discovering Legal Design and working in the field, I was a case manager at an internationally renowned arbitration institution. I was in charge of handling arbitration cases, ensuring the proceedings went smoothly and were resolved as speedily as possible, taking into account the arbitration rules and other protocols. I was in my element in the sense that I was working with forward-thinking lawyers in a fascinating and complex field of law, in charge of ensuring the effectiveness of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms between businesses and even sometimes with states. I was evolving in an international setting, which was the perfect continuation of my legal education which I acquired from France in Global Business Law at Sorbonne / Sciences Po, but also in Canada in Dispute Prevention and Resolution, and even in South Africa for an exchange program in the field of International Human Rights. Despite all these positive aspects of my legal career, I felt something was missing but, at the time, I didn’t know what it was.

Fast forward to a couple of years later, I attended a conference on the topic of creativity in Toronto, Canada. That’s when I discovered there existed a very different way to solve problems and complex challenges using creativity with a view to innovate. At the time, I had never thought creativity could be used in professional setting to produce such interesting outcomes in so many diverse fields of practice. And yet, at the event I met with creative experts and practitioners from all over the world who were there to present their work, research, and use cases. I discovered astonishingly that this creative problem-solving methodology was successfully used in various fields: education, psychology, leadership, organizational management, business innovation, and more! This sparked my interest in learning even more about these creative concepts and methods and investigating how this approach could be beneficial and relevant to the legal sector.

Coincidentally, that was the time when in Canada more and more reports were issued on the problem of access to justice, and the need for legal services to adapt to practice 21st-century law. And that was also the time when technology started to enter the legal market and various committees were set up to explore the future of legal services. At the time, I had just decided to go back to law school in Canada to validate my credentials but also started an LLM with the conviction that I would somehow be able to anchor my intuitions into academic research to demonstrate the relevancy of creativity for the legal sector and/or the legal profession.

Interestingly enough, at that same time, Stanford Law School started to do its first Legal Design experiments, bringing lawyers with engineers and creatives to use the methodology of design thinking – a method for innovation that takes its root in the creative problem-solving method, with a focus on user-centricity. The experiments were successful and have shown that combining legal expertise with technological know-how and design mindsets could create intuitive and effective solutions for the world of law. Some of the papers that were published about these experiments came to my attention and I decided it was time to go all in.

This conjunction of very special circumstances gave me a push to further my own research in this field and an increased boost of motivation to carve a new legal career. By working at the university, I truly discovered a passion for research, also teaching and transmitting knowledge. That’s why I decided back then that if my findings were successful, I would be entirely focused on training other legal professionals on what I had learned from my research and work in the field.

There I was with the perfect conditions to explore these foreign concepts of creativity and design and enough time ahead of me to work at translating them for legal professionals like me to be able to use them in their practice. With necessary adaptations, I discovered we could use this methodology which is now known as Legal Design to operate that transition to 21st-century law, through creativity, innovation, and user-centricity.

  • What exactly is Legal Design?

Legal design is an emerging field of law that seeks to apply design thinking principles to legal information and services at large. Design thinking is a creative process in which users are engaged in the process of solving problems through an iterative approach. It involves understanding and empathizing with the people we are designing for, as well as continuous testing and refining ideas based on users’ feedback. The process is typically broken down into five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.

Applying this approach in the law allows law firms, legal departments, and public institutions to create more user-friendly, accessible, and efficient solutions to complex legal issues.

By focusing on the experience of those interacting with the legal system, legal design seeks to make the process of obtaining legal advice and engaging in the justice system less intimidating. Its goal is to create a more intuitive and a more humanized experience of the law.

To achieve that, Legal Design employs a number of principles from Design Thinking, User Experience Design, Product Design, Experience Design, Visual Design, even Content Strategy and the Law itself when creating solutions. The philosophy of Legal Design is to foster interdisciplinary work to make these solutions easier to use for those who are intended to use them, whether they are lawyers or non-lawyers. For example, designing documents with a more intentional way of presenting information that utilizes visuals such as icons or other graphics, instead of relying solely on long blocks of text, will help users process the information contained a lot quicker. By using plain language within a clear information architecture, lawyers can turn their legal notices, contracts, and other policies into documents that are easier to comprehend, hence more effective. And the same is applied in litigation in which the objective of Legal Design is to communicate more clearly complex legal concepts to facilitate comprehension and also reduce the time required to process the memorandums and facilitate the analysis and rendering of the decision by the judges.

Such techniques of legal design can also be applied when creating service processes like document automation or automated advice systems which could simplify the process of getting help from a lawyer. These solutions would in turn help lawyers focus on more added-value work instead of repetitive and administrative low-value tasks. This is good for clients who receive better service because the legal information is more business orientated. But this is also very good for the lawyers who gain relevancy for their clients and can distinguish themselves from their competitors.

It’s important to mention that legal design can also focus on creating solutions for increasing access to justice for individuals who do not have the resources or knowledge to navigate their way through complex laws.

This includes creating digital tools that assist people in understanding their rights or helping them avoid costly court battles by providing dispute resolution mechanisms outside of traditional litigation settings, as well as developing online resources that provide up-to-date information on current legislation so they can use it effectively when pursuing their claims or rights.

In the future we’ll see even more combinations of legal design with advances in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP) and data science, to create service offerings that are tailored precisely according to users’ needs and preferences in order to deliver an optimal experience every time they interact with the judicial system or with their law firms. There are many more possibilities with the methodology, the only limit is our own imagination, and capacity for execution, of course! Hence the importance of multidisciplinary work in legal design.

  • What are its benefits for law firms and in-house legal teams?

Legal Design can offer a wide range of benefits for both law firms and in-house legal teams, allowing them to use innovative approaches to design their legal workflows, processes and documents that are involved in their practice.

It not only allows for improved efficiency in the administration of the legal process, but also provides a more satisfactory experience for clients.

One benefit of using Legal Design is improved client satisfaction. By applying UX principles to legal services, law firms and in-house teams can ensure that their client’s journey is easier, faster, and better. This could include simple features easy to implement such as clear descriptions of available services on websites written from the point of view of the user instead of the legal professional, or automated questionnaires that guide clients through the onboarding process. By creating an engaging experience for clients at every stage of their relationship with the firm, customer loyalty will be improved and there is potential for more repeated business or more referrals from satisfied customers.

What’s interesting is that in design thinking the ROI – return on investment – for each project can be up to 200%. This is explained by the fact that the user is involved all the way via feedback loops that prevent the creation of solutions that would not be perceived as useful or valuable to the end-users and maximize value creation from the perspective of the customers. Although we don’t yet have enough empirical evidence to claim the same ROI in the legal sector, the projects accomplished so far have all been very well received by customers and have demonstrated a huge economy of time and money as well.

Additionally, Legal Design encourages closer collaboration between different stakeholders across the entire legal process. This could include close communication between lawyers and other professionals such as engineers for the integration of new technologies or the digital transformation of legal offices. All these elements help foster greater creativity while ensuring that key legal and technical requirements are met throughout the project’s lifecycle.

In summary, legal design offers numerous advantages for both law firms and in-house legal teams alike, but also for public institutions when it comes to enhancing satisfaction levels, streamlining internal operations, fostering closer collaboration across different stakeholders within the broader legal industry ecosystem, and ultimately have a business or social impact.

  • To my understanding, Legal Design is based on concepts that might seem “radical” for the legal profession. What would you say to a lawyer who seems sceptical to adopt the Legal Design philosophies and methodology?

Legal design is a truly revolutionary concept for the legal profession, and understandably it may seem to go against some long-held beliefs and practices in the legal sector. Concepts like creativity, prototyping and testing may sound totally foreign to any lawyer who is new to the methodology. For example, when we test a prototype with users to collect their feedback, for example on a new design for a letter of engagement. A lawyer who’s unfamiliar with the methodology would want to get the redesign perfect the first time. On the contrary, what we want to do at this stage is to quickly and cheaply test a new design concept. So, the objective here is to build to learn, not to deliver. This is why the methodology requires a change of mindset and a thorough understanding of the methodology in practice.

By understanding and utilizing the power of design thinking, legal professionals can gain valuable insights into how to best understand their client’s needs and also how to best assist them in reaching their objectives, Legal Design has already been proven to help increase customer satisfaction in the delivery of legal services by law firms, also increase efficiencies in the way legal work is done in house. For the legal system, numerous solutions have already been created to ease the litigant’s journey and have had a positive impact on the experience of the courts.

When applied correctly, Legal Design can be a powerful tool for lawyers that allows them to better understand and empathize with the challenges that their clients are facing in order to provide more tailored advice and an optimal customer experience. Through user-centered techniques such as prototyping, interviewing and rapid iterative cycles of testing, legal professionals can quickly gain insight into how to better serve their clients’ needs.

In summary, Legal Design offers many advantages for attorneys who are looking for a modern approach to practicing the law centered on their client’s real needs and wants and would like to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Legal Design is an asset for lawyers who also want to future-proof their career and practice, also because it allows to work in the field of legal innovation, with digital transformation, and the adoption of technologies. It offers exciting opportunities to new and more experienced attorneys alike. With so many potential benefits available through this innovative methodology – it makes sense why more and more law firms, legal departments, public institutions, and even judges have already adopted its philosophies and begun applying these concepts within their own practice areas.

  • What is your core mission at Legal Creatives?

At Legal Creatives, our core mission is to give legal professionals access to the innovative tools and techniques of Legal Design through immersive educational experiences. We believe that, with the right combination of design and legal expertise, lawyers and other legal professionals can use a more modern way of communicating legal information and delivering the service to their clients without losing legal precision, be more valued for their work and feel more confident amidst the competition.

To achieve that, we provide comprehensive training in the creative application of design thinking to law practice. Our courses cover topics such as visual contract design, legal service design tools and techniques, information architecture for legal documents, modern legal writing and more. Everything we teach is grounded in research but is designed to be immediately applicable and easy to be used – in the spirit of Legal Design! This means that lawyers can learn these new skills and at the same time use them on projects that are relevant and meaningful to them.

Our educational philosophy at its core is that education should challenge participants to learn by doing, the educational content should always be very actionable and practiced during the course itself, and the overall experience should hopefully be fun! Our mission is to equip lawyers with essential knowledge on both sides of the fence, law + design: from incorporating design thinking into their legal work, while making sure that participants operate the mindset shift by learning and applying user-centricity techniques, and also value the importance of multi-disciplinary work, especially with professional designers that are essential to the execution of the final product.

In addition to providing professional development opportunities for lawyers and other legal professionals who want to advance their careers with Legal Design, we are committed to creating a very diverse community within our ecosystem by fostering inclusionary practices in our training offers. Our goal is not only to support individual success but also to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity for advancement and contribution within this new Legal Design field and profession. The Legal Design Pro Immersion is the perfect example of how we embedded all these principles to make our training and certifications accessible to professionals from all countries, backgrounds, and languages while having everyone interact and connect in an international and very dynamic setting 100% online.

  • Tell us about a book that captured your attention lately and why.

The Art of Exceptional Living by Jim Rohn is a book that has recently captured my attention in a big way. This timeless classic, first published nearly twenty years ago, is still relevant today and offers valuable insight into how to develop the skills necessary to live an exceptional life.

Jim Rohn was an entrepreneur and motivational speaker who impacted millions of lives before his death in 2009. He wrote this book to share his wisdom with a wider audience and it has since become an international best-seller.

The main theme of the book is that everyone possesses the potential for success – but success doesn’t just happen from luck or some stroke of good fortune. It takes hard work, dedication, and discipline to achieve the kind of life you want. With its practical tips and insightful advice, The Art of Exceptional Living shows readers how to apply these concepts in real life for tangible results.

The reason I chose this book is that I always like to go to the roots of things. Jim Rohn was the inspiration for many world-class coaches, such as Tony Robbin but also Brendon Burchard who’s the founder of the High-Performance Institute where I got certified as a High-Performance Coach. To me, learning from the mentors of our own mentors is the most effective way to develop a deeper understanding of the concepts we learn but also learn more about the psychology behind and the influences that lead people to set themselves in motion and choose to take certain trajectories. It’s fascinating to see how everything plays.

Truly, the Art of Exceptional Living is also inspiring and uplifting – I laughed so loud listening to it (I have the audiobook which I highly recommend to feel his energy). It’s easy to read yet thought-provoking at the same time; so if you’re looking for a guide on how to create lasting change and build your own version of success then this book is definitely worth considering!