Interview with Nóra Al Haider of Stanford’s Legal Design Lab

Each month, we sit down with one of our heroes from the world of legal tech. This time, it's Nóra Al Haider of Stanford's Legal Design Lab.

Nóra Al Haider is the Policy and Design Lead at the Legal Design Lab in Stanford Law School. As a lawyer, designer, researcher, artist and a coder, Nóra has done everything from using Twitter to analyse rule of law in Hungary, to creating a divorce bot on Reddit in her spare time.

We sat down with Nóra to hear more about her role and her views on the future of legal design.

You’ve had a pretty unique career path. How did you get to where you are today?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been designing and creating projects. When I was at law school – which I went to because I was interested in researching how we could use policy and regulation to create better outcomes for individuals – I missed the design element, so I started a bunch of research projects that integrated the things I loved: law, coding and design. I realised the potential of this interdisciplinary field and continued applying my diverse skillset after law school. One of my most well-known projects is the divorce help bot.

That was actually one of the first projects of yours that we noticed! We loved the idea of ‘bringing tech to the people.’ Tell us about that.

I kept seeing legal tech solutions popping up that – even though they might have been excellent products – kept missing the target audience. So I asked myself: what if we create something on an existing platform where people are already searching for legal help? 

For the case study, I chose Reddit because there were tons of subreddits where people were seeking legal information. The main takeaway for me was that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. I always prefer to “recycle things”. There’s already a platform. So, instead of recreating it, why don’t we just connect the dots.

You work at the Legal Design Lab at Stanford University, the global centre of legal design. What do you do there?

I’m the Policy and Design Lead at the Lab, which means that I’m in charge of leading and designing the Lab’s projects. No week is ever the same. Some weeks I spend managing and designing projects, developing new strategies on how to increase the systematic impact of legal design and liaising with stakeholders. Other weeks I’m conducting legal research, designing and coding. 

Stanford University campus

Stanford University campus

What are some of these projects?

Our two most recent projects are good examples. The first is called Legal Help FAQ, which helps tenants facing eviction by providing them with jurisdiction-specific information about their rights during the pandemic.

One of the really interesting questions thrown up by this project is caused by the fact that lots of these legal design projects are one-off – a law firm or design lab creates a solution and that’s the end of it. In the face of that, how do we create a systematic impact in the world of legal design?

“How do we create a systematic impact in the world of legal design?”
– Nóra Al Haider

To answer this question for the Legal Help FAQ project, we have not only created a platform but are also working with stakeholders and partner organisations to distribute the information through other means than just our tool. We’re creating bots and legal snippets and work actively with organisations to get the information to people who do not have access to equipment such as smart phones. Moreover, we are in the process of creating blueprints for legal FAQ websites so that other labs and firms can replicate this project.

The second project is called Virtual Legal Systems, which focuses on online remote proceedings. Given everything that’s happening in the world, it’s a really exciting opportunity to try to make online legal proceedings more user-friendly.

What is the role of legal tech in your work?

We use tech in our projects to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of our solutions. However, you do not always need tech for legal innovation. Sometimes, small non-technical implementations can create a big positive impact. 

Josef works with legal teams across the profession, including in not-for-profits, universities, and corporations. What advice would you give to them if they were starting out in the legal design space?

My tip would be to start small: think about what you do and what you use on a daily basis, and try out small changes or improvements. Maybe it’s a daily process, or a functional procedure. Think about your users and bring a human-centred focus to the changes you make. I’m a big fan of running scrappy experiments, putting it out into the world, gathering feedback and improving the prototype.

I’d also highly recommend Law by Design by Margaret Hagan. I’m biased of course, but in my opinion it’s the best primer on legal design and how to implement it in your own work.

As a legal designer, what concerns you?

I’m concerned that there’s still so much work to do. I also think a lot about how we can create systematic impact, ensuring projects can be replicated by other labs or other firms in the system.

And, finally, what excites you?

I went to law school because I was interested in driving people into better outcomes. To put the user – the human – first in the legal system, that makes it so exciting to work in the legal design field. 

 

If you’re interested in learning more about how we use legal design at Josef, book a time with one of our experts.