09 April 2021

Enabling Change in the Society via Legal Design (Part 1)


The author makes a Short Analysis of Legal Service Value Chain

From a personal perspective, I have always perceived being a lawyer as a responsive agent. A client would often ask for legal advice and you provide it either to solve a problem or to provide initial guidance for your client’s next steps.  However, in both cases the first step would always come from your client asking your advice

Beyond my perception, we see many law firms changing their approach to enable further value for their clients and offer pro-active services in reality. Especially with the technology, enabling diversified services that benefit the relationship between the law firms and their clients. So with this proactive approach, the linear value chain extends to the client’s customers and possibly extending to third parties as well. 

What about lawyers directly contributing to the wider society? What about creating a circular value chain? How lawyers can trigger and enable this change? According an article by Christopher Colford from World Bank, lawyers’ knowledge and problem solving ability is considered to be as a strong contribution to the skills that are needed to “promote development, advance democracy and uphold the rule of law”. Colford praising the work of PILNET (“the Global Network for Public Interest Law”) in his article, I learned more about PILNET and I find it truly admirable. From an altruistic perspective, having a systemic approach providing or enabling access to pro bono assistance is essential for every society.

- Legal Design and its Implementations 

Coming back to legal design, let’s take a look at the definition first. Margaret Hagan, director of Stanford Legal Design Lab, defines legal design as “the application of human-centred design to the world of law, to make legal systems and services more human-centred, usable, and satisfying” who is one of the pioneers in the field. At the core of legal design, we see human centeredness, which puts the individuals in the center while creatively solving legal problems. 

There are many successful legal designers offering legal design as a service to corporate clients enabling them to adopt his new way of solving problems and enabling them to understand their clients’ needs better. Reena SenGupta also mentions in her article at the Financial Times , “there is a growing evidence of legal design being successfully applied to the commercial legal sector”

In addition to this, legal design has been used as an innovative method to increase or improve access to justice . Many examples can be found in the projects of the law school legal design labs  such as Stanford Legal Design Lab and Northeastern University School of Law’s NuLawLab. These enable students to tackle access to justice problems with a hands-on approach and creating strong collaborations with the stakeholders along the way. This approach also gains much importance with the  Sustainable Development Goal no. 16 “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions” where enabling equal access to justice for all is considered “a catalyst for economic and social development” . 

- Legal Designers as Agents to Create Social Value

The additional value that legal design brings to legal services that it enables a trusting relationship between your client and their customers. For an example when you create a terms and conditions document that is easy to read with visuals and a meaningful structure, it helps your clients’ customers to better understand the rules covering the services. Hypothetically, it will lead to less disputes, which means less burden on the justice system and less burden on the lawyers. Ideally, this will enable lawyers to create further value through either pro bono services or working directly on access to justice projects.

My proposition is that enabling legal designers as agents directly creating social value. What I meant is that instead of lawyers’ traditional support role, what if we consider legal designers as directly involving in the any kind of projects where the social value aimed via social innovation. The structure of the role and function of the legal designer needs to be analysed well due to the professional rules governing lawyers. However, when we imagine a multi-disciplinary and collaborative future, this could be worth well to try. 

In the second part of the article, I will delve into the relationship between legal design and social innovation and how legal designers can make a difference in the social areas.

  •   Christopher Colford, “How lawyers can help promote development”, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/01/how-lawyers-can-help-promote-development/ 
  •   “PILNET is a global non-governmental organization that created opportunities for social change by unlocking law’s full potential”, https://www.pilnet.org/about/ 
  •   Margaret Hagan, Law by Design, https://www.lawbydesign.co/legal-design/ 
  •   Reena SenGupta, “How ‘design-thinking’ can help lawyers do a better job” https://www.ft.com/content/25480beb-0e15-41e9-b2f4-1fa84302308c 
  •   Margaret Hagan, Open Law Lab, www.openlawlab.com  
  •   Margaret Hagan, Justice Innovation with Law School Design Labs, https://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_services/publications/dialogue/volume/21/spring-2018/iolta-design-labs/ 
  •   UN Sustainable Development Goals, https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/peace-justice/ 
  •   Federico Ast, The Role of Technology Guarantee Access to Justice, https://medium.com/astec/the-role-of-technology-to-guarantee-access-to-justice-da3c0e508171 
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