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What is legal design?

October 04, 2021

What is legal design?

Those of us practicing (and evangelizing about the benefits of) legal design are all agreed that it is the application of design-thinking and human-centred design practices to legal. It is a disciplined way to introduce creativity to the challenges we face in law and maintain a business focus as well as a human-centred one.

At that point alignment often stops because beyond the context of law, what we apply legal design to is pretty varied. So what do you want legal design to be? Or more precisely what do you want to bring legal design to bear on?

For some in the field, the focus has been on a particular segment of legal services – access to justice or client and advisor co-development – or on a particular product; perhaps information, contract, process or service design. And they are all valid because as an industry we've a lot of progress still to make: on improving the usability of our documents, services, and court systems, to assist the expertise and knowledge of our lawyers and legal business teams, and support the digital transformation of the industry.

At NRF we've developed legal design as a broad methodological toolkit using aspects of design practice, like empathy, iteration, creativity, applied in the context of law and legal operations. And so we are about creating more accessible and focused legal services, by researching and analysing a client or business need and then using that analysis to design useful ways to practice law.

Right now, we have three types of client services supported by the NRF legal design team:

  • Co-design of innovative solutions in response to external factors, such as IBOR reform. This is in collaboration with the relevant practice specialists and others in NRF Transform, like the NRF Products team.
  • Design and facilitation support for client-own innovation projects. Typically this will start with problem identification exercises and workshops, perhaps because a client wants a technology intervention such as automation but isn’t sure where to begin or what the specific need is they are trying to address. We work with our specialist colleagues to offer this support in tandem with other NRF services.
  • Legal process and / or document redesign, such as legal intake or T&Cs. This is in partnership with the NRF Legal Operations Consulting and legal practice specialists, and usually is in response to regulatory, organisational or market changes. The goal is to isolate areas in the process or document where we can drive efficiencies by simplification and provide greater support for the people who use or benefit from it.

Keep an eye out for more legal design insights from our team as we will be exploring this topic further.

In the meantime, for more information please contact Sara Collins, Head of Legal Design.