Legal Design: Starting with simple things


I became aware of legal design, when I joined Fondia and started searching for measures to make GDPR related documentation more understandable for those who execute its obligations. I was encouraged by my colleagues to dig more into legal design by noting that it is a key to make the world of law more understandable.

Those who practice legal design in their daily activities quite often say that there is no wrong or right description of legal design and that every and each measure may be a legal design measure, as long as we use it to make our legal services and legal systems more user orientated and understandable. For those who would like to read more of the theoretical knowledge on legal design, I recommend reading Law by Design by Margaret Hagan.

If we think about GDPR related legal services, the legal professionals who work in the area have a duty to ensure that all documentation prepared on processing personal data is clear and understandable. The GDPR even encourages us to use visualizations to help people navigate and understand legal requirements. Therefore, data protection is a great legal area to start with when thinking of legal design elements.

Information design is something that every legal professional may want to start with. For example, office software gives us the ability to highlight the essential parts of the text to focus the reader's attention on the important parts of the text or to use tables and charts for simplifying complicated content. These are very simple but powerful tools that are already available and already used by legal professionals. In any case, we should use these tools more proactively.

A powerful tool to make information more understandable is using audio, videos and/or animations. Their creation process will most likely require the involvement of professionals from other fields, but this is the charm of legal design – it requires legal professionals to be able to attract, form and work with an interdisciplinary team.

I am personally a great fan of using drawings and icons to visualize content, as this is something different when it comes to legal work. However, it is worth noting that there should be a right balance with these tools as everyone should understand what is behind a particular drawing or icon. E.g. too many icons or different interpretation of icons by the users may be misleading.

Back in September, together with colleagues from Fondia Finland we participated in the annual LegalTech conference organized by Mykolas Romeris university in Lithuania where we shared our thoughts on legal design thinking and what legal design may look like in real life of legal professional work.

During the conference we organized a practical workshop together with the Legal Hackers Vilnius Chapter. We requested Ausrine Balkaityte, a professional visualist in Lithuania, to assist with the workshop as well as sharing tips on drawing and using icons. The task for participants of the workshop was to recreate Fondia’s privacy policy by using information design elements per assistance of the visualist. However, the real goal behind the task was to encourage participants, especially those who are legal professionals to think differently in their professional life. Legal design is not about making templates, services, systems look prettier – it is about solving problems in a creative way!

Below are the great results of the workshop where brilliant participants shared their thoughts on what Fondia’s privacy policy could look like with legal design touch up: