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Legal Design Thinking: Between Innovation and Rethinking


Legal Design Thinking, in addition to Legal Tech and Legal Operations, is one of the terms, which have become increasingly important in legal departments in recent years. The legal industry in particular is currently in a state of upheaval. With digitalization and accompanying cost pressures, companies with in-house legal departments are facing major challenges. New approaches and solutions need to be found to make working methods and structures more efficient, effective and sustainable.

In particular, companies focus on the search for new innovations. The methodological approach of Legal Design Thinking is intended to help. But what is behind the expression?

Legal Design Thinking – Combination of two working worlds

Legal Design Thinking is a relatively new expression, that transfers the traditional concept of Design Thinking, which has already been successfully implemented in other industries, to the working methods in the legal industry. The method is a synthesis of the expertise of designers and the expertise of (corporate) lawyers. The aim of the method is to focus on the users, i.e., the citizens when developing solutions for legal issues. This is to be implemented with the help of the use of thought patterns and process models of designers. After all, a design, like a (legal) service, exists to meet the needs of potential users.

Legal Design Thinking can also be divided into further subcategories:

  • Legal Product Design
  • Legal Service Design

One subcategory of Legal Design Thinking is Legal Product Design. This term includes, for instance, Legal Tech applications, which combine a large number of repetitive processes into one application. One example of this is the Internet platform The development of automated analytical tools, such as, for example, automated contract review is also included in Legal Product Design. With all of these applications, developers must ensure that, in addition to the legal aspect, the user interface and user friendliness are also designed in such a way that the applications can ideally be used properly and effectively by laypersons without much effort.

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Legal Service Design encompasses the legal service itself and how it is provided by (corporate) lawyers. The presentation of legal advice plays a key role here. For example, the design of the environment, the mode of communication, the use of tools for illustration and much more. Just as with Legal Product Design and in general with Legal Design Thinking the aim is to design access to the law in such a way that the most important components and statements are understood and internalized by all those involved without great effort. The application of specific laws and jurisdictions of courts should thus also be illustrated. In some companies, specially trained Service designers are employed to take over a part of the Legal Design Thinking and to create suitable interfaces between the pure legal service and all the systems involved in it. The focus here is always on future prospects. Service designers introduce their ideas in such a way that the needs and desires of future users are always taken into account.

Legal Design Thinking is still in its infancy at many companies

The concept of Legal Design Thinking is currently only used effectively in the legal industry to a small extent. In this context, the Design Thinking model has already become fully established in other industries and has proven to be a successful concept for companies.

Legal Design Thinking aims to understand the needs of people who regularly interact with legal activities in a better way. Based on this knowledge, new innovations are initiated or existing processes are further developed, while always taking a user-centered and relevant visual design into account. The (corporate) lawyers should experience the best possible user experience so that the law and the legal system are not seen as a major challenge, as it is often the case. Therefore, Legal Design Thinking is not only a suitable innovation method, but also has an overarching goal: To empower people, who interact with the legal system daily to make better decisions. This, in turn, leads to a significantly easier handling of the law. In this way, the legal system, which is often complicated and difficult to access, can be made accessible to a broad mass of people.

(Corporate) lawyers, who use Legal Design Thinking, can generate a real competitive advantage in comparison to other direct competitors, because they really understand the stakeholders involved and their personal concerns. Consequently, they can also predict in more detail, what legal challenges are relevant or with which means problems are avoided. Attorneys at law and (corporate) lawyers also enhance their unique selling proposition by rethinking legal advice and offering it as a creative service, which offers added value to all involved.

Objectives and advantages of Legal Design Thinking

The Legal Design Thinking approach helps to address the professional and personal challenges of the legal system that arise daily and to remove momentary obstacles. The concept is one of the elementary components of creating a smooth and pleasant client experience in connection with legal services. One of the objectives of Legal Design Thinking is that the law is no longer seen only as a separate field, but rather much more as an already integrated component of processes, products or possible services. Law must be intuitive and be fully integrated in the future into daily work processes.

Certainly, this will not happen overnight. First steps in the right direction are needed to replace the current and partly outdated structures in companies and legal departments. For this, it is first necessary that (corporate) lawyers are open to new thinking approaches and solutions, such as, for example, the use of Legal Software. Looking to the future, the concept of Legal Design Thinking has the potential to create a transparent legal system, which becomes accessible to all.

Further objectives of Legal Design Thinking:

  • Redesign of internal and external communication
  • Development of new innovative Legal Tech Tools
  • Change of perspective: User wishes and concerns in the foreground
  • Open mindset of (corporate) lawyers
  • Improvement of service offers
  • Implementation of new work processes in the legal department

The advantages of using the Legal Design Thinking approach are obvious. This is user-centered, leads to an interdisciplinary collaboration and prototypes of ideas are developed and tested as easily as possible and provide feedback as to whether the idea fulfills the needs of the user and actually meets them or needs to be adjusted once again.

Legal Design Thinking – a conclusion

In the future, legal departments will work with Legal Design Thinking concepts for improved competitiveness of the company. In times of digitalization and Industry 4.0, companies benefit enormously by using modern and sustainable methods and tools. Legal Design Thinking supports legal departments and companies in working more efficiently and automatically controlling corporate standards, for example, by using Legal Tech or integrating new and improved standards into the corporate structure. Working with new models and concepts means more efficient and effective work in the long term, which in turn reduces internal operating costs and provides targeted relief for employees. New capacities, which have been freed up as a result of improved services and processes, can be used, for example, for other central areas or for hiring technical specialists.

Legal Design Thinking also implies the use of Legal Tech. Legal Tech supports the standardization of selected business processes. This automatically increases process quality and often accelerates collaboration between specialist departments. Thus, Legal Design Thinking is both a new working method as well as an innovative method, which helps corporate lawyers to cope with changed expectations in a flexible and agile way through technological progress.

Would you like to learn more about Legal Design Thinking or other interesting Legal Tech topics? No problem! Just visit our blog on our homepage or get in touch with us for a personal consultation and further information.

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