Enhancing the operation of your in-house team starts with well-designed processes. You will likely already have a number of tools available in your innovation toolkit, such as contract playbooks and legal technology. In addition to these, one of the most valuable tools you can have is a program for running legal design workshops.

Designing and delivering an innovative solution to your current legal challenges requires a focus on ‘end users’ and effective project management. Workshops are the ideal tool for bringing these elements together in a forum to facilitate brainstorming and collaboration. In these workshops, you can:

  • design new legal tools or products;
  • improve legal services; and
  • set up better legal systems for delivering legal assistance to your organisation. 

What Are Legal Design Workshops?

Legal design workshops are designed to establish and roll out new ways of tackling legal work in your in-house team. These workshops are face-to-face sessions which bring together key stakeholders to tackle a particular project or area of legal work.

During legal design workshops, you can:

  • define problems,
  • develop ideas, and
  • test solutions.

During the workshop, everyone works together to reach a specific outcome. This is done by running through a series of creative problem-solving exercises, led by a moderator or workshop facilitator. 

By the end of a legal design workshop, you will have a tangible output. The particular type of output depends on the legal challenge that you tackle during the workshop.

For example, it could be: 

  • the creation of a project plan for a high-volume transaction;
  • basic prototypes for a piece of legal tech for triaging legal matters;
  • a transformation road map; or 
  • a comprehensive process diagram. 

Legal design workshops are a valuable way of getting all stakeholders on the same page. It gives you a dedicated space to communicate and collaborate in pursuit of a shared objective. Importantly, they support a cross-functional approach to problem-solving, by involving both decision-makers and those driving the work day-to-day. 

These workshops can be used for both:

  • ‘business as usual’ work (where you are trying to achieve efficiencies and cost-savings in an existing area of work); or 
  • one-off projects (where you want to implement the right process for a relatively unique situation). 

They are valuable at both the start of a new project and at key milestones throughout the implementation of the project.

Underlying Principles

The structure and format of legal design workshops usually draw heavily from: 

  • design thinking principles; and 
  • project management methodologies.

A Guide to Legal Design Workshops for In-House Teams

Design Thinking

Design thinking is a way of solving a problem by focussing on: 

  • empathy with the end user (i.e. the people who will be using your legal service, legal product or legal process); 
  • defining and solving real challenges; and 
  • testing and continually improving outcomes. 

This mindset allows lawyers to create solutions to legal challenges by adapting successful tools and strategies from other industries, such as product development. Design thinking also promotes diversity of thinking by bringing lawyers and commercial team members together and encourages the type of ‘outside the box’ thinking that drives true innovation.

Project Management Methodologies

The types of project management methodologies that lend themselves best to legal design workshops are those rooted in software development, such as agile project management. Agile is a flexible and collaborative approach to project management which includes working in short cycles and implementing incremental changes. By drawing on methodologies which have typically been used for innovative tech development, your in-house team can adapt tools to the legal context which have already been tried and tested elsewhere.

Project management is important in legal design workshops because workshops, on their own, will not deliver successful innovation. Design workshops can be an important step when starting a new project (such as a managed legal service, or re-design of legal contracts), but they are just one component of an overall project plan. They require overarching project management in order to deliver a solution. Introducing project management methods is therefore important when creating an overarching delivery framework.

Types of Legal Design Workshops

There are different types of innovation workshops. The type you choose will depend on the objectives you have for the session. Some common examples of workshops that we run (and have seen used in the legal space) are: 

  • design jams;
  • process mapping; and 
  • retrospectives. 

However, these are just a starting point for exploring design workshops. Ultimately, human-centred design and project management methodologies offer a diverse and expansive toolkit which can be used to mix and match design exercises for legal process innovation.

Workshop

Works well for

Design jams Gathering inspiration and quickly generating ideas if you are at the start of your legal innovation journey
Process (or journey) mapping Understanding pain points and identifying solutions if you have already have existing business or legal processes
Retrospectives Checking in on progress during a legal innovation project and identifying opportunities for ongoing improvements

Design Jams

Legal design jams are similar to ‘hackathons’. These workshops are a creative way to brainstorm and prototype possible solutions to legal challenges.

Design jams begin with a broad challenge (e.g. ‘improving your legal function’). During a design jam, the team discusses the challenge and brainstorms solutions. In longer design jams, the workshop extends to creating rough or low-fidelity prototypes. Prototypes are an opportunity to get visual, and sketch out what your ideal solution would look like. This could be a triage form for legal requests, or a contract negotiation platform. When brainstorming, the goal is to dream big and generate ideas. 

Design jams are best used in the early stages of setting up new systems and processes. These workshops offer the greatest value when you have a general idea that something could be done differently, but you would like to hone in on, and understand, the biggest pain points from your team’s perspective. 

Design jams get the creative juices flowing and can help to create alignment between team members on: 

  • what problems to solve; and 
  • how to solve them.

Exercise: Sailboat

A common exercise in design jams is collecting ideas about what your in-house team finds most frustrating in their day-to-day work and then prioritising these issues. The team begins by writing down challenges on post-it notes and then plots the post-it notes as anchors on an image of a sailboat. The lower down the post-it notes, the heavier the anchor and the more your team members want to solve the challenge.

The remainder of the session can then be spent brainstorming how to tackle these priority areas, and perhaps designing some initial solutions.

A Guide to Legal Design Workshops for In-House Teams

Process Mapping

Process mapping workshops are a forum for understanding and mapping an end-to-end workflow or process. They can be used: 

  • for one particular segment of a longer workflow; or 
  • to map the entire workflow from end to end.

The key to comprehensively mapping out the workflow is having a range of perspectives in the room. It is important to understand the process from the perspective of every team or player who interacts with it. Your in-house team likely only interacts with part of the overarching workflow, so it is important to consider what happens before the work comes to your legal team and after it re-enters the business context. This may be: 

  • the journey of a particular contract through your business;
  • how you deliver legal advice or assistance in a particular portfolio; or 
  • all the touchpoints that your business users have with the in-house team.

Before redesigning legal processes, it is helpful to understand how work reaches completion in your business. Journey mapping can help to address specific pain points in your current processes and identify any gaps or opportunities in existing systems. Armed with this knowledge, your team can better identify what resources you will need to address the different pain points.

These process mapping workshops can run from a few hours to a full day, depending on the complexity of the legal challenge and the scale of your current processes and workflows. 

Exercise: Journey Map

For a deep-dive into a workflow (particularly where an area of legal work is well established, and some processes have already been set up by the business or your in-house team), journey mapping is commonly used. 

A journey map is a diagram that lays out different phases of a process from the perspective of the user, following their journey through the process. This includes understanding how they feel at different parts of the process. 

For example, this could be the experience of business managers obtaining employment advice from your in-house team. The journey map would look at what happens before your team provides employment advice, and what happens after you deliver the advice. 

Journey maps can be visualised as ‘swimlanes’. Swimlanes allow you to group together different parts of the process. For example, swimlanes can be separated according to different: 

  • workstreams;
  • users or personas (e.g. your in-house team, external legal providers, business teams); or 
  • systems and precedents (which show you the current resources available to tackle the legal process). 

During the workshop, different coloured post-it notes can be used to distinguish between the various parts of the journey map.

A Guide to Legal Design Workshops for In-House Teams

Retrospectives

In a legal context, retrospective workshops can be run as part of implementing a legal innovation project. The purpose of a retrospective session is to:

  • obtain feedback on changes which you have introduced;
  • understand what is working well; and 
  • identify improvements which can be made. 

During the workshop, you can plan clear actions to address issues or further capitalise upon successful changes. This allows you to continually refine your approach and apply feedback to the ongoing delivery of legal work. 

As with other legal design workshops, discussions during a retrospective need to involve the ultimate users of the legal service, product or process.

For example, this may be leasing managers who negotiate with landlords if a solution was introduced to streamline the entry into standard leases through an online negotiation platform. By understanding their experience with engaging with the new negotiation platform, it can be possible to introduce solutions which directly relate to the challenges they have faced first-hand.

Retrospectives can also be useful for identifying whether a specific solution can be rolled out across other areas of the business, or whether you need to introduce a complementary system or process to address a persistent pain point. 

Exercise: Four L’s

One way of running a retrospective workshop is structuring the session around 4 key themes:

  • liked;
  • loathed;
  • longed for; and
  • learned

During the retrospective, the moderator facilitates a targeted discussion, prompting reflection on these themes through open questions such as ‘What would we have done differently?’, and ‘What did we do well?’. 

From this discussion, the team then identifies what actions to take, and prioritises and categorises these actions so that you can immediately introduce any quick wins.

A Guide to Legal Design Workshops for In-House Teams

Key Takeaways

Legal design workshops are a valuable tool for introducing and facilitating innovative changes in legal processes and operations in your in-house team. You can run these workshops to tackle a number of different objectives, including:

  • generating ideas;
  • designing solutions, and 
  • continually improving upon the delivery of legal support to your organisation. 

Through collaboration and a creative mindset, you can work with your in-house team to develop effective solutions for legal challenges that range from high-volume commercial contracting to effective escalation of strategic and complex legal questions. If you would like help with enhancing the operation of your in-house team, contact LegalVision’s legal transformation lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page. 

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.
Amritha Thiyagarajan

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