Legal design: democratization of legal language

Legal design: democratization of legal language

The anthropocentric purpose of legal design

The main Italian linguists have for years emphasized that the language used by the institutions is light years away from the language of the citizens, that bureaucratic Italian is an example of “anti-language”, and that the legal lexicon is often incomprehensible to the signatory parties. even document.

Primo Levi, in his masterpiece They drowned and they were saved in 1986 he wrote that “what we commonly mean by” to understand “coincides with” to simplify “: ​​without a profound simplification, the world around us would be an infinite and infinite tangle that would exhaust our ability to orient and determine our actions.

Words that accurately describe the purpose of legal design: simplify legal or prescriptive texts, without sacrificing technicality but making them comprehensible to the recipients of the texts themselves.

It is a discipline that involves synergy, or even symbiosis, between lawyers, graphic designers and communication experts, who work together with the ultimate goal of making any legal or prescriptive text usable for the end user.

How many times, for example, do you sign a financial product or an insurance contract, without having read the countless documents that come with them, thoroughly, perhaps based solely on the confidence of the bank consultant or insurance broker? How many times do you read the package leaflet with medicines all the way, despite being given basic information about taking the drug and thus for our health? Furthermore, who among us has read the latest confidentiality document that he has signed fully and carefully?

Here is the method used by legal designer intervenes with a mental approach that starts from the end: to know the recipient of the text, to structure a “tailor-made” document that is easy to understand, usable and therefore easy to use in accordance with the rules of the law. It is a phenomenon that in our country more than anything else should find fertile ground, if only we think of the legal complexity that stems from the fact that in Italy since 1861 and onwards more than 200 thousand laws have been passed, of which 110,000 are in force at present, as well as rules, circulars and other secondary measures (source: Poligrafico dello Stato).

In search of the balance between words and images

The task is far from simple. We need to look for the ideal combination of words, images, graphics and communication to simplify the legal language. Just to give a few examples: If graphic icons are not universally recognized, they risk deviating and changing a concept expressed in words alone. Likewise, a regulatory text risks being too long that it is not read in its entirety by the user with the consequent risk of not fully understanding the text itself. In this regard, the famous linguist Tullio De Mauro argues that sentences should not exceed 25 words in order to be readable.

It is a matter of identifying the ideal balance point between words and images, with the awareness that in some cases the words themselves are clear and sufficient, in others an image will be more understandable, in still others a combination of words and graphics .

People tend to remember about 10% of what they heard after three days, but if an image is associated with text data, the memo rises to 65%[1]. This also takes into account that our brain categorizes images 60,000 times faster than text[2].

It follows that in order to be successful in this discipline and therefore work with companies and public institutions to simplify contractual relationships and reduce conflicts and litigation, it is necessary to function as a team, to be experienced professionals. , each in their affiliation. The work of the lawyer can not be carried out without the support of the designer, and the work of the latter is not sufficient without the endorsement of the lawyer. All this with constant monitoring by the communication expert, who must assess – before, during and after – that the created product is well understood by the user, who is the recipient of the document. The world of professions is constantly evolving, and even the world of the lawyer must adapt to this process of transformation, where interdisciplinarity is no longer a optionalbut a path traced by companies and by the wishes of companies and citizens.

The legislation oriented itself towards legal design

In the wake of this transformation process, some remarkable rules have been adopted. Among the most important, we recall EU Regulation No. 2016/679 on data protection (GDPR), which in Art. 17, para. 7, prescribes to provide the person interested in the processing of their personal data with information notes in combination with standardized icons in order to provide an overall visible, understandable and easy-to-read way of an overall picture of the intended processing.

On the basis of this regulation, in March 2021, the privacy guarantor promoted a tender open to developers, professionals, experts, lawyers, designers to try to identify and propose a set of symbols (or icons) capable of exemplifying the elements which, in accordance with Articles 13 and 14 of the Regulation, must be included in the information.

Legal design and health

In the healthcare sector, Directive 2011/83 / EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6/11/2001 Art. 62 and 63 that the package leaflet for medicinal products must be designed in clear and comprehensible terms by the users, clarifying that the outer packaging and the package leaflet may contain signs or pictograms intended to make the necessary and useful information more explicit, however of any element of a promotional nature.

Legal design and the insurance world

In matters of insurance, the IVASS Regulation of 02/08/2018 n. 41 emphasizes that the pre-contractual and contractual documentation must be prepared in a clear and concise language and style in order to facilitate the understanding of the information therein, clarifying that each section of the pre-contractual information document for life insurance products, other than insurance investment products (DIP Vita), is characterized by an icon, placed at the beginning, which visually represents its contents. While all of the aforementioned provisions certainly deserve applause, as they are intended to make the information clear and understandable to users, the same cannot be said of the results obtained: For the most part, the icons flanking the text complicate the understanding of the information. This proves how complex it is concretely to achieve the goals set by legal design and how much remains to be done in Italy and in Europe to refine the best techniques that this discipline provides.

State-of-the-art studies regarding legal design

In Italy, we are still in the embryonic stages of this working method, which has instead been used for some time and successfully in the main ones. law firm American, where there is one of the most important application centers in legal design at Stanford University. In Europe, Finland is very active in this discipline, also thanks to the most important event in the sector, the Legal Design Summitwhose first edition was held in 2017.

Italy and legal design: a delay to be bridged

For Italy, on the one hand, it is hoped that the legislature will set a good example, at least in terms of clarity and simplification, otherwise, as the famous jurist Sabino Cassese writes in “The State, the Neglect and the Italian Obscurity of Laws” (Corriere della Sera02/05/2022), if the state communicates in an obscure way, then what can it expect from its citizens?

On the other hand, it is hoped that the legal world will be able to look ahead, become a bearer and interpreter of new needs, and commit to promoting professional studies that combine legal competencies with graphic and communicative skills. Continuing to use an unchanging “legalese”, now detached from the global context of commercial relations, only contributes to exacerbating the already exaggerated bureaucratization typical of Italy.

On the other hand, it is desirable that public and private companies choose contractual models and corporate policies that protect the need for clarity and understanding among users, by making use of interdisciplinary studies that effectively apply legal design. One last consideration: the evolutionary process that underlies it legal design it is destined to evolve and remain over time. Innovation, technology, professionalisation and multidisciplinarity are the inseparable components.

Now the challenge to be understood is the concrete “implementation” of legal documents and more generally prescriptive documents created with the philosophy of legal designnot to have to repeat and translate on the technical level Blaise Pascal’s words, opening one of his own Provinciales Letters: “I apologize for the length of my letter, but I have not had time to write a shorter one.

[1] See Gianluca Tramontana, The importance of the visual component in the eLearning context.

[2] See Neher, Visual Social Media Marketing: Utilizing Photos, Instagram, Infographics and Pinterest to Grow Your Business Online.

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