Legal Design Summit

Legal design is a new hot topic in service design domain globally – and also in Finland. Dottir, a law firm, and Hellon, a service design firm, organized the first ever Legal Design Summit in Finland on 16.11. at the University of Helsinki.

In the opening speech it was mentioned that legal design is not only important for companies who constantly seek competitive advantages – it is also a growing interest of the public sector. From the Finnish ministries, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is a pioneer in the field of legal design; in a current law-making process, there are not only jurists in the group but also other experts – and also one service designer!


Legal Design simply means that a legal writings (a law text, contract etc). are formulated and designed so that it is easy to understand. Legal design is both information design and communication design.

Guidelines for a good document are that 1) the content, 2) the structure, 3) the language and 4) the design is considered and taken into account also the following aspects; what the customer will A) know B) be able to do and C) feel after reading the document. And also; how fast he or she can act after reading? Time is money especially in the private sector and if reading a document takes too long – or one needs to consult a lawyer – both B-to-B and B-to-C relations will suffer. A business or another cooperation partner whose processes are clear and easy is naturally more attractive than an option that is less human-centered. And from the customer perspective a service that gives a great customer experience all the way in the service process is more attractive than a service that gives a feeling of uncertainty at some point – for example when you click an “accept” button and don’t know what you actually accepted…


Ministries in Finland still have a long way to legal design i.e. there are strict guidelines for law-making. Therefore it is not – at least now – possible to re-design structures, use new fonts etc. But who knows, maybe one day…. What we can do now, however, is that we can influence on processes by service design methods and tools. We can promote new ways of preparation (utilizing service design methods and tools, taking customers and other stakeholders into the process in the early phase etc.) and new ways of communication (visualization etc.)

Legal Design experts Margaret Hagan from the Standford Law School and Helena Haapio & Stefania Passera from Finland were invited guest speakers in the Summit. In addition to this there were other experts that gave their view on the future trends and possibilities on the field. For example the former Ambassador of US to Finland, Bruce Oreck – a lawyer by the way – mentioned that artificial intelligence has already partly replaced some legal services and the trend is growing. The fact how you understand the customer and how you utilize service design will define your business – either you success or you lose. Emotional intelligence is also required – and that is one of those listed core competences needed in future.

Margaret Hagan told about new generation legal products and services that are for example the following:

1) virtual services e.g. mobile services that enable inexpensive, simple and fast way to report about problems & connect to support or to the right lawyer (lowers the threshold to law services)

2) visual products and services that give better UX e.g. visual documents, contracts, processes etc.

3) foresight services e.g. those that utilize data of courts and other public entities and can spot issues earlier

4) services that bring law closer to common people e.g. private events and places where people do business or have things (hospitals, shopping malls etc.).

Helena Haapio and Stefania Passera highlighted combining of text and visualization especially in contracts. Presentations were fast but I managed to take the picture below which describes one example of a visualized contract. On the left there is the original version and on the right a re-structured and visualized version. Which one would bring you a better user experience? I apologize that the picture is a bit unclear.


Automatization and standardization are also future trends. This is a positive thing from the customer perspective; when companies have similar style processes and contracts it saves both time and money. For companies this brings cost savings too.

It is hard to see that artificial intelligence would replace law-making in the ministries but it will be a growing element in some public services. What comes to other future trends, we need to be alert. Do we have enough emotional intelligence to respond to customer needs? What kind of new generation legal products and services we could offer? If we automatize and standardize, does it improve customer experience? Does it save time and money? What about visualization; where could we utilize it and how could we utilize more & better?

Bruce Oreck said it well: ”If the system does not respond… you’re out!” In digital era a bad customer experience will be spread fast. We need to observe and sense the future trends – and be emotionally intelligent to understand customer experience and to improve services on continuous basis.

-Kati Shibutani






One thought on “Legal Design Summit

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