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Design Thinking and Legal Advice

It surprises me how little thought lawyers give to the presentation and format of advices to their clients. I  rarely see the use of charts, diagrams, mind maps, or pictures in anything other than intellectual property matters, where visuals are often necessary to explain the distinguishing features of a patent.

The Psychologist’s View of UX Design is an interesting article by Susan Weinschenk, a psychologist who specialises in the design of technology.  Many of Dr Weinschenk's observations could apply just as readily to the provision of advices by lawyers:

  • It is better to show people a little bit of information and let them choose if they want more details (progressive disclosure).

Provide a summary of the advice up front.  Provide the full explanation and reasoning after the summary.  The client can read it if they choose to do so.

  • Instead of just describing things, show people an example.

Use analogies and examples, use diagrams, charts and mindmaps, particulalry for complex concepts.

  • Only provide the features that people really need. Don't rely on your opinion of what you think they need; do user research to actually find out. Giving people more than they need just clutters up the experience.

Ask the client what they want, and in what form, particularly if they are a regular user of legal services.  Dot points, a summary for board papers, a particular focus to satisfy the CFO, an extremely simple "law for dummies" explanation of the case, a treatise on the particular legal point to put into their company's knowledge management library, a checklist which can then be used for internal training purposes, an answer to a legal problem to post as a FAQ on their intranet?

Recommendations for making an easy read are:

  • Make the information easy to scan.
  • Use headers and short blocks of info or text.
  • People prefer short line lengths, but they read better with longer ones! It's a conundrum, so decide whether preference or performance is more important in your case, but know that people are going to ask for things that actually aren't best for them.

When so much work goes into the content of the advice, it makes sense to make it a comfortable and easy read

Liz Harris