The Viewpoint - Design Thinking & Law: A picture is worth a 1000 words

Legal design is the process of applying design thinking to complex legal information, to make the law more accessible, easier to understand and thus engaging for its intended audience.
The Viewpoint - Design Thinking & Law: A picture is worth a 1000 words

Over the last few years, design thinking has gained immense popularity. We have seen the applications of design thinking make their way into almost every industry, be it auto, media, IT or any other. In the legal industry too, design thinking has emerged as a valuable tool. Ranging from devising programs to providing access to justice, to planning communication channels to promote understanding of complex legal concepts, to using visualization tools to illustrate procedural legal documents, making legalese simpler for the end user to understand, design thinking is becoming intrinsic to the Legal industry.

What is Legal Design?

Customers and businesses often are frustrated when confronted with texts in legalese which results in loopholes, confusion and litigation. Legal design is the process of applying design thinking to complex legal information, to make the law more accessible, easier to understand and thus engaging for its intended audience.

The benefits of using legal design thinking methods are numerous:

  • it puts the user at the centre of the solution

  • leads to multidisciplinary collaboration

  • prototypes of ideas are more easily developed and quickly tested

  • giving feedback on whether an idea meets the needs of the user or needs to be re-adapted is much easier

Legal design embraces but goes beyond technology

The process of legal design entails identifying what is desirable from an end-user point of view, what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It allows those who aren't trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges. The process starts with understanding the right questions. It’s about embracing simple mindset shifts and tackling problems from a new direction.

Legal by design
Legal by design

Legal Design Boot Camp and Competition

Legal design in India is an emerging concept. To make the idea more prevalent and to introduce it to a larger audience, Manupatra organized a Legal Design Boot Camp and Competition on the 13th and 14th of March, 2021. The event was powered by Justice Adda as the resource partner.

70 participants attended the boot camp designed intricately to familiarize them with the concepts of Legal Design. The boot camp culminated with a Competition which made the learning process more rewarding.

The resource persons for the boot camp are founders of d-Van [a design thinking transformations lab based in India], Mahak Chhajer and Siddharth Peter de Souza (also founder of Justice Adda).

The Jury for the Competition – Kanan Dhru (Community Manager HIIL The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law); Abhayraj Naik, (Advisor, Co-founder, Initiative for Climate Action) and Mr. G. R. Bhatia, Head of Competition Law Practice and Partner, L&L Partners.

The Competition was executed in the following stages:

  • Applications received were screened, where the applicants had to answer 3 questions.

  • The selected participants were given pre reading material and AV links to set them up for the boot camp.

  • The individuals were then clubbed into teams of 5, with each team having a diverse mix of students, professionals from corporate, law firms and government.

  • Teams were allotted a team building exercise to help them connect and familiarize.

  • The Boot Camp was carried out on 13th March from 9 am – 7 pm. Input and working sessions were interspersed. In the Input session, the resource persons addressed the group with built in interactive exercises. In the Working sessions, the teams collaborated to take the concept forward.

  • The boot camp started with:

  1. introduction to legal design in the context of law

  2. instruction about developing a human centered design

  3. ideation techniques

  4. formulating a pitch desk presentation with the potential of the solution proposed.

Tools like Root-Cause Analysis, User Research, Brain-Writing, and Idea Dashboards were introduced to the participants.

Themes, Ideas and Proposed Design Solutions

For the competition, the participants had to choose from 3 problems

1. How #WFH can be more adaptable.

2. How future of legal education can be brought to power to meet the challenge and demand of automation.

3. How the courts and other related services can be made virtual to conquer the digital divide.

The teams had a marathon session with 10 hours of working and input sessions, followed with teams working together to prepare their submissions for the competition, applying what they had learnt. Their commitment and enthusiasm and the resultant innovative solutions is commendable.

To highlight a few of the ideas:

i. One team proposed making virtual courts accessible (due to lack of tech infrastructure) by using the existing infrastructure of post-offices to reach some of the remotest parts of the country. Another team working on the same problem went a step further creating a matrix of post office, police station and community service centres to make law and legal processes Approachable for the common man.

ii. Another solution proposed a single platform, for law firms and government organizations to collaborate to provide optimum and effective legal solutions.

iii. Other ideas included having legal databases that use legal design to share statutes, judgments, law reports and orders in a way which is comprehensible to a layman; Standardized internship tests; Universities where legal education is imparted with career orientation as the pivot, and more.

All these ideas will be showcased by Manupatra in the coming weeks.

Takeaway

Design is a transformational force that helps organisations develop products, services and experiences that resonate with customers. To be an innovator and gain a competitive advantage, you need to fully develop your design and creative thinking skills, both of which have become essential in today’s business environment.

The event introduced the concept of legal design to the participants, enabling them to apply the principles of design thinking to identify and examine real-world problems. The peer to peer learning especially in a diverse group of participants demographically and geographically helped them to engage in discussions, deliberate on community problems, think out of the box and devise innovative disruptive solutions.

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