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Temporary bubble or radical shift?

Temporary bubble or radical shift?

By Blake Connell


The LIV’s 2019 Rising Star of the Year Blake Connell explains why legal design is important. Blake Connell, the LIV’s 2019 Rising Star of the Year, is part of a new generation challenging the traditional role of the lawyer and leading the way in the growing field of legal design. He talked to the YLJ about what legal design is and why it’s important. You’ve recently worked across Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and even Singapore. What is the reason for this busy travel schedule? I’m lucky enough to work for an employer (Herbert Smith Freehills) with international offices and an amazing mix of clients around the world. Beyond that, I’d say my experience mostly comes down to being open-minded about the skills a lawyer can use at work. My journey started when, having picked up some software design experience in my pre-law life, I became involved in building a click-through app in the financial services space. Being a lawyer with software design skills got me involved in conversations about the NewLaw movement. From that point, I’ve jumped at any opportunity to tackle legal problems in a creative way, most recently by undertaking a legal design secondment with a client. What does 'legal design' mean? Legal design is the application of design principles to law. Put simply, it means creating bespoke legal products and services to match a client’s needs. That might not sound revolutionary, but legal designers are completely re-designing the legal ecosystem. Looking around the market, legal designers are bringing us things like legal advice delivered through iPhone apps, online dispute resolution portals and even cartoon policies and contracts (yes, they exist). Given my background, a lot of my work has had to do with building click-through web applications which allow people to access legal information online, or even give them a preliminary legal conclusion without the need for a lawyer. Designing automated solutions such as these has involved a mixed bag of tasks and skills such as interviewing strangers, sketching out processes, mocking up wireframes, acting as a translator between lawyers and IT specialists, and using lots of post-it notes. Importantly, the outputs of legal design need not be technological, and often the best solutions aren’t. For example, a legal designer might re-design processes to do with accessing or delivering legal services, or craft a new communication campaign to connect with the relevant community – it all depends on the design brief.

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