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Featured Post: Legal Design and Innovation

Editors’ Note:  Time to brush up on our innovation thinking. If you don’t know a rolling cohort from a rolling stone, this Featured Post on Legal Design might be just what you’re looking for.  Please pass it on right away to your network. Contact us and we’ll put you in touch with others who share your curiosity about Legal Design.

What is Legal Design Anyway?

Legal design is the emerging field that brings design thinking to law.  It says that if we can bring better design to traffic signs, mobile phone banking apps and kitchen appliances we can bring better design to law.

What comes to mind when you hear that something is well designed?  Designed with the client in mind?  Useful?  Reliable? Looks good? Easy to maintain?  Value for money?  Have a look at your recent justice projects.  How many of the solutions you’ve been working on could meet these tests for good design?  What would law look like if more of its solutions met these tests.

We Need to Do a Whole Lot Better

But think about just about any legal problem.  If we’re talking disputing, it’s mostly so complex that most people will not even recognise it as a solution to their problem, let alone understand it, find a lawyer, afford it or admire the reliability of its outcomes.  Or how about arranging for the transfer of your property when you die?  Same thing?  Same for evictions?  Debt collection?  Consumer protection?  Land grabbing?  Prisoners’ rights?  Small business startups?

Help is on the way.  Take access to justice technology.  It can not only help courts and lawyers get out from under mountains of paper, it can reach out to consumers to increase awareness and participation, ideally making services faster, better and cheaper. Check out the leading website at Law, Technology and Access to Justice.

In 2018, The Engine Room conducted research for the Open Society Justice Initiative.  In 2019 it published Technology for Legal Empowerment:  A Global Review (2019). This report comprehensively reviewed justice technology projects around the world and interviewed countless technology innovators. 

Check Out These Leading Legal Designers And Innovators

The aims of Stanford Law School’s Legal Design Lab include training law students & professionals in human-centered legal design.  Under the leadership of @margarethagan they stick closely to the idea that good legal design, like all good design, should be ‘user centred’.  Their curious minds are currently looking into everything from the design of constitutional claims in Colombia to the right to counsel for tenants in New York.  They are constantly looking for the processes that will lead to the best legal design solutions.

If you’re not interested in JusticeBots and Barefoot Law in Uganda, BTrack in Kenya, Crime Sync in Sierra Leone or LawPadi in Nigeria, perhaps you should be.  HiiL (Hague Institute for Innovation of Law) is a social enterprise devoted to user-friendly justice. It has supported the development of these and other user friendly justice solution.  Check here for a little more on how they work.  HiiL’s CEO @Mullersam also writes a regular column for SLAW, Canada’s online legal magazine.

Namati works on justice issues involving health, land, citizenship and more. Here’s how they work.  For an impressive array of contacts, discussion and research sign up here to participate through their Global Legal Empowerment Network.

A kind reviewer of an earlier draft of this post reminded us that law can’t change everything.  He wrote, by analogy “…design responses to building in an earthquake zone can mitigate but likely not eliminate the effects of seismic disturbances”.  How then to keep focused on what can and cannot be accomplished through law?  Possibly more than we think?  But less than we wish?  We chose the title of the blog to remind us that ‘justice through law’ is not the only justice worth fighting for.

Justice Through Law aims to build tools for justice seekers.  Innovation is one of our focus areas.  To join in, share this post with your network.  Then please contact us and let us know how you might help.

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