Human-Centered Design in Legal Education: Why It’s Needed Now and What’s at Stake – Jeff Cox Writes in Law Technology Today

on Future Law

Human-Centered Design in Legal Education: Why It’s Needed Now and What’s at Stake – Jeff Cox Writes in Law Technology Today

At a time when the legal profession is facing continued pressure to improve the way legal services are delivered to increase access to justice and address the persistent mental wellness problems plaguing practitioners, the need to introduce human-centered design into legal education cannot be overstated. 

We are pleased to share UniCourt’s latest article authored by Jeff Cox that was recently published in Law Technology Today, an online publication of the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center. In his article, Human-Centered Design in Legal Education: Why It’s Needed Now and What’s at Stake, Jeff interviewed three law professors from Vanderbilt Law, Duke Law, and Campbell Law who are making strides teaching human-centered design in the law school setting. 

Throughout the article, Jeff shares each professor’s insights and reflections on (1) what design thinking is and why it’s important for legal education, (2) the challenges law students and young lawyers are facing, and (3) how legal design can help them overcome those challenges. 

Here below is an excerpt from the introduction of Jeff’s article:

Design thinking has taken root in the legal profession, and for good reason. From placing a premium on empathy and creative problem-solving to relying on interdisciplinary approaches to the law, legal design positions lawyers to find new—and better—ways to serve their clients. Nonetheless, the explosion of growth in the legal technology sector raises a burning question: How can young lawyers best prepare to navigate a constantly changing legal landscape? Without question, this preparation starts in American law schools.

To provide the perspective of those who are in the trenches of transforming legal education, we conducted written interviews with three leaders in the field of design thinking in law schools: Professor Cat Moon of Vanderbilt Law, Professor Kevin Lee of Campbell Law, and Professor Jeff Ward of Duke Law.

Professor Moon is currently teaching a human-centered design (HCD) course at Vanderbilt Law, Legal Problem Solving, focused on three core items for students: using HCD mindsets and methods to 1) think intentionally about their legal careers, 2) supplement their “thinking like a lawyer” toolbox, and 3) create solutions for challenges faced by local legal organizations.

Professor Lee is teaching a Design class at Campbell Law along with Tsai Li Lui, a Director of the College of Design at North Carolina State University, on the process of empathizing, visualizing, prototyping, and iterating solutions. Professor Lee also teaches a Computational Law class, surveying how Big Data and complexity science are being used to map the social system of law, as well as a course on Law, Ethics, and Technology on how to understand the lived experience of moral meaning in a technological age.

Duke Law’s Designing Creative Legal Solutions course, co-developed in 2018 by Professor Ward in partnership with Rochael Soper Adranly of IDEO, helps law students consider “how the law of tomorrow can be between than the law of today.” This year, the course is being taught by Casandra Laskowski (part of the Duke Law By Design team) and will explore the issue of human trafficking from various stakeholder perspectives using HCD.

Drawing from the wealth of experience of these professors, we’ll cover topics on what design thinking is, what challenges are present in legal education and the legal profession, and how design thinking can be used to tackle those challenges. For each topic, we’ll provide insights from all three professors as unvarnished as possible.

What is design thinking, and why is it important to legal innovation and legal education?

Professor Moon: 

Professor Moon’s work encompasses human-centered design (HCD), which is broader and deeper than design thinking. She derives her definition of HCD from the Luma Institute: an activities-based framework for creative problem-solving that focuses first and foremost on people. Professor Moon uses this definition “because it acknowledges that many tools can be used in this way, not simply the design thinking process.”

She goes on to explain that “because of the ubiquity of IDEO and the d.school’s work in design thinking, this phrase often means the multi-phase process that generally encompasses empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test.” And while some describe design thinking in as few as three phases: inspiration, ideation, implementation, it has also been defined by some as having seven phases: understand, define, research, ideate, prototype, implement, iterate.

“In its most useful sense,” Professor Moon notes that, “legal design is HCD applied to legal problems, including legal services delivery challenges as well as access issues, and really any challenge that we face anywhere along the legal spectrum.”

You can read the full article here on Law Technology Today.

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