Design & the law: now more than ever

Now more than ever the legal profession is asking itself: What could be better?

In this article, Josef’s Head of Customer Strategy, GG, explains how Josef and the firms we work with are using legal design to answer that question, including with practical hints and tips on how you can do the same.

Before Josef, I used design to help organisations – from Australia’s largest corporations to grassroots charities – develop products and services that would better suit the needs of their customers and communities. I became obsessed with design. As an outsider coming into the legal profession, I was pleased to find that I wasn’t alone. There are so many lawyers and legal professionals that are similarly obsessed. And I think I know why. 

GG, Josef's Head of Customer Strategy

GG, Josef's Head of Customer Strategy

The inconvenient truth 

Consumers and practitioners of the law are crying out for innovation in legal service delivery. We all know the myriad problems that the profession faces – including the 5 billion with unmet justice needs, unhappy clients and lawyers – so I won’t rehash those here. Suffice to say that, in times of social and economic upheaval like these, many of these problems will be exacerbated.

The solution

For the lawyers and legal professionals in the audience, don’t worry: you’re not alone. All industries have their imperfections and problems. And, these days, most of them turn to the idea of human-centred design – or, in the legal world, legal design – to fix this.

Human-centred design has been used to discover and solve problems, create new products and services, and improve the way that things are already being done in almost every sector, including health, finance, energy and education.

Human-centred design is all about people. It starts with the person that you’re designing for, and ends up with a service or product or experience that suits their needs. It’s a practical approach that draws on frameworks to focus attention on the right thing at the right moment.  

Legal design is being used to solve problems on both a macro and micro level in the legal profession. Researchers, for example, are using it to make the court system more navigable and comprehensible. For providers of legal services, legal design is a tool that can help improve the work that is done on a day to day level, making it easier and quicker for the provider, and more accessible and useful for the clients.

People ignore the products and services that ignore people.

People ignore the products and services that ignore people.

Legal design at Josef

At Josef, legal design is always our starting point. We ensure that our customers understand legal design before they start building on Josef. This is why we structured our new Designer & Builder Program so that people set aside time to determine what they should focus on and why, before they start building the bot itself.

By doing this, we give ourselves the best chance of creating a product that will work better for people: us, our colleagues, and the users of the digital legal product we’re creating. If we don’t, there’s a higher chance that people won’t like using the product. And, if they don’t like it, they won’t use it. People ignore the products and services that ignore people.

The legal design process is frequently adapted to suit the needs of a project. At Josef, there are key three things we encourage to ensure the most useful, delightful and  successful digital legal products are created:

– Inspiration: how to discover opportunities 

– Problem definition: ensuring you’re solving the right problem

– Iteration: ensuring you develop the right solution


The inspiration phase in the design process is about gathering meaningful data from people, our environment, and ourselves, to help us understand the problems we want to solve. 

There are a number of techniques and tools we can use in this phase. One example is analogous inspiration, which hospitals used when looking at F1 pit stops to improve their handling of surgical equipment. At Josef, we do this by looking at the things you’d want to automate in your daily life, like ironing or weeding the garden, considering why this is, and applying those learnings to your legal work.

The most important tool, though, is simply speaking to and understanding the people you’re solving the problem for. This is because empathy is always at the heart of legal design, because people are at the heart of legal design. Legal designers empathise with others by doing things like conducting research interviews, or creating personas (a sketch of a representative person which documents key information relating to their wants, needs, and pain points). 

If all of this sounds complex, it isn’t. Margaret Hagan, the Director of the Legal Design Lab at Stanford University and one of the leaders in this space, just encourages you to take your clients out for a coffee and ask them: What could be better?”

Problem definition

People often have plenty of ideas about what they’d like to automate after the inspiration phase. Problem definition is all about slowing down and evaluating your opportunities to ensure you focus on the right one. 

There are many frameworks that people can draw upon to enable this. A common one in design is the DVF framework, which calls out that a solution should be: 

– desirable, meaning that your customer really needs it; 

– viable, which means profitable, or with a sustainable business model; and 

– feasible, which means possible within your organisation. 

This framework isn’t one size fits all. At Josef, based on the thousands of bots we’ve seen and how they’ve been received, the most valuable legal automation projects are: simple enough to be achieved in a reasonable time frame; scalable, meaning frequently demanded and involving repetition; and suitable for their users’ wants and needs.


Prototyping is a really efficient and effective way of making sure what you build will be useful. This often involves sketching out solutions or prototyping and getting feedback on them early.  

This part of the design process makes it possible to check that what you have conceptualised is something which actually is user centric, by showing it to someone who looks like the user of your product. It is also a great way to begin answering the questions you may have about how your solution will actually work.

By slowing down to focus on the people we’re building for, we actually end up delivering better and more valuable results, faster.

By slowing down to focus on the people we’re building for, we actually end up delivering better and more valuable results, faster.

Legal design draws on creative and analytical thought processes to discover the novel and the useful. And, at Josef, we’re lucky enough to see legal design come to fruition in the bots that our clients launch and build. Recently, this has been most obvious in the innovative and fast COVID-19 bots that our clients have built to help both their customers and society.

By slowing down to focus on the people we’re building for, we actually end up delivering better and more valuable results, faster.

If you’d like to design more valuable experiences for you and others with Josef, request a demo.

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