Legal design, what it is and how it can help communicate legal content

Communication can be based on traditional tools and methods, although the real challenge is to be able to resort to alternative and innovative ways of communicating: and this is where legal design.

Let’s start with a general consideration. We all know the importance of communication. Communication is actually fundamental, as it allows us, among other things, to transmit and / or receive information that conveys content (eg legislative content). Sometimes, especially if they are particularly technical or specialized, this information, precisely because of its “technical nature”, is not always easy and immediate to understand for the final subject as it is intended. It is therefore clear that the clarity of communication and communication represents an added value.

Galileo Galilei said that “Everyone can speak vaguely, but very few are clear”.

Also recently Guido ScorzaMember of the Guarantee Agency for the Protection of Personal Data, commenting on the importance of the clarity and comprehensibility of the final communication, stating that: “If you take the privacy policies of the ten most downloaded applications in Europe (Facebook / Google / Zoom and paste them all on the same document, the barrier of 80,000 words is broken.At an average reading time of 230 words per minute it would take more or less six hours to read.With five and a half hours, at the same speed, just to give an example, we read the first Harry Potter, 77,000 words. To start using any of those services, however, it takes a little over a minute. “(Source: Wired, December 2, 2020).

Guido Scorza

Member of the College of Data Protection Guarantor of the Italian Data Protection Authority

To answer this question, it is appropriate to clarify the discipline of legal designanalyzes:

What is legal design?

That legal design it is the method by which it is possible to make information that has a content and / or a legal value more comprehensible and comprehensible. This is the application of the so-called “human-centered design”(An approach that places man and his needs at the center of the design of the final product) to the context of the law and translates into the creation and development of content and services based on people’s needs. That legal designso, it does not just consist of a mix of law and graphics, although these two components are essential and equally crucial to the achievement of the ultimate goal. Instead, it is one process that, through numerous communication tools, makes it possible to create a product that is well-defined in form and content, and that is also aware of the needs of the final recipients.

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One of the most representative figures in the panorama of legal design is the Stanford professor Margaret Hagan. According to Hagan, the key points in legal design I’m there the clarity of the messageL ‘use of images and involvement of the final recipient.

Legal design, six principles to keep in mind when creating content with legal value

Hagan has identified six principles below legal design, which may be referred to the legal profession and to any other profession or activity in which there is a need and / or obligation to produce content of a legal nature and value. Let’s see them together.

Make legal service users more empowered and intelligent

Margaret Hagan first emphasizes the importance of considering that the final recipient has an interest in knowing the service / product / content that concerns him. With legal designtherefore, it is possible to help him better understand the context and what the use of this service / product actually entails, or what are the consequences of this content.

Present legal information as a journey through a process to empower those involved

From a methodological point of view, it is appropriate divide legal information into many small steps, characterized by a starting point and an end point, just like in a journey where there is a beginning and an end. The final recipient will be guided and guided along the entire path of this journey, so that step by step he can understand what is happening and who is doing what.

3. To promote a cooperative relationship between the person and the lawyer

Margaret Hagan refers to the legal profession; However, as already mentioned, the same discourse is actually valid for any other professional who produces content of a legal nature and / or value. Now, between the aforementioned professional and the final recipient, in the traditional approach, a relationship is often established, characterized by the binomial “child-adult”, such that the final recipient would take on the role of the child, as the professional often is not fully to. explain things as he is convinced of the former’s inability to understand them. That legal design, in this case it might promote cooperation and trust between the final recipient and the professional.

4. Always give a bird’s eye view

This means that when talking to the layman about what pertains to them, it is necessary to constantly provide a map of the underlying legal area. Recipients want to see a scaled-down and overarching version of what the legal basis they are on looks like. Giving the final recipients of the information a bird’s eye view thus helps them not only to understand the context but also the reason for certain actions and choices. Across legal design it is therefore possible provide a different perspective and greater transparency regarding the system in which the recipient is deployed and the paths available to him;.

5. Be simple in front and smart behind

Any tool or interface should provide a clear and guided path to follow. Let us not forget that too much opportunity or information can sometimes confuse the final recipient or hinder their active involvement. Margaret Hagan therefore suggests utilizing the available data to understand what is the best way to simplify the content and suggest predefined values, reduce the information to the essentials and offer the best experience to the final recipient.

Give people more ways to customize their experience

Finally, one of the things that is most valued by the final recipients, according to Hagan customization. Not everyone likes to receive information in the same way. There are recipients more disposed towards the visual part, others prefer the textual part. Even with respect to the medium on which the information is transferred, some prefer the digital format while others prefer the paper format. Therefore a good product of legal design it should make the same content available in several ways, taking into account the different possible preferences of the final recipients. This results in the ability to prepare the same content on multiple user interfaces and on multiple formats.

Once the objective context that we refer to when we talk about has been defined legal designlet’s see who can use it and who it is aimed at.

What skills contribute legal design?

That legal design involves not only lawyers, jurists and designers, but also programmers and communication experts, as the characteristic features of this method are represented by multidisciplinarity and frominterdisciplinarity. The final product is the result of the transversal and synergistic work from professionals with different backgrounds, able to understand the needs of the final recipients at different levels.

How do you do legal design?

In the light of what has been explained so far, it is therefore clear that legal design it is put into practice by building specific products, tailored to the needs of the final recipients, characterized by clarity and simple display. In this perspective, the above principles, if put into practice, can represent a valid methodological approach aimed at building effective and clear content.

When can it be used?

That legal design it applies when it is necessary to transfer content to a final recipient with legal effect, whether mandatory or not. Scope of legal design is very broad: Consider, for example, the possibility of referring it to legal documents, company policies, procedures and rules, contracts, discipline in the relationship between individuals, fulfillment of disclosure obligations, etc.

Why it is advisable to use legal design?

Thus, we come to the last of the questions we asked at the beginning of this article: why resort to legal design?

Let’s start with one essential fact: that legal design it is not a fashion. That legal design it is and should actually be seen as one effective communication tool that focuses on the final recipient of legal documents and legislation.

In addition, it should be borne in mind that European and Italian legislators are increasingly moving towards calling for the use of clearer and more effective communication tools and methods.

The necessary clarity and transparency therefore represent real professional duties.

The use of this approach translates into concrete benefits for both companies (according to an IBM study, the capital invested in simplifying the use of the tools for users has a I return between 10 and 100 times) that the final recipients (who will be able to better understand the legal content, have a greater awareness of choices and actions, as well as greater participation and trust in those who provide legal information).

An application example of legal design: Digital 360 Group’s Privacy Policydeveloped by lawyers in synergy with graphic designers, programmers and computer scientists in digital and paper format and which can be consulted at the following link:

Ultimately, in the madness of the present we live in, it is increasingly important to remain constantly informed and to be aware of one’s rights, obligations and duties.

For, as Censor Cato said, “reading and not understanding is like not reading”.

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