Have you ever heard of UX? Perhaps in the professional world. But in law school? Probably less so, if at all!
The term UX comes from User Experience and represents the emotional experience of a user with an interface, object or service.
When it comes to providing legal services, the user experience is very often neglected or put on the back burner.
What is Legal Design?
To quote a very relevant definition from a former lawyer who is now CEO of his own company:
"Legal Design is both a way of thinking and a discipline. It means starting with the end user of the legal services and working backwards. It is no longer a nice to have. Take the example of GDPR, which imposes an obligation for the policy on the use of (personal) data to be concise, transparent and written in accessible language."
Legal Design is therefore about looking at the provision of legal services by incorporating the user experience into the process. Something that is rather absent in most legal services as we currently know them. I initially started incorporating Legal Design into my day-to-day without really knowing all this terminology. I simply started from a rather blatant observation that I explore here.
My first steps towards Legal Design
I'd like to take you on a journey back in time and share my experience of law school between 2009 and 2014. The design of teaching was not up to scratch, with lectures of hundreds of pages often filled with ultra-legal jargon and excessive repetition (if you're a lawyer, you're probably familiar with this).
When it came to revision, my classmates had beautiful notepads filled with lines and the famous colourful mini Post-It notes emblematic of student life. Me? In addition to not really enjoying university, my revisions were done with tables and diagrams limiting me to the bare minimum (principle / exceptions). As codes were allowed in the exams, I didn't see the point of making a detailed copy and paste of the lectures (don't see this as a flash of genius, just laziness!).
I had already developed a rather different approach to law studies. Then, when I started working, I realized that the legal department not only had a reputation as a bird of ill omen preventing business from being done, but was also inaccessible (rigid, communicating in a language that no ordinary person knows, etc.).
Who appreciates training in PowerPoint format whose appearance leaves something to be desired? In addition to having a bad experience of training, I am quite confident in saying that these have a very limited impact in terms of educational input. So I very quickly put myself in the shoes of the users of our services, saying to myself: "if I myself do not appreciate this ways in which we're currently transmitting legal information, what are people outside of the legal sphere thinkings? They probably already fear lawyers!".
Little by little and as soon as I had the opportunity, I incorporated much more playful formats and different modes of communication, visuals, humor and sarcasm into my trainings. My trainings are also interactive, where games such as quizzes or teamwork sessions take place. I have quickly noticed a better interaction and even a real boost in knowledge for the participants. I have subsequently created content for the operational staff to answer their questions.
3 steps to create legal content
If you follow me on social media, you'll see that I publish content that mixes law, innovative formats, humor and design. I finally realized that it is possible to create legal content that is both educational and entertaining. This is how I do it:
1. Identify the audience and the need
It is essential to remember that you are not creating content for yourself but for your audience, which is why it is important to understand who you are addressing. Identifying your audience is crucial for several reasons:
- The content and its relevance depend on it
- The very way the content is presented can vary significantly depending on the end user
Why? The need/objectives of each audience are different.
While it is tempting to want to duplicate the same content to serve different causes (often out of a desire for efficiency), it is likely that the content is not always appropriate. Entrepreneurs are likely to have a rather limited knowledge of contracts, so a return to basics would be relevant and the training should be delivered in such a way as to make them as aware as possible of the importance of commercial contracts and risky clauses. The Sanityzer could be relevant in this context.
As for the operational staff, the legal department will probably take the lead on the contractual aspects. Thus, making them aware of the types of contracts, the process and their role in that process will probably be more relevant. In this case, the Contracts Love Story could be useful.
As for board members, emphasizing the relevance of the contracts to the company's overall strategy and objectives might be more appropriate.
Once we have identified these two elements, this gives us the strategy for creating the content, which I will summarize in two points. This is probably the longest part and its success will depend on two key ingredients: empathy and synthesis.
2. Create the content
It is important to be able to step back and put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Do they have any knowledge of the subject and if so to what extent?
Also, what is important to them? Empathizing with your audience is obviously essential not only for the creation of the content itself but also to be able to think effectively about how the content is delivered. Ugly PowerPoint and long documents are (really) a no-no.
Content should be considered in a way that is synthetic, useful AND enjoyable for the user.
To quote Blaise Pascal, "I am writing you a long letter because I don't have the time to write a short one". Synthesizing legal content takes a considerable amount of time, and beyond the synthetic aspect, the form is essential.
A summary of legal points formulated in legal language is not necessarily very attractive (if you want my personal opinion, not at all!).
This is where your creativity comes in. You probably haven't had the chance to practice it but I have good news for you... it's time. Creativity knows no bounds - take advantage of it!
Different formats can be relevant depending on the situation:
- Visuals (be it diagrams, infographics, comics (read and approved by my audience on LinkedIn!))
- Out of the box communication methods (animations in video format, songs, imagine Taylor Swift singing about Universal Music's data use policy?)
- Different registers such as humor or sarcasm can also positively impact your content and make it memorable
If we take the Contracts Love Story, for example, the rather unexpected parallel between law and relationships surprises the user and gives them a much more pleasant experience; with the added bonus of them being more likely to remember under which circumstances a contract should be used.
It sounds pretty bold, but once you start asking yourself these questions, you'll quickly find that your previously untapped or even unheard of creativity will keep pushing you to explore new horizons.
Once you have a clearer idea of what you want to create, then you can start to officially create your content.
3. Use the right tools
Some great tools I use for visuals.
Canva is definitely my favorite tool. You can start using it for free to get an idea of what you can create. The free version is pretty good but for a hundred euros a year you have access to a multitude of templates, fonts, colors and icons that will really allow you to create impactful visuals without the need for any prior design training. I would recommend Canva for creating infographics, for example.
PowerPoint and Flaticon
I can already see you frowning at our universal experience of ugly PowerPoint. The reality is that we just don't know how to use this software to our advantage (Bill Gates is probably cursing us). For example, my visual on the key elements of a commercial contract, the Sanityzer, was made with PowerPoint. You have companies that offer to download icons and logos. Flaticon offers this service for a hundred euros a year.
Miro allows you to easily create flowcharts and diagrams in a super intuitive way and again without any prior training. Again, for a hundred euros a year you have access to super malleable templates without the need to be a designer!
If you have a slightly more complex project, you can always outsource some of your work to freelance sites like Upwork, Guru, people per hour.
To sum up, Legal Design in practice is:
- Identifying the audience, the need and the objectives that your content hopes to solve
- Synthesizing the content using your creativity and always keeping in mind the end-users (empathy, dear lawyers, empathy)
- Creating the content using tools or outsourcing this part to experts
To your designs, dear lawyers!