Access to Justice and User Centric Design

Posted: 9 April 2019
By: Neota Logic

Neota Logic recently spoke at an event organised by the PSU and Catherine Bamford of Bam Legal around ‘Access to Justice and how the Legal Tech community can help‘. Neota’s Maeve Lavelle, Director of Education and Community Programmes presented her views on how user-centric design can help such a great cause:

One of the main problems that occurs in relation to access to justice here and in most jurisdictions that we have the privilege of working with is the lack of user-centred design.

I’ve been thinking a lot, recently, about the law and what it is for and what it should be, and how it fails in that regard. I think that the law is the framework that should facilitate the peaceful and prosperous running of society. It’s the framework within which every other aspect of society operates, so its both an integral part and also separate in very fundamental ways. And if the law does not facilitate that peaceful and prosperous running of society, then it’s failed. And the way that it should do that, the definitions that we should apply to peace and prosperity do not just apply to the lawyers. The problem with a lot of legal processes today is that they are designed by and used by lawyers.

And if you are a developer, if you work at developing products in any arena, you know that this is a massive – massive problem; a cardinal sin of product development is not involving the users at every stage of that process. So user-centric design has become something that people are talking about slightly more in law… and thankfully everyone is starting to feel accustomed with that word and really it’s something that lawyers are very uncomfortable with. If you look back to the origins of the legal profession, it was not started for civilians. It was started for the people who had the money and the time on their hands to engage the intellectual hobby of arguing for someone else in court. Back in the Roman Empire, that’s where it started. Its been around for a while… And since then, it really hasn’t changed that much…

The problem though, with the group in our society that makes up the field of the legal profession, being largely, the same kind of people, is that the products that they put forward is only suitable for them… I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but there has been a lot of discussion in the tech world of late about products that are only designed by men and so they don’t think about the needs of women… How can you, as a lawyer… understand the needs and problems of someone who comes from another demographic… unless you work really really hard to get into their heads… a big part of a user centred design is empathy. I don’t think that’s discussed at all in our legal training.

Legal processes need to change. They need to be more focused on different communities, with different needs. Luckily technology now exists to help with access to justice but there’s a long way to go to revolutionise the process.

(Our presentation was transcribed at this event by Just Transcription: hello@just-transcription)

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