Human-centred design for legal help

Speaking at a public lecture at MLS, Dr Margaret Hagan from the Legal Design Lab at Stanford Law School explained how we can use design to make the legal system work better for people.

Dr Margaret Hagan speaking at the Melbourne Law School public lecture. Image: supplied.

Navigating the legal system without a lawyer is a complicated process. Dr Margaret Hagan and her team at Stanford Law School’s Legal Design Lab are working on making legal services more accessible, engaging and intuitive.

Speaking at a public lecture at Melbourne Law School on Tuesday 21 August, Hagan presented the work her team has been doing in partnership with state civil courts and legal aid groups. Their approach: using design principles to create innovations in how the legal system operates and how it can better serve the public.

According to Hagan, design can offer lawyers a different perspective on problem solving.

“[Design] is a different way to focus on problems and to go about solving them,” she said.

“It is a nice complementary pair of glasses to wear when you’re not wearing the glasses you’ve been trained as a lawyer to wear.”

In the past three years, Hagan and her students at Stanford Law School have produced a range of innovative solutions to common access to justice problems. These include automated contract builders and smartphone applications that help self-represented clients navigate civil court processes.

“The real value of design work is making us think outside of our own legal mindsets,” she said.

“To do that, we have to go out and we have to talk to people directly.”

Hagan said that in addition to community engagement, early prototyping was essential to making legal services more accessible.

“What we learned is that this idea of user testing and talking to your community sounds expensive, it sounds hard, but it’s actually not,” she said.

“If we can come up with prototypes, we can test how people behave in response to an idea really early in a project timeline.

“We need to be focused on changing the systems, the rules and the polices in a new human-centred and exploratory way.”

Dr Margaret Hagan speaks at the Access to Justice Innovation workshop, hosted in conjunction with the Victorian Legal Services Board. Image: supplied.

During her visit to MLS, Hagan also gave a guest lecture to JD students in the elective subject Law Apps, spoke at a staff seminar and led a workshop in conjunction with the Victorian Legal Services Board.

For more information on regulation and design at Melbourne Law School, visit the Digital Citizens Research Network.