My first Legal Design Sprint: reflections

It’s no secret – I’m a big advocate of Legal Design. Not aware of Legal Design and what it can achieve? I need to know where you have been hiding my friend, ‘cos it has the potential to change how the public engage with legal information and ‘stuff’. And in a world where legal aid cuts and lack of funding leaves our justice system on its knees, creating ways in which your average ‘Josephine Public’ can be better equipped to navigate legal terminology, rules and concepts becomes ever more pressing.

And that’s where us lawyers come in. By lawyers, I mean anyone with some legal knowledge. So you maybe a practicing solicitor or barrister, a law student, a legal academic, a judge, a CAB volunteer – you get my drift. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as those who hold the keys to making sense of our complex legal systems and instead start coming up with ways in which we can better use our legal education to help those that are not privileged to have the same.

Legal Design helps with that. It’s a way of applying design principles to the world of law to make it all more useable, accessible and understandable. I introduce my students at Birmingham Law School to Legal Design concepts and methodology, allowing them to explore how it works in terms of creating pieces of Legal Design for assessment purposes in my ‘Legal Communication and Writing’ module.

Each year, I am literally BLOWN AWAY by the creativity and ingenuity of the pieces of work my students come up with. However, the limited amount of what I know about Legal Design comes from following the work of the Legal Design Queen, Margaret Hagan at Stanford University, and the great stuff done by organisations like the Graphic Advocacy Project. And drooling over what looks to be amazing Legal Design Summit (this year in Helsinki) – a teaching focussed academic can but dream of attending something like that without winning the lottery…

So, when I saw the details for the Legal Design Sprint 2019 being advertised on Twitter, it was in the words of Kevin Bacon himself, a no brainer. An event in Landan Town that combines two of my fav things – Legal Design and an opportunity to finally meet & work with ‘Lawbore’ (aka the amazing Emily Allbon at City University), you say? I’m so there!

I’m writing this blog on the train home to Brum after a fun, thought provoking but completely knackering design sprint session in mid August.

The afternoon started with an overview of what Legal Design is for the LD ‘virgins’ out there from the event organisers, Emily and (slightly confusingly) Emily MacLoud. This was followed by us all working in smaller teams of 4/5 people, to start thinking about a given ‘legal’ problem. The problems, set by the organisers, joined by Daniel Hoadley (Head of Research and Design at the ICLR), Paul Massey CEO from Tabled, and Sophie Walker from JUST: Transcription came out of real world scenarios, spread across helping folks who had been arrested, signposting support services for CAB users, marketing share options and making law accessible. This breadth of different types of scenarios shows just how adaptable Legal Design processes can be.

After being introduced to some basics of design processes and thinking by the wonderful Sandrine Herbert & James Steiner from METHOD (a design company based in London), it was time to break out the sharpies and start using our bespoke “Legal Design’ sticker** adorned notebooks. Together we brainstormed our user archetypes, refined the legal problem we had been asked to address and then moved on to an ideation session (aka brainstorming lots of design ideas). All finished by a 5 minute pitch to the rest of the group on our ‘work in progress’ and what we had come up with so far. And then pizza and beer/drinks (which at this stage was much needed).

I won’t give away too many details now as the final in October is still to come and all the teams have a ton more of research, thinking, prototyping and refining to do. But there were some amazing ideas being floated. And yet again, I find myself being reminded of just what brilliant things our law students are capable of achieving when they are given all the right tools and freedom from the constraints of essay writing.

Thanks to the everyone for letting me taking part in this year’s Legal Design Sprint. Those who know me well know I love any opportunity to break out my sharpies and start doodling. But the event has also introduced me to some cool new apps & programmes to use for Legal Design, which I’m very much looking forward to experimenting with over the next few weeks, and some great like minded people. And watch this space for details of the next stage of the process and what actually gets pitched in the coming final!

Emma Flint

**PS Emily A– please start mass producing/selling these stickers as they are way too cool and I want to cover everything in them *winks*

Emma Flint is a Solicitor, Birmingham Fellow and Law Lecturer at Birmingham Law School. You can follow her on Twitter on @MrsGingerLawyer to find out more about her research and work on legal design, education and pedgagogy.

See another write-up of the event by the organisers.

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