Why the legal profession is embracing human-centered design
When you imagine the industries in which design thinking can add value, the legal world might not come immediately to mind. But design thinking can be useful within any profession where there are complex, multifaceted problems that lack clear solutions.
In other words, design thinking could be a lawyer’s best friend.
Every day, lawyers face complicated challenges with distinctly human dimensions. Lawyers need to be creative, seek hidden solutions and empathize with their clients and associates in order to deliver the best outcomes.
Many lawyers and law schools are introducing design thinking into their practices and incorporating it into the way they think about the law.
A sure sign that design thinking is catching on in the legal world is Stanford d.school’s new Legal Design Lab. The lab is run by an interdisciplinary team of law professors and design thinking experts who train law students in human-centered legal design and research innovation and the legal world.
The lab has already developed impressive projects, including Wise Messenger, an automated text service meant to improve appearance rates at hearings, appointments and other important legal events. The project was highlighted in a 2019 article in Harvard’s The Practice Magazine.
In another example, IDEO worked with international law firm Hogan Lovells, helping them address the problem of inconsistent associate reviews, which lacked substance and guidance. IDEO helped the firm rethink its approach by looking at the process from the reviewer’s perspective and empathizing with what the firm wanted to accomplish. After testing several ideas, the team landed on a simple but surprisingly productive solution: a physical note card with specific questions to keep the 10-minute review conversations on track, followed by a peer-to-peer review of the results to help associates process what they heard. Though most lawyers assumed that IDEO would build them an app, the paper-based approach turned out to be the ideal solution. “If you’re trying to encourage direct, in-person feedback, and you give someone an app to deliver it, they’re going to hide behind the app,” Rochael Soper Adranly, an IDEO partner and the firm’s general counsel, told Fast Company.
For legal experts interested in learning how they might incorporate design thinking into their own operations, there are tons of resources, courses and articles available. Here are a few to get you started.
Legal Design Lab’s free Legal Design Toolbox. This web-based resource features guides, tools and examples of how organizations are using human-centered design to tackle all kinds of legal challenges.
Design Thinking for Lawyers. This article on Lawyerist.com summarizes the six steps of design thinking from a lawyer’s perspective.
Transforming Your Law Department with Design Thinking. In this 13-minute podcast, Jeffrey Marple, Director of Innovation for the Legal Group at Liberty Mutual Insurance, shares how his legal team is using Design Thinking to accelerate the transformation of their legal department.
Designs on the Law: The arrival of design thinking in the legal profession. This article in Harvard’s The Practice magazine explores the impact design thinking is having on the legal world, and shares case studies and examples.
And of course, you can always come to ExperiencePoint (or we can come to you) to host an ExperienceInnovation workshop that will train your team to use human-centered design and build a better, more intuitive legal practice.
Learn how to enable innovation skill-building at scale here or download our free ebook Kickstart Innovation: A Guide for Organizations.