Where law & design met: Examples of legal design

D.school fellow Margaret Hagan delivers remarks on Jan. 30 at Stanford Law School. (Kursat Ozenc) The legal system has a large, unmet need, according to d.school fellow Margaret Hagan and Stanford Law School Research Fellow Ron Dolin. The two addressed this last week in their presentation, "Adventures in Legal Technology and Design" at Stanford Law School. The talk was attended by over 50 people and hosted by the The Stanford Center on the Legal Profession.

There were three big takeaways Margaret and Ron wanted audience members to walk away with:

  • There's a big unmet need in the legal system.
  • Stanford can make a unique contribution.
  • They have established a proof of concept.

New legal tools are emerging along with new paths for legal professionals, which means there is a need, Margaret and Ron outlined, for greater cross-training of legal professionals -- particularly in the fields of technology and design. In the short term, the two have been working on a variety of workshops and classes, including a workshop on immigration law and design and a pop-up class called "Law by Design: Making Law People-Friendly". That second class focuses on end-of-life planning and is being taught by Margaret, Ron and d.school Fellow Fred Leichter in collaboration with Fidelity Investments.

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D.school fellow Fred Leichter asks a question during a talk delivered by d.school fellow Margaret Hagan and Stanford Research Fellow Ron Dolin on Jan. 30, 2014. (Emi Kolawole)

The audience, when called on for questions, was quick to ask for examples of finished products or projects that have resulted from the marriage of law and design. I asked Margaret, after her talk, if there were examples she wanted to share. Here are some she selected from a larger collection she is curating on her blog Open Law Lab.

One theme that seems to be a low-hanging fruit, but also quite compelling, says Margaret, is discovering ways to communicate complex legal information clearly. There's a lot of work being done in this regard around data privacy and keeping one's data safe online. While the following products and projects didn't come directly out of the design thinking as taught at the d.school, she said, they are some examples of attempts made to use design principles to tackle legal communication challenges.


Privicons are a way to visually tag your e-mail to tell the recipient how you want the e-mail contents to be treated.

Mozilla & Aza Raskin's Privacy Icons project

These privacy icons can tell a person using online services what the service's data policies are, using clear visuals.


Margaret has worked on Lightbeam through a previous Stanford Law class taught through the d.school. Lightbeam (formerly known as Collusion) is yet another Mozilla-sponsored project. It visualizes the companies tracking you as you browse online, and builds the user a custom, real-time graph of what first and third-parties are tracking your online movements.

Law Games

There are also a few games to learn the law,  such as Antidote's game Accused, TrueOffice's compliance games to train employees in laws relevant to their work, and Undoculife that simulates what it's like to be an undocumented immigrant living in the United States.

If you're working on or interested in working on a law-related project using design principles or design thinking, let us know in the comments. You can also follow Margaret at @MargaretHagan.