Intersections of the 3. By Margaret Hagan


Margaret Hagan - Access to Justice through technology and innovation - sketchnote

This is a sketchnote that I’ve drawn out while at different Access to Justice meetings, talks, and roundtables — where the discussions have been about how to get more underemployed lawyers better work opportunities, and how to get better legal services to more people in the US.

I’ve been going through my notes to start structuring my thoughts on how innovation can be brought into the ‘Access’ work and conversations in the legal profession.  In the sketchnote, there’s the start of some groupings & priorities — more of that to come in an article I’m writing.

The goal is to give more structure, direction, and collaboration into this work of tech, design, and access to justice.  Right now, there are many stakeholders & experts working in this area, but there is not a clear agenda or priority hitlist.  That is what I want to see, and contribute to: a more defined Access Innovation movement.

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Margaret Hagan - The Future of Health Services sketchnote

Here is another sketchnote I made during a health care hackathon at Stanford Medical School, that focused on how to engage patients in their own medical care.  Many of the principles and solutions are analogous to law and legal services.

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This past weekend, I attended a health-care hackathon at Stanford, with the aim to increase Patient Engagement with their own care.  I was on the hunt for analogies that could apply to legal users’ engagement with the legal system.

Margaret Hagan - Notes on Patient Engagement sketchnote

Here is one sketchnote from the presentations & keynotes that were offered during the weekend — about how users approach their hospital and medical experiences, and some insights into how users may be activated or may push their service-providers to engage them better.

I have another sketchnote I’m working on — and then I will write up some more formal observations on the links & analogies I saw between legal and medical services.  For now, I think a lot of the insights contained in the note could be taken right out of the medical context and transferred over to the legal one.

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Here’s a quick concept design sketch I had made my last year of law school, about how Improv-based education could be integrated into a legal education.

Legal Concept Design - Law School Improv and Benefits - by Margaret Hagan

At Stanford University, the law school did allow law students during 2L and 3L to take a quarter-long improv class and get law school credit for it.  I took it, along with about 10 other law students, my last quarter of law school.  It was challenging & transformative — and it would have been even better had it been linked into the law curriculum more explicitly (whether it had been with clinics, moot court, or otherwise).

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As I’ve been writing up my design process, I’ve been creating some more tools and templates.  Here is one for the ‘scoping’ and ‘understanding’ part of design work: the User Persona Profile document.

(c) Margaret Hagan 2014, all rights reserved

(c) Margaret Hagan 2014, all rights reserved

Two of the central principles of the user-centered design process are to Design For a Specific User, and to Know Your User in a meaningful way.  Rather than just start building a product, or trying to build for an average composite of 18-39 year-olds, the design process pushes the designer to construct a deliberate, thoughtful Persona, who will be the target audience.

This Persona Document is meant to structure the user-centeredness for the designer — to make sure she understands the user she is building for, and also to discover hidden opportunities for making a great design.  That’s the point of the user-centered design process.  To really build a product that will be useful & engaging to your audience, you have to understand your audience in very specific & nuanced ways.  It is more useful to build a complex portrait of a fictionalized user than to rest on generalizations about what your user wants.

A deep-dive Persona Creation will give this complexity, push the designer to inquire into their audiences’ preferences & actions in a more meaningful ways, and — through this attention to details and the non-obvious — lead the designer to better solutions: that are breakthrough rather than cliched, and that will excite & engage the user.

Please feel free to use this Persona Document as long as you attribute it back to me.  And if you have other design tools that you use in your process, send links along!

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In response to the surge of Unaccompanied Immigrant Children coming into the US over the past year, a group has come together in Maryland to produce a social service-finding portal for these kids. Buscando offers a very clean, usable platform for a child or her advocate to find the right kind of help.
Matching - Buscando - Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 9.15.21 AM
The site offers its visitors a simple search to find all different types of help, through a very direct entry point. Choose which type of service you’re looking for from the drop-down options, and then type in a location. The ultra-simple interaction prevents users from getting overwhelmed with options and prompts them to take an action asap.

The list includes legal services. Simply choose the legal option from the drop-down menu, and then find a shortlist of legal service providers who are located close to you.

Matching - Buscando - Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 9.15.32 AM

The results do have their limitations in this first draft of the site. It doesn’t allow for an easy or warm handoff from the portal to the service provider. Nor does it triage the user to ensure that they are eligible for help from the service provider. After getting the name & phone number of the provider, it’s up to the user to go down the list, call them up, and try to find the right match.

Matching - Buscando - Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 9.15.44 AM

Buscando is a great new kind of starting point for getting legal services to lay people.  Rather than offer a landing page packed with links, icons, and options — give a very direct search and limited paths to take.  Ideally, after this very direct first action, then the site would allow for more differentiation and case-specific support.  The user could find the exact right service-provider for them — that they would be eligible to receive support from, and that would give them the right type of help.

The other point to note about Buscando is the process & collaborative behind it.  It’s an open-source tool — you can see the code & fork it here on Github.  And it was built by a team of volunteers:

Buscando was built entirely by volunteer technologists associated with HearMeCode, TechLadyHackathon, and Code for Progress – organizations working to build the power of women, people of color, and low-income people in the tech industry.

It’s terrific to see a very useful & timely project come together, and in an open, interdisciplinary & generous way.  It would great to see this model replicated for other areas & also scaled up with more tools integrated into the platform.

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Visual Law - Law on Display 0

Law professors Neal Feigenson and Christina Spiesel published the book Law on Display in 2011. They make the argument that visuals are becoming increasingly powerful in legal courtrooms:

  • to frame issues,
  • to persuade jurors,
  • to convey scientific evidence with greater force, and
  • to change how advocates represent clients.

Aside from the book, they also maintain a website that outlines the seven chapters of the book & hosts a wealth of links, examples, and even videos with the authors that provide greater context to their writing.  Each chapter gets its own page with a short summary of the topic at issue & a links that illustrate the visuals & media discussed.

Feigenson & Spiegel give rich examples of how images, powerpoint presentations, and other media have entered into courtrooms — with some skepticism about what effects they have on the outcomes of litigation.  They find that this new media are clever new ways to make meaning in the courtroom, giving lawyers new sources of power to persuade in implicit and elusive ways.

The authors recognize the enormous powers of visuals, as well as their increasing pervasiveness. But they try to complicate their use by pointing out how though images seem to offer great promise in making difficult & complex issues clear, they can also lead to more confusion and bad decision-making because the jurors, judges, and other audience are not able to clearly parse the images.

One of the key takeaways here is the need for more Visual Literacy  — the ability not just for advocates to use images effectively while representing clients, but also the ability of other court audiences to be able to comprehend, digest, and question the use of images they are presented with.  This literacy could be achieved in training lawyers, judges, and jurors to be able to understand question scientific experts’ use of illustrative images, or lawyers’ closing argument media.

Another takeaway is that control of Virtual Legal Interfaces is an important question of power and control.  As the authors explore in Chapter 6, as more court and dispute resolution experiences move online — the more influential that visual design of interfaces, apps, and interactions will condition the outcomes of these legal processes.  It’s an open question as to what interfaces for a virtual court or online dispute resolution system is the most ‘fair’ or ‘just’.

But it is an interesting political point.  What are the agendas of the people who are coding these new legal experiences — and how can we evaluate & measure whether they are protecting users sufficiently and allowing for procedural & substantive justice to be done?

Here are some clips from the book’s site, that introduce the authors’ main points.  Also, please find some of the authors’ videos that have them introducing each chapter with discussion points.

Visual Law - Law on Display 1 Visual Law - Law on Display 2 Visual Law - Law on Display 3 Visual Law - Law on Display 4 Visual Law - Law on Display 5 Visual Law - Law on Display 6 Visual Law - Law on Display 7

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On his blog “the [non]billable hour”, legal consultant Matt Homann challenged law firms to design a more readable, engaging, client-centered bill for legal services.

If your clients designed your bills, what would they look like?  Would they be easier to understand?  Contain useful case status information?  How about upcoming dates or milestones?  Would your bills include information about the people who worked on the case that month?  How about a report card seeking monthly feedback about how you’re serving your clients?

This is an exercise in document design, with a focus on the quality of the client experience. The exercise is not just to make the information more understandable with better fonts & composition, but also to improve the lawyer’s relationship with the client by including other types of information, context & direction.

Homann proposes one concept design for what a more client-centered bill may look like:
Legal Document Design - Legal Bill 1 Legal Document Design - Legal Bill 2 Legal Document Design - Legal Bill 3 Legal Document Design - Legal Bill 4 Legal Document Design - Legal Bill 5There are several design principles at work here, worth noting:

  1. Clean composition: Large fonts, uncluttered text, and the use of tables/large breaks keeps the document highly readable.
  2. Digestible structure: One topic per page makes the entire document more scannable & quickly digestible to a reader — especially one that is an anxiety-prone mindset of having just received a bill in the mail.
  3. Opportunity to interact: The document gives an entry-point for the client to speak back to the document/lawyer — perhaps not on the prices themselves, but on the quality of the work, through the final feedback page.  This makes the communication more two-way — and more satisfying to the client — even if she chooses not to fill in the form.  Just the invitation to reply makes the relationship seem less one-way & imbalanced.
  4. Context for transparency & understanding: The document is not just a set of tasks and prices.  It tells who did the work, what the ‘summary narrative’ of the work was, and what else is happening.  This puts the task-price list into a broader context, that gives more clarity to the client who is trying to parse through what they are paying for & why.
  5. Easy action paths: Putting clear links to actions to take for payment or follow-up lets the client respond quickly & without having to think too hard about what to do next.

Some suggestions for improving this further, from the client’s perspective:

  1. Increased price transparency: Put a column of costs in the “Our Work” table, to make it very clear exactly where the “Please Pay” number comes from.  Otherwise, the number seems arbitrary & likely to induce push-back.
  2. Identify each team members’ role on the case: The client may be able to figure out what exactly each of the four team members is doing for her if she spends time looking them up, calling Matt, or parsing through the ‘Who Did It’ column on Our Work.  But it would be more user-friendly to tell the client a role-title for each of the team-members, as it relates to her case.  Even if the bill lists off the team-member’s ‘law firm title’ (e.g., junior associate), that doesn’t give much of a clue as to what role they are playing on the client’s project. What is the junior associate’s purview, what tasks does she work on, what is her role title vis-a-vis the client, not vis-a-vis the firm?
  3. Have easy actions for all clients’ tasks: If the client has to take an action, make it very clear how to take this action. Ideally, give her a one-click solution to take it.  In the ‘Waiting On’ section, have hyperlinks to any documents she needs to download and process.  Let her take care of everything as easily & clearly as possible.
  4. Create a To-Do hierarchy for your client: even at 5 pages (or 4, without the title page), the bill can be a little long.  The white space and one-topic per page, though, is nice enough that it’s worth preserving.  But there also needs to be a guide to what the client actually needs to do with the document.  The front page or start of the second page could have a very clear To-Do list for what the client needs to do in response to this document.  Put all the action steps you are expecting her to take right up front.  Give her a hierarchy to follow, and make sure she isn’t missing any of the proactive steps you are expecting her to take.  Underneath these required steps, you can put suggested other tasks, that are not required but that she might want to consider.  Help her process this document even more quickly & make her secure that she caught everything she needs to from it.

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Over on Cornell’s VoxPopulii Blog, I just posted up a comprehensive write-up on a Legal Communication Design pop-up-class that I had taught with Kursat Ozenc & Alex Gavis at Stanford’s in May 2014. When we were planning out the class, I started to put together a framework for Legal Communication Design.

You can read more over at the blog, but I wanted to present here some of the diagrams that illustrate the legal communication design process I’m formulating.

One diagram: the ideal flow of the user through a legal communication:

Ideal Legal Communication Design Flow

Another diagram: what the difference is between different areas of communication design:Types of Complex Communication Design

Now I will be working on a more comprehensive design process visual, that shows a step-by-step process to get from a brief (I must communicate this rule or notice) to a user-friendly finished product (a communication that your user will actually engage with).

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Open Law Lab - CA Pleading Bank

The State of California has a Pleading Bank that can be used by a licensed attorney to find sample, guiding documents to expedite her work.  It links back to our earlier discussion on this site as to potential Form/Document sharing among legal professionals — as a model for Githubbing Legal Work Product among lawyers.

It catalogs state & federal pleadings, grouped into different stages of the court process or type of process.  Users can convert their text documents into an online version and submit it for inclusion in the Pleading Bank. The system allows for commenting on the pleadings by users as well.

The platform is only open to registered users — you must be a lawyer to register (with some exceptions for those who work alongside lawyers).  It’s not a ‘crowdsourcing’ legal work product site, like Docracy, where any user could upload or use the resources shared there.  Instead, it’s an ‘expert-sourcing’ site, where only licensed experts can add resources, comment on them, and use what others have provided.

The project was funded by a TIG Grant from the Legal Services Corporation, partnered with the Legal Aid Association of California, San Diego branch. It was released as a beta version in October 2013.

If you have used the site, or have thoughts on it — we’d love to hear your feedback. Does this model work? What could it make it better? And where else could it be applied?

California Pleading Bank Basics–December 2013 from Legal Aid Association of Calif. on Vimeo.

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A very simple illustration, made for one of my recent presentations explaining what design is to lawyers, and how it could be useful to their work.

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Here’s another example of visual explanations of law.  Here it is the 2008 book Bound by Law?: Tales from the Public Domain, with Intellectual Property Law visualized in comic book format, from Duke University Press, authored by Keith Aioki, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins.  You can buy it here on Amazon.

via Bound By Law: the “Understanding Comics” of copyright, in a new edition – Boing Boing.

Duke University Press has just released an expanded edition of “Bound By Law”, the comic book by three law profs about copyright, fair use, and documentary film. It includes a wonderful new Introduction by BoingBoing’s own Cory Doctorow and Foreword by Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, and is freely available under a Creative Commons license.

From Cory’s Introduction: “This is a sensible book about a ridiculous subject. It’s an example of the principle it illustrates: that taking from the culture around us to make new things is what culture is all about, it’s what culture is for. Culture is that which we use to communicate.

“The comic form makes this issue into something less abstract, more concrete, and the Duke Public Domain folks who produced this have not just written a treatise on copyright, they’ve produced a loving tribute to the form of comics.

“It’s a book whose time has come. Read it, share it. Get angry. Do something. Document your world.”

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Here is a visual I made for the Canadian Bar Association, to illustrate the main takeaways of their new Legal Futures report.Margaret Hagan - CBA Legal Futures infographic
And then a version in French as well.
Margaret Hagan - CBA Infographic for Legal Futures in French
It was great to have a small part in the report — it’s full of great insights about the near-future for the legal market & education, which apply to the US market as well.

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Design Process - how do you think about new things - semantic Noodling and Meaning Machines

Earlier this month, I attended an open Design Lunch at Autodesk in downtown SF.  Chris Noessel, a designer at the Cooper design firm, presented on the topic: How do we, as designers, think new things?  How can we create the conditions for disruptive thinking, that will lead us to breakthrough ideas to solve the challenges we’re confronting?

Over the hour, he presented an inventory of Creative Machines, small rituals and processes that have been used in different cultures & eras to generate new perspectives, thoughts, surprises & solutions to problems.  These take several forms:

For designers looking for Creative Machines that are more practical, that could be integrated more directly into the Design Process, Noessel spotlighted some other resources:

  • Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategy Cards: a deck of cards to shuffle, pick from, and then pick one — which will give you a prompt to apply to your problem, that will reframe your perspective
  • A Story Generator, like Machine of Death: a card deck game in which you draw two cards with random prompts. You have to use your creativity to make a connection between them, thereby generating a new design.
  • Force-fit Grids/Creative Matrix: a table structure, in which you designate the X line’s attribute & the Y line’s, and then fill in the table’s squares with combinations of these attributes. These combinations will lead you to new hybrids & insights about what’s possible. Some examples of these below:

Creative Matrix - Jessica Hagy - seven deadly sin creative matrix Creative Matrix - Zoological Times table

This creative matrix could easily be integrated into a Design Process, with an X-axis defined by user tasks or by stages in the user’s journey, and then the Y-axis defined by technological tools, interaction gestures, or possible solution categories. Each of the table’s squares would then be filled in with possible solutions for the user’s requirements.  Not all of them would be practical or desirable, but they would generate a wider spectrum of possibilities — breaking out of common thinking about what solutions are possible.

Do you have any other Creative Machines, that can be woven into a design process to break us out of status-quo thinking, and get us to new & disruptive paths?


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What would a Github for Law look like? And is it worth building?

This afternoon I got an email from a site visitor who asked if I knew of any projects in the works that stakes a Github for Lawyers out — and if there is a profitable business model in such an undertaking.

Github is a site for coders to upload code they’re authoring & collaborating on, and that allows other members of the community to ‘fork’ from their code.  Meaning, others can take the work that one person has created & then make separate versions of it, stored separately but still linked back to the original.

The site also allows for collaborative editing. A member can request to change a document — calling out an issue, or proposing a better way to accomplish a task — by submitting a ‘pull request’. The author can review the request & approve it if she agrees.

Github can serve as an advanced filing system — keeping track of revisions, allowing for multiple, customized versions of a single type of document, and allowing for collaborative back & forth.  The site can be used not only for code files, but also standard word docs or any other file types.

The other thing about Github is an ethos of openness & transparency.  Any Internet user can see the work product, and anyone who signs up for an account can fork the work product off & customize it in a new version. The Github model aims for a collaborative work flow, that prioritizes opening up your work product to the community, letting others borrow it & edit it, and taking in criticisms from community-members who think they can build off your work to improve it.

So could the Github model be applied to legal professionals’ work, or how the legal services that non-lawyers use?

My short answer to the visitor: there are an increasing number of Legal Document Repositories, many of them now overlaid with a user-friendly interface that allows the user to take the standard document and fill in the designated fields with their own information.

Thus, the user can take a standard doc and make it her own by simply entering in a few pieces of information (that she likely has at her finger tips). Some of these document repositories are even hosted in part on Github, so that any other visitor who signs up for Github could fork these documents & customize them for her own.

Here is a short inventory of projects that are creating such open repositories + form-filling interfaces.

One noticeable thing: most of them are aimed at entrepreneurs as the main user.  The use case is someone setting up a start-up & trying to get right with corporate law.

(There is another branch of Legal Document repositories: government & legal service sites that compile standardized legal forms for users. These sites mainly just create a searchable/browsable list of downloads of government forms. I haven’t included them in this post, but the design of those sites deserve their own separate examination in a later post.)

Docracy is perhaps the most advanced repository online right now.  It allows for any member with an account to upload a legal document that will be shared with the rest of the community. Any other member can then make a private customization of the document, which they can then invite others to work on & sign. Other members can also fork the document publicly, to edit & customize the doc publicly, allowing other members to use their version.

Open Law Lab - Github for Law - Docracy 1 Open Law Lab - Github for Law - Docracy 2 Open Law Lab - Github for Law - Docracy 3 Open Law Lab - Github for Law - Docracy 5

Restatement is a project from Jason Boehmig, Tim Hwang, and Paul Sawaya, funded through the Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund.  They are building a repository of legal documents along with an interface-overlay to fill in the docs’ fields in a user-friendly way. They also promise that the site will allow users to use their document repository with other tools — to be able to run analytics, to be able to auto-fill and auto-create documents, and otherwise ‘hack and slice’ a legal document. Right now Restatement is not fully live, but it does have some demos.
Open Law Lab - Github for Law - Restatement 1

Open Law Lab - Github for Law - restatement 2

A similar project is coming out of Singapore, from Cofounders Pte. Ltd., with its Legal Boilerplate collection of documents. Their site is more populated with legal documents, each of which the user can fill out in their browser by scrolling through the document & entering numbers and words into the open fields. The site also has a Github repository attached to it.

Open Law Lab - Github for Law - Cofounders Legal 2Open Law Lab - Github for Law - Cofounders Legal 3

Open Law Lab - Github for Law - Cofounders Legal 1

Law firms have also created start-up oriented legal document repositories.  Cooley has a set of open source legal documents available on the startup-accelerator Techstars’ website.

Open Law Lab - Github for Law - Cooley and Techstarts

Fenwick & West has the Series Seed repository available on its own project website, along with a Github page.

Open Law Lab - Github for Law - Series Seed 1

Open Law Lab - Github for Law - Series Seed 2

From this quick inventory, the status quo model is clear:

  1. collect together some standard legal documents
  2. identify the fields that any user will have to change to customize the document to their situation
  3. build an interface in the browser that lets the user enter their custom data into these fields
  4. allow the user to export the document for their own use
  5. perhaps, make the document open for forking & editing, for others to customize, build upon, or improve

The question is what the next-level ambitions for Legal Document Repositories should be.

One path would be scaling up the types of documents available (like Docracy is doing, with different types of crowdsourced docs besides startup-focused ones, though their site is still mostly populated with startup-docs).

Another would be what Restatement is hinting at, with more integration of the legal documents into automated processes, analytics, and other work flows that could prove to increase efficiency & knowledge for legal professionals.

I’d love to see some more features & functions that serve the end-user of these documents.  Can we have some metrics associated with these docs?  Docracy has a love button, that allows a visitor to see how many people ‘love’ this document, and it has stats on downloads and views as well.  But there must be a better metric than just ‘popularity’.

Could we have Expert Curators who give their reviews & recommendations of documents?

Could we have Stats on the Document’s Worth, that document the number of lawsuits or other problems that arise after using a document?

Could we have Popular Ratings, Yelp-style, in which those who have downloaded the site are then invited back a year or two later to give star-ratings & comments to the document they have been using?

Could we have Customized Forks of Documents with clear descriptions of which scenario this version should be used for?

Could we have Best Practice Packages of documents, that have been vetted and staged so that a user who is on a certain legal path can use this series of documents and know that expert users recommend them for exactly the scenario she’s in?

Just some ideas — I’m sure there are plenty more improvements for stage 2 of these legal document repositories.  Post away in the comment section, or send me an email!

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