Designing a legal product is no simple feat. Legal products are particularly complicated as they are laden with strict financial and process requirements. However, designing a legal product that simplifies legal advice for both your clients and lawyers can be extremely beneficial for your business.  In this article, we will explore how to develop a successful legal product through a behind-the-scenes case study of a new product developed by our firm.

Let’s Talk About Paper Clips

Before diving into the details of the case study, it is useful to analyze what makes a good product. In doing so, let’s look at one of the most prolific and well-designed products of the twentieth century: the paperclip.

It looks simple, but the paperclip took decades of design and redesign to get to the product we use today. In the mid-1800s, people would bind sheets of paper by piercing them with sewing pins. This was awkward and painful to use and led to a renaissance of pseudo-paperclip inventions throughout the century.

In 1899, the paperclip that we use today was born. This simple, elegant design reflects that its creator had an in-depth knowledge of the:

  • fundamental purpose of the paperclip; and 
  • available resources and their constraints. 

What Does This Have to Do With the Law?

Traditional law firms are full of the 1860’s paperclip equivalent in legal products. Understanding the fundamental purpose of a particular legal service and efficiently using resources is key to creating an exceptional client experience.

Take a simple lease review and advice document. When a first-time business owner reaches out to a law firm with a 25-page lease, lawyers review the document and write up advice. This new document itself might be 18 pages long. 

For that client, it means that they have forked up a tidy sum of cash and in exchange must now read not only the 25-page lease but also an 18-page document.

Understanding what people really want is a question that drives modern-day business innovation. It is a question that is deeply embedded within the now commonplace net promoter score (NPS) metric. This metric has grown explosively through the business world since Fred Reichheld first introduced it within a 2003 Harvard Business Review article. 

A Case Study

Given the term of such contracts and their potential consequences, law firms are often asked to review commercial leases and advise on their content and any red flags. The drafting of clauses is often similar from one lease to another, which makes them well suited to experimentation. 

When a small business owner decides to set up a kebab store at Westfield, they’re landed with a lease so dense, it looks like a foreign language.

Lawyers have therefore taken the place of translators for those without legal experience.

Ultimately, lease reviews (like a lot of other legal work) need to serve more than just a legal function; they must also be educational. This is because the primary purpose of a review is for the reviewing lawyer to provide advice to the client. If this client does not understand the advice, the exercise will not be worthwhile. 

What Does Legal Product Redesign Look Like?

With the above goals clear in our minds, our LegalVision Review and Advice (R+A) Pilot was born. Our Legal Transformation team designed a new approach to creating R+A documents. At its core, the new approach makes the document easier for a client to understand and more manageable for a lawyer to draft. This is achieved by limiting the advice to the critical issues that are partnered with clear action steps for the client to take. At LegalVision, this took the form of a newly designed output.

This new framework provides a set of annotated examples to guide LV lawyers through their review. The end legal product now includes an educational cover page that describes each key issue and lists the types of action steps. Icons, colour and images are also used to break up the text and convey meaning while maintaining brand continuity.

Within the advice table itself, we laid out the essential components of critical issues, with an additional ‘discussion’ section. This structure helps cater to different levels of sophistication for clients. The action-oriented client can quickly garner the key issues and action steps. However, those who want to dig deeper into the legal analysis can explore the discussion section at their leisure.

How Do We Ensure the New Template Is Used Properly?

A Sprint is a method from the software development world that keeps changes within legal teams agile. This means that you can:

  • quickly test what does and doesn’t work;
  • track and implement feedback; 
  • allow for iterative growth; and 
  • integrate all stakeholder interests.

LV’s leasing team entered into a series of two to four-week sprints to test the new approach. The project managers tracked how the legal product was evolving in response to the new approach. They also followed how our clients were reacting to the new format.

At the end of each sprint, the team came together to:

  • share feedback;
  • reorient; and 
  • venture out into the world to test a new approach. 

Was it a Success?

Our Clients loved it. They said it looked great and that the Action Steps were useful and easy to understand. 

Furthermore, our lawyers loved it. They said it:

  • simplified and focused their work; and 
  • provided a strong foundation to add further value to clients.

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What’s the Bigger Picture?

The R+A Pilot was an exercise in Legal Document Design. It is one of many LV products that we have refined through a ‘User Experience’ focused design.

Effective legal document design is a global movement already; Jincom in South Africa and Aureon in Australia are amongst the first to launch visual employment contracts.

Former High Court Chief Justice Robert French supported the movement. He told a conference that “there is no reason in principle why [visual contracts] could not be enforceable in the same way as any other contract”. 

Key Takeaways

Legal design can be a complicated process which questions fundamental assumptions and decades of industry habit. However, it can provide many benefits to your legal team, even with the most straightforward legal products and designs.

You can iterate elegantly designed legal products and services by:

  • balancing the purpose of a product or services with the available resources;
  • undertaking sprints; and 
  • integrating feedback

If you are looking to implement legal process design within your in-house legal team, contact LegalVision’s Legal Transformation lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page. 

What best describes you?

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.

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