As groundbreaking technologies revolutionize the legal field, lawyers are constantly faced with new and better ways to serve their clients. ILTA, the International Legal Technology Association, educates legal professionals around the globe about new technologies that improve the legal field and, ultimately, promote access to justice.
Since its inception, ILTA has been committed to fostering growth and progress in the legal field. Its annual conference, taking place this year on August 19-23 in National Harbor, Maryland, is no exception. Directed by and comprised of individuals working in technology within law firms and legal departments, the conference continues ILTA’s tradition of educating legal professionals about the most important technological developments that are changing the industry.
There are several topics that we will be following closely at this year’s conference, ranging from knowledge management to creating the law firm of the future. But one topic is of particular interest to us: the rise of design thinking in the legal context, especially in the expanding field of litigation support. ILTA will offer attendees a practical workshop on how litigation support professionals can leverage design thinking to develop practical, client-centered solutions and improve processes and policies within firms and legal departments.
Design Thinking and the Law
Design thinking refers generally to the process of creative, experimental problem-solving. It rejects the maxim that as technology advances, the human element becomes obsolete. In fact, the lynchpin of design thinking is creative problem solving: something that cannot be automated.
Margaret Hagan, design pioneer and the Director of the Legal Design Lab at Stanford Law School, says that “[d]esign offers reliable, explicit ways to identify areas for developing products, services and organizations, and to implement new ways of doing things.” According to Hagan, here are a few fundamental concepts of design thinking:
- It is user-centered. Design thinking in any field starts with a deep understanding of the user, his unique problem, and his specific needs and goals. Design thinking involves moving beyond stereotypes and assumptions to speak directly to the user. This helps problem solvers better understand not only the unique problem their users are facing, but also what types of solutions they would find acceptable. As such, at the core of design thinking is empathy and human connection.
- It is experimental. Design thinkers are open to new ways of approaching problems. They see dysfunction as opportunity and chaos as an invitation to create order. More importantly, it involves openness to feedback to ensure users receive the best experience and work product possible.
- It is intentional. Design thinking necessitates knowing your values and making decisions that are consistent with them.
- It leverages the alternating use of “focus” and “flare.” Flare phases involve the sourcing of ideas and feedback, while the focus phase involves making clear and deliberate decisions about how to approach a particular problem. Design thinking involves using the two in succession – often moving from one phase to the other in sequence.
- It requires interdisciplinary collaboration. Assembling a team composed of professionals from various disciplines will give increased, multi-dimensional vision in approaching a problem. Design thinkers recognize that problem-solving does not occur in a vacuum, but rather, necessitates the input of people with variant backgrounds and knowledge bases.
The legal profession is tailor-made for design thinking. As Hagan notes, design thinking provides “a new generation of accessible, engaging legal services.” Law is a service profession at its core, and design thinking can help lawyers deliver their services more effectively – from understanding the user, to identifying the problem, testing creative solutions, and working to develop an innovative solution. Ultimately, it is about constantly seeking ways to improve the client experience.
Design Thinking and Litigation Support
Professionals working within the growing field of litigation support can use design thinking to improve the services they provide to clients, whether their clients are law firms or other legal service providers.
Litigation support professionals oftentimes work with attorneys to manage large-scale litigation. They design databases, sort data gained through the discovery process, assist with courtroom technology, develop data management strategies, and train lawyers on software used to manage electronically-stored information (ESI). While the types of positions within the litigation support field may vary widely, they are ultimately data-heavy roles requiring effective management of large amounts of information.
Litigation support professionals can leverage design thinking in several ways. Most notably, the interdisciplinary approach to design thinking can help them better perform their jobs. For instance, they may work closely with technology experts to devise better ways to sort, store, and manage ESI, or consult software developers to learn more about the databases they use. They may also work with data analysts to learn how to better interpret the data they collect. No matter how support professionals leverage it, the interdisciplinary element of design thinking can help them work effectively with other professionals, learning to draw upon their knowledge and expertise to help their legal clients streamline the data review process.
Because litigation support is an increasingly growing field, the prototyping aspect of design thinking may also prove useful – experimenting with creative solutions, testing them, seeking feedback, and implementing what works, while jettisoning what doesn’t. This can help litigation support professionals improve their workflows, as once they start to prototype, they can develop more mature processes that can be used across multiple clients and cases, applying similar approach approaches across the board.
UniCourt’s Contribution to the Rise of Design Thinking
UniCourt is using design thinking by seeing how our users are accessing legal data and developing better ways to integrate that data into their different process flows. As litigation support professionals apply design thinking to their work, they can use UniCourt’s technologies in a variety of ways. From finding new clients, to automating time-consuming or cumbersome processes with our Legal Data APIs, UniCourt can help maximize the time spent devising creative solutions for clients.
Developing an automated approach to gathering the data you need requires having the right tools at your disposal, and UniCourt’s application makes this possible. Along with our user-friendly search engine, we provide powerful tracking features, automated scheduled searches, and helpful Legal Data APIs. Combining these tools, you can locate useful, meaningful data as soon as it becomes available.
This is undoubtedly beneficial to litigation support professionals, as data management is central to their roles. However, our system can benefit many other professionals as well. For instance, corporate counsel, legal operations teams, and law firms can all use UniCourt’s platform to design automated information flows, manage future and ongoing litigation, and review litigation trends impacting their respective industries. Not to mention, it can also help professionals in other contexts like performing background checks on potential employees, tenants, or business partners.
We will be closely following the discussion on design thinking at this year’s ILTA conference, and are excited to learn from the fantastic lineup of speakers and panelists throughout the week. Make sure to follow us on Twitter at @UniCourtInc to hear our thoughts during ILTA, and be sure to follow the hashtag #legaldesign to learn more about how design thinking is changing the legal landscape.