Journey Map of Legal Design, what it is, how it arises and where we are going

Legal Design is probably - after the sexy Legal Tech and the highly cited New Law - one of the most used hashtags and terms currently by lawyers, especially those lawyers who have turned their interest in legal innovation and this article is aimed at give a brushstroke of the concept of Legal Design from my perspective and personal experience, as well as share some insights about the birth of this discipline that represents the intersection between law, technology and design, but most importantly we will try to visualize the next steps of this discipline.

What is Legal Design?

The first time I heard the term Legal Design I related it -in the first instance and almost automatically- with art and not with technology, that came later ... The point is that after having read multiple articles, after having attended numerous Meetups, countless chats with people from the Legaltech and Legal Design community around the world I could reach the following conclusion: “Legal Design is much more than an academic discipline or a discipline that interacts with others or the mere intersection between technology , design and right, is a MINDSET; Yes, as they read it, a different, authentic and fresh way of thinking that allows recycling what is not useful and reusing it more efficiently, reinventing the obsolete, improving many processes that needed change or a new perspective.

In short, Legal Design is a way of rethinking - and also of acting - many things that we identify as challenges of the legal sector and problems of access to justice so that we can not only transform it, but redesign it, being able to let go and let it go. that no longer proceeds, thanking for the good times - as in a relationship, of whatever type - and creating and / or designing in the present a future with true access to justice, an understandable right - and understandable by all its users- but above all, an adequate provision of legitimately useful, usable and improvable legal services.

How does it arise?

In particular, I think that design as such has been around since time immemorial and the examples are diverse such as the discovery of fire to the design of the wheel or the design and creation of the internet as we currently know it, which emerged in approximately 1983.

I have the particular theory that almost everything is already created and / or designed and that, therefore, there are fewer things that can really be created 100% from scratch and that they are not an improved or redesigned version of another, in fact I believe more in redesign (same is a theory in a changing beta state). In any case, the main ingredients in the design process for me are curiosity and the ability to identify needs and problems of users to find solutions or improve processes that allow solving these problems.

I am sorry to disappoint some people, but there is really no precise date to indicate the birth of Legal Design itself and if you know it I invite you to put it in the comments, I promise to take a look at it, what I can indicate are some milestones and again some own ideas about the emergence of this mindset. In sense, it is worth highlighting the following:

2013: The Legal Design Lab[1] in charge of the law school and the D.School (design school) from Stanford in charge of Margaret Hagan

2014-2015: Many interested parties from the legal, technology and design sector appear on the subject with brilliant ideas regarding the use and employment of Legal Design for the development of products and services in the legal sector, the network Legal Design around the world.

2016 The Legal Design Summit[2] It was founded and organized by Finnish firms Hellon (service design) and Dottir Attorneys (legal services) in collaboration with other firms and universities and initiatives such as Stanford's Legal Design Lab. The last edition was held in 2019 in Helsinki. People who had been applying this for a long time participated in all the editions, without having to have a “label” or “coin a name” to the matter of “thinking differently and out of the box” in favor of the “right to understand” like my friends. : Astrid kohlmeier, Jose Fernando Torres Varela, Stefania passera, Santiago pardo, among others, but also many others that despite not having participated as speakers or not having attended these events they had been developing great things like Robert de Rooy, Anna posthumus, María Jesús Gonzáles Mirror, Lieke Bieleen, Lina krawietz, Tessa manuello, among others; finally other non-attendants to the events that through their work in the service design team, properly speaking, have been developing very interesting products and services such as Angelica Arrows, we are less but there we go.

But there is an important detail that we should not forget and it is the fact that this discipline, mindset or whatever Legal Design represents and is for you, owes its name to design thinking (design thinking) and that does have a clearer start date and is the year of 1978 along with the birth of IDEO[3], who verbatim on their page comment the following:

“… IDEO is often credited with inventing the term 'design thinking' and its practice. In fact, design thinking has deep roots in a global conversation that has been going on for decades. At IDEO, we have been practicing centered design in the human being from  our beginnings in 1978, and we take the phrase "design thinking" to describe the elements of practice that we find most understandable and teachable: empathy, optimism, iteration, creative confidence, experimentation, and an embrace of ambiguity and failure. We knew from experience that our clients value these skills as much as they value the designs we create for them (…) We want to teach people how to use design thinking in their lives, communities, companies and organizations… ”

What follows is a paraphrase of other ideas that IDEO and mine comments about design thinking: "... As a mentality and methodology, design thinking is relatively young ..."[4] and of that we have no doubt.

"... Today, design thinking has become a common language in many industries and disciplines. The approach is fresh and effective, and newcomers can easily learn and interact productively with it… ”[5] Of that I still have less doubt but, a lot of care because "... it is also easy to get stuck in the basic movements of design thinking ..." such as mere visualization, or designing content and information, however; “… Opportunities for more complete integration are still lacking. As the concept has spread, it has not always retained a consistent meaning, nor a uniform depth… ”and I am afraid that I identify a certain profit motive and lack of purpose in some agents who try to apply design thinking to the mere development of services products or platforms that are not necessarily useful and sustainable over time, losing sight of the true reason for this methodology.

"... The term" design thinking "can be used as a currency without a real commitment to understanding and applying the practice. At IDEO, we believe that applying design thinking with integrity means continuing to delve and refine, to be lifelong learners and practitioners at the same time… ”[6] And that last sentence does touch my heart because I firmly believe that regardless of the sector you are in or in which you work, we are sponges that adapt and are capable of constantly absorbing knowledge, as a friend and mentor called Luis FelixWe must be in a constant beta state.

What I also like about this section of IDEO history is that they mention some additional milestones that few may know but are relevant and necessary to remember:

“… Before the advent of design thinking, there were numerous approaches, practitioners, writers, and books that paved the way.

Don Koberg's 1971 The The Universal Traveler: A Soft-Systems Guide to Creativity, Problem-Solving, and the Process of Reaching Goals[7]

George Nelson's seminal 1977 book How to See: A Guide to Reading Our Man-Made Environment[8];

Robert McKim's 1972 book, Experiences in Visual Thinking... "[9]

Where are we going?

Any ideas about it? Well, this is interesting before, I think it was much clearer, but honestly, given the current 100% VUCA situation (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) that reigns worldwide, even before COVID-19 , I can only refer to Socrates that "I only know that I know nothing", and that the little I think I know I try to improve, transform, design or redesign it and put it at the service of others, and I think it is a good suggestion for everyone; Either way I promised to try some predictions and here they go, and surely there are some somewhat similar and others additional to those that Denis Potemkin he told us at the event "Future of contracting" [10].

Well without further ado here are mine:

1. Regulatory design. - If we are able to visualize contracts and manuals, I think it is time to apply design to regulation and not necessarily use Sketch, Canva or whatever they use, but apply design thinking - and others - to improve regulatory design processes and have great standards in the short term, where they also participate by co-creating the citizens who are the final consumers of the standards in each country or region.

2.MORE UX writting on contracts.- Much is said about the design of digital and non-digital contracts and services, their visualization, the UX / UI, how it should look or look, but precisely the design, as we have previously mentioned, aims to improve the identification of problems to solve them and the understanding between people; Much has to do with the "design of the message" because only through a good design of the message, the parties will be better able to truly understand what they can or cannot do, to which jurisdiction to go or not, among others, to make the interactions among the most dynamic, efficient and effective users.

3. 100% digital contracts, that are really integrated. - Integrated in the sense that these sections of identification, signature, and subsequent contingencies can solve them online also in the best of cases and above all to be able to continue with the cycle in a normal way despite the adversities or circumstances that may arise. This implies integrating contracts with technologies or technological solutions such as: Digital Onboarding, Blockchain, electronic signatures, Cloud, among others that perhaps I am developing at work just like other friends and due to "professional secrecy and loyalty" I cannot reveal.

4.Audio contracts by voice devices or voice interfaces. - I consider that perhaps this is the most ambitious feat and some time ago with some developer and designer friends I read a lot about it and I have discussed this idea with some colleagues and the first thing I heard was it is not possible or I do not know of someone who does it today , but I think that just made me even more anxious and curious about it. Some time ago I participated in a VUI community where I started with basic redesign of skills of voice interfaces, but I have always believed that, due to my passion for music and my passion for accessibility, although today we do not see it as viable due to a series of parameters, standards, data security regulations, among others; Audio contracts are part of the desirable future that I would like to implement in law, I need help with that experiment, you can leave your comments and we can chat and prototype more about it together and exchange information on what is or is not being done about it.

5.A Holistic design perspective .- This maybe should go first, but I left it at the end because it deserves even a full article (which is coming soon) but I mention the following, we have spent a long time thinking that law was the mere application of the sources of law that were written many of them in a past that is not remotely similar to the current panorama - perhaps in some things - but not in all and many of those norms and codes, as well as jurisprudence in Anglo-Saxon countries were made based on observation, experimentation - some others based on arbitrary imposition - but there was some design, and if we go much further back to the beginnings of Greek law, where everything was born, we will see that Law was not just a box of norms or resolutions that applied without further reason, but were the result of the intersection of different perspectives, sciences and disciplines such as human behavior, biology, economics, theater, oratory that nurtured law and the h They were the most important vehicle to achieve the long-awaited end of justice, a justice that was not reduced to a mere procedure, a mere process or a mere role and that formed jurists who interacted with colleagues from other professions and had interesting gatherings and debates. to improve your community.

Today we have the opportunity to do the same, to reconnect with that origin - improve it - and as the friends of IDEO say to be able to really integrate design thinking in our practice that must be more receptive to improvements, seek to reinvent ourselves, let go what no longer works, give thanks for the past times, communicate with other agents of change from other sectors and industries and take the best of their practices and processes to create a better right that positively impacts the final consumers that are the users of the same, but above all that highlights those lawyers focused on people who design, redesign or create rights for people, I end by saying the following: “I have a short-term objective, to see more people working together to create a better right to people".


[1] http://www.legaltechdesign.com/about/#team

[2] http://www.legaldesignsummit.com/home

[3] https://designthinking.ideo.com/history

[4] Idem

[5] Idem

[6] Idem

[7] https://www.brainpickings.org/2011/11/11/the-universal-traveler-koberg-bagnall/

[8] https://www.amazon.com/How-See-Reading-Man-Made-Environment/dp/0974491802

[9] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/365661.Experiences_in_Visual_Thinking

[10] https://www.futureofcontracting.com/

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Karol valencia
She works as a Legal Project Leader and Legal Services Designer at eID and also works as a Service and Innovation Designer at Lawcus-LPM. He develops private consulting and focuses on projects and services with a holistic perspective through his Karol Valencia brand (worldwide and remotely) and is Head of the Community at Eye Z Legal (India). She is an active member of the Institute for Internet & The Just Society, also works in the #Barpocalypse project for the redesign of legal education in the US and is the ambassador in LATAM of ILSA (Innovative Law Studies Association). As a polyglot, you work on the translation of various technical documents, articles, books, articles and more when requested or simultaneously translated as an interpreter at events. She is a lawyer from the Universidad Católica San Pablo, with postgraduate studies at the PUCP, and has a law degree from the UEM in Madrid, Spain. With training in digital transformation, innovation, programming and design in "En Estado Beta", "Iron Hack" and "Interaction Design Foundation"; In a self-taught way, he participates in communities such as Legal Hackers Lima, PsychoLAWgy and others, in addition to different volunteer jobs. Former professor at the UPN. Facilitator and international speaker at Legal Design & Legal Tech. Activist on mental health issues. He currently collaborates with columns and blogs such as: The Crypto Legal, his Medium account, Idealex.press and Impact Lawyers. He believes in redesigning the legal system to achieve better access to justice for all. Contact: karol@karolvalencia.com

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