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The Legal Design Book

Astrid Kohlmeier & Meera Klemola  
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outofthebox

In the #outofthebox section we want to give a space to all those lawyers who dare to think outside of what is expected, to get out of the traditional model of the legal profession, and who live these times of volatility and uncertainty with hope and creativity, building the new legal profession that the world is needing.

Federico Colombres (h)
      By Federico Colombres (h)     
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“Technology is one of the main reasons for the development of legal design, but not the only one”

Some time ago, we started booking hotels through Booking, or looking for accommodation through AirBnb. Then, to take taxis by Uber, and we even encouraged ourselves to go to the supermarket through an app. We bought books on Amazon. And we fell in love with it. And mistakenly, we thought that all these experiences did not have much to do with the legal profession. Yes, you heard it right: mistakenly.

Technology companies got into business, in everything we do. And they slowly put on the table a concept of which we had almost no notion: customer experience. And that demand also reached the legal profession.

Our clients, and the rest of the people, were no longer willing to listen to a lawyer communicate law matters with an unintelligible lexicon. Customers were looking to access the legal world like accessing a taxi in Uber.

And in some unexpected place, some began to think about penetrating the law with design tools, making it understandable, and transforming the experience of all those who must interact with the law into a friendly experience.

That, words more, words less, was called Legal Design, a movement that took an unusual acceleration during the pandemic, and that prompted Astrid Kohlmeier, and Meera Kleemola, two brilliant legal designers, to write the first book on the subject.

Since I couldn't miss this, I wrote to them, and we had a long and valuable conversation. 

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The book

The Legal Design Book takes a practical approach and does not stop at the what, why and how of legal design. The authors’ identify ten groundbreaking legal design philosophies and deep dive into the topics of impact and measuring the business value of legal design. In addition, the book unpacks the role of legal designers in the future and also includes use cases by world-class clients’ and contributors from leading companies, universities and law firms.

More info:

www.legaldesgn-book.com

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The Authors

Astrid Kohlmeier is a lawyer and consultant for legal design based in Munich and has been combining law and design for over 15 years. From 2002 - 2012 she was head of marketing & communication in a litigation funding subsidiary of Munich Re. For the last 8 years she is working as a legal design expert and consultant for legal inhouse departments and law firms, such as Clifford Chance, LinkLaters, Airbus and many more. Awarded as „woman of legal tech” she develops user centric solutions and legal services with focus on the digitalization and digital transformation. Astrid is member and lecturer of the Executive Faculty at the Bucerius Center on the Legal Profession, co-founder of the non profit organization „Liquid Legal Institute”, speaks at conferences, publishes and works with an international network of legal designers. She has an education in law and media design.

Meera Klemola is globally recognised as one of the pioneering voices in Human Centred Design for legal professionals and legal business. Dubbed by The Legal Forecast as one of the first ‘Legal Designers’ and the host of the world’s first Legal Design Summit, Meera continues to lead and actively contribute to the discourse on the evolving role of design in law. Meera is a trusted advisor to some of the largest brands, law firms and in-house legal teams. She also co-teaches with professors at law schools, is a frequently requested keynote speaker at global innovation conferences and company retreats and is a contributing author to various platforms on the topics of design in law, modern work and leadership. She holds multidisciplinary qualifications in law, design management and business.

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For those who come across this interview, and do not know what legal design is ... How would you explain what it is and what is it for?

AK: Legal Design is the application of design to legal challenges. This means that we take the designers process (also known as design thinking ) and apply it to legal issues.  

The application of the process implies going through different steps, through which we are obtaining important results as a basis for reaching a solution.  

The process in detail, is like this: we start by investigating the real needs of the user from all relevant stakeholders, we get information to define what the real problem is, and then we move forward to create a relevant solution. With the help of fast prototyping in the next phase, we get feedback from future users. Feedback is the basis for iterations of the services or products for which we create a solution.   

Thus, we arrive at the result: we get simpler workflows, user-centered legal content (such as contracts, templates, etc.), but also legal technology applications that users find attractive and help them in their daily work to be more effective. Another benefit of legal design is that by using it, you develop another openness to new solutions, you learn to be flexible. This skill set is very good in these changing times, where technology and digitization are transforming the legal design industry at a speed that we have probably never had before.  

What does a lawyer who wants to start with legal design needs? Are special design skills required? What tech tools can be used that are friendly for newcomers?

AK: In our book we establish ten basic philosophies of legal design that allow generating the right environment in organizations to work on this methodology, generating the necessary open-mindedness and the will to share and create new solutions in a collaborative way. After understanding it, a first step is to start with a small project in your organization and try to follow the legal design process, which we also explain in detail.  

With this process guide, you learn a new set of skills step by step. If you work in a remote legal team, you can use collaborative whiteboard applications, but the most important step is the first: you have to find like-minded people in the organization who want to innovate, and from there the legal design process can only begin. If you are not trained in the method, you can turn to a legal designer at the beginning. If you want to start alone, you can use our book and follow the steps. That is why we wrote it, to give tools to lawyers who want to jump into this method.   

Legal design seems to have exploded in the last ten years as a discipline, coincidentally at the same time that the legaltech phenomenon began to grow… Do you think it was technology and its UX approach that pushed the legal world to change?
 

AK: Technology is one of the main reasons for the development of legal design, but not the only one. An important cause, in this context, is the new expectations that we generate as consumers in the digital world, and the way in which we now satisfy our needs. We operate through fluid digital services like Uber and others, which influences our expectations of the law. Even legal answers and services are expected to be user-friendly and helpful, transparent and engaging.  

Do you think that legal design will settle the debt with the client in terms of clarity, transparency, accessibility?   

MK: While legal design is not a "silver bullet" to solve everything, it is certainly a tool that visibly improves clarity, transparency, and accessibility in the law. The legal design process is inherently human-centered, and as a result, the products and services created with legal design focus on clarity, transparency, accessibility, and user experience. It is a necessary tool in the lawyer's toolbox for practicing in the 21st century.  
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Legal Design is mostly identified as a discipline focused on the consumer, the client who has little contact with the world of law, the vulnerable…. What do you think of legal design in business-to-business transactions (B2B)? Do you think that in the transactions of large companies is there room for legal design? Can you imagine legal design in international and complex businesses?      

AK: Yes. In fact, I am dedicated to legal design consulting for internal legal departments and law firms, both in the B2B field. Especially in business organizations there is a lot of space and need for legal design. I help organizations to simplify their processes and legal content, but also to create and transform to be more innovative, and adopt only relevant legal technology tools. This means helping organizations find the right balance of relevant, user-centric and easy-to-use technology tools, services and workflows that help solve a real problem. I am also involved in software development, helping to create attractive interfaces for a satisfactory user experience when solving a legal task.     

For all those who want to venture into legal design, where would you tell them to start? (In addition to reading your book!)  

MK: Existing academic and material resources on legal design are still in a growth phase, and those of some credibility are slowly developing. In terms of books, ours is the first practical guide. There we try to make available everything we know, from what legal design is, the process, how to establish metrics and measure the commercial impact, and even how you can start your first legal design project. The book also shows several practical examples of projects carried out by large organizations, universities, and private practice law firms.   

In addition to this, we can recommend the resources of the Stanford Legal Design Laboratory, focused on using this methodology to improve access to justice, which we think is fantastic.

After reading about it, the next step would be to connect with other legal design enthusiasts. There are some great communities on LinkedIn where you can connect with other like-minded professionals who are working on and implementing it. 

From there, both Astrid and I like to encourage people to identify a small pilot project to test legal design within their organization. Do not start "too big", but rather choose a small concrete challenge that you would like to tackle using the methodology. And when you do start, it is advisable to invest in resources and / or expert training, so you make sure you have the right skills to move the process forward. We have witnessed the failure of legal design projects, simply because people did not have the opportunity to receive the proper training before trying it   

Tell us a little about the book, in what aspects it can contribute to the reader who is not familiar with the subject, as well as to the one who is already in these matters. 

AK: The book is the best way to become familiar with legal design, understand what the design part really means, and acquire the tools to start a legal design project on your own, or with the help of a legal designer. Also, it provides training for beginners to think about the possible results, and has a detail of six different use cases from around the world, in which it is explained how legal Design is already being used in law firms, internal departments and universities. We also provide a matrix of how to measure success and how to get started with KPIs in legal organizations. 

Last but not least, we talk about the ideal professional profile of legal designers and show in which positions they can best support legal organizations.

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