Understanding the Legal Design Movement

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Legal Design: Definition

The legal design is a technique, a subject, a method and a multidisciplinary state of mind that borrows the methodologies of Design to apply them to the conception, practice and dissemination of Law. This practice consists in placing the users of the law at the center of its creative process to convey the most understandable, engaging and usable message possible.

History and evolution of Legal Design through its pioneer figures

The first occurrences of the term "legal design" as such date back to the early 2010s. It is clear that many lawyers, non-lawyers, designers must have practiced it without putting terms on their practice, prior to the early work of Margaret Hagan in 2014.

Margaret Hagan's work coincides with a period of strong development of legaltechs and legal innovation in the United States, coming 10 years after a strong period of legaltech evangelism in the early 2000s.

Legaltechs and legal innovation in general have contributed to the development of legal design.

Here are 4 pioneering figures in Legal Design 👇

Margaret Hagan

Margaret Hagan

Margaet Hagan is one of those pioneering figures whose generosity and expertise make it impossible for those who claim to be pioneers simply by the chronological precedence of their work. So yes, of course, a pioneer is the first person to start a business, a person who blazes a trail. But you have to make sure you do it with empathy, humility, generosity and elegance to leave your mark on a field.

The work of Margaret Hagan developed within the framework of this Lab is considered a reference in terms of Legal Design, in particular with her book "Law by Design".

Margaret Hagan (2014) has built this approach from an academic perspective, theorized it and shared it with great generosity. Her work, freely available online, speaks for itself and has inspired, educated and pushed a whole generation of legal designers and in-house counsel.

Legal Design : Robert de Rooy
Robert de Rooy

Robert de Rooy

Robert de Rooy, founder of Creative Contracts. With Robert de Rooy, his story, his passion and his expertise, empathy makes sense.

To make employment contracts accessible to illiterate or semi-literate fruit pickers on a commercial farm in South Africa, Robert de Rooy designed a contract with all the clauses in comic book form.

Since then, Robert de Rooy has created Creative Contracts.

Its goal? To design contracts that everyone can understand. To guide the behavior of the parties and help them build and maintain healthy and fruitful relationships by reducing the risk of disputes. Also, because no one should suffer the indignity of being presented with a document as important and binding as a contract to sign, to be bound by, without being able to understand it.

The two formats favored by Creative Contracts are comics and audio.

Stefania Passera : Legal Design
Stefania Passera

Stefania Passera

Can you design contracts without being a lawyer? Stefania Passera is the proof by example.

Trained as a designer, Stefania Passera graduated from the University of Aalto and has a common sense logic. She did not need to legitimize any training in law to become one of the pioneers of legal design.

A designer, consultant and researcher based in Espoo, Finland, her research and practice focuses primarily on contract design.

To lead the way, yes. And above all, to take others with you. This is the challenge of any pioneer, whatever the field. How can we inspire more and more professionals to innovate in contract design and, more generally, in the dissemination of legal information? By transmitting.

His specialization and contributions to the contracting field have earned him recognition from World Commerce & Contracting (formerly IACCM) with a 2018 Honorary Fellowship to further develop his research.

Some of his creations are available on his website( but also on the WCC website, or the Legal Design Jam.

Legal Design : Marie Potel-Saville
Marie Potel-Saville

Marie Potel-Saville

Discovering. Practice on your own playing field. To learn. To test. Make do with the means at hand. Fail. Succeed. Solve your team's problems. Try again. Then go out and inspire others to solve theirs. This is the path that most passionate entrepreneurs take. Start from a problem encountered in a previous life. Solve it, then put your expertise at the service of others to ensure that this problem does not recur among their peers.

This is the path that Marie Potel-Saville has taken.

Her first legal design project was in-house within her Legal Department at Esthée Lauder. As VP Legal EMEA, she had a large budget to hire external counsel (lawyers) but no budget to innovate.

It had problems to solve, particularly related to American contract templates that were not well adapted to the digitalization of the company's activity.

For example, "50 to 80 pages of contracts for anything and everything including simple influencer contracts. Obviously no influencer reads 50 or 80 pages of contracts in Word format."

"I immersed myself in Margaret Hagan's site who did a whole lot of theorizing, exploring, documenting, selecting free and easy to use tools for us. That's how I did my first project. In amateur mode, DYI, on the fly. I did legal design on a compliance course. I hired a graphic designer with my travel budget within the company (1500€)."

A great lesson in determination proving that budget can sometimes be a poor excuse.

The result? A first experience with bluffing results for the Legal Director.

"After the training, my in-house clients, two of them, came knocking on my door and said "we didn't know that law could be like that, could you come and train my teams?". I was a lawyer and then General Counsel for several years. No one had ever asked me for more compliance training. It doesn't exist."

Why Legal Design is winning over more and more legal departments

Do more with less. This has been the injunction to our Legal Departments for several years. To seek the optimum between the results obtained and the resources allocated.

And for good reason, the scope of the Legal Department has expanded: compliance, CSR, data protection, ethics or even an unexpected health crisis. On the other hand, the volume of hiring does not always correlate with the volume of work added. There is therefore a need to reorganize, in particular by rationalizing the existing staff.

So why is legal design winning over more and more legal departments ?

The answer to this seemingly complicated question is simple: legal design is winning over more and more legal departments because it is a legal communication tool that meets concrete needs and solves problems that impact the company's activity.

  • ‍Centralizeand pool legal information and empower internal customers
    ‍Example: Create a bible to guide salespeople in their negotiations based on the company's contractual policy.

  • Meet compliance requirements (e.g. RGPD)
    Example: Write a privacy policy with concise, transparent, understandable and easily accessible information.

Privacy Policy -

  • Fight against the syndrome of the contract that remains a dead letter
    E.g.: Create contract sheets containing essential information, the status of relations with the service provider, the history of events that have occurred in the contract, and upcoming deadlines.


  • ‍Fromunderstanding and communicating to operational staff a legislative change impacting the company's business
    ‍Ex: Bill to restrict features used on a B2C web platform

Barriers to the development of Legal Design

To practice design only from an aesthetic point of view, while concealing the functional aspect

Design has always been about solving problems, not about making things aesthetically pleasing to look at. Whether it's informational design, physical or digital product design, process design, event design: the goal is to make the user experience smooth with as little friction as possible.

🚩 Example: the iPhone touch screen is a user interface that was designed to meet the complexity of older smartphones with a complex keyboard (blackberry, motorola, nokia), not very suitable for navigation and not able to be updated or customized according to the applications used. The solution: a multitouch screen extending over the entire surface of the phone to allow users to navigate more easily and more suited to their needs.

Focus on your needs rather than those of your users

Produce deliverables by being focused on what you think and how you would like them rather than thinking about your user(s), who are mainly concerned. No more "I'm not a fan of this color", "I personally prefer this typography", all your deliverables and their components will be oriented towards one and only objective: that your message attracts attention, is read/listened to, understood by your target and then used wisely.

If you have a design or product team, don't hesitate to ask them for advice.

Working in silos, without involving your users

Not preparing the ground and not giving importance to change management is always a very bad idea. That you are convinced, passionate, informed about legal design is one thing. That does not mean that everyone else is and should be by the mere mention of the term "legal design". It is up to you to attract their attention, to sell this practice as a way to solve their problems, to take an interest in them by asking them the right questions and to get them on board by soliciting their opinions. In the end, in case of success, talk about a common success carried by the company and not a purely legal success.

Thinking that it is not possible to measure the ROI of legal design

Not being able to provide qualitative and quantitative data to track ROI is perhaps one of the biggest prejudices about legal design. The prejudice that legal design is primarily about creativity, aesthetics, and is very complex to track in order to measure its return on investment.

But creativity does not mean no indicators. Creativity leads you to the goals you have set for yourself and there are many ways to measure this.

Some examples of indicators to follow the ROI of Legal Design Engagement rate, click rate, number of listenings, traffic, evolution of the average time of an operation, NPS, evolution of the number of solicitations of the Legal Department, etc.

Again, it all depends on your goal.

Fear of not being taken seriously

A few months ago, the General Counsel of a large group told us that she had trouble getting most of her team on board for a legal design project.

‍"We will not and no longer be taken seriously with this type of project."

Fear is at the heart of this objection. It hinders, paralyzes and can prevent your colleagues from projecting themselves in the success of such a project.

  1. Start by asking them "Why?"
  2. Once you have the answer to this question, ask them, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?"
  3. If the concern is fear of the other's gaze, don't hesitate to involve your internal clients or perhaps, involve other external Legal Departments where it has worked.
  4. Once the dam of fear is broken, rely on your early promoters to get the team on board.

It's up to you!


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