Lawyers as Designers, Engineers and Innovators: Better Legal Documents Through Information Design and Visualization
In Erich Schweighofer et al. (Eds.) Transparency. Proceedings of the 17th International Legal Informatics Symposium IRIS 2014. Österreichische Computer Gesellschaft OCG, Wien 2014, p. 451–458 (ISBN 978-3-85403-302-8) and in Jusletter IT, 20 February 2014
8 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2015
Date Written: February 20, 2014
Legal materials are widely available, online and offline. But are they actually read and understood? Empirical research shows that this is not always the case. Turning to lawyers does not necessarily help: legal advice may be too complex to be useful. If legal documents are ignored or misunderstood by those who are expected to read and act upon them, there is something seriously wrong. A profound change is required. After introducing research-based criteria of good documents, this paper illustrates, with case studies, how information design and visualization have been applied to improve legal documents: Wikimedia Foundation’s new, user-friendly trademark policy; a law firm’s award-winning advice letter template; and complex legal texts transformed into easy-to-use layered information. The results demonstrate how a fresh, innovative approach to design practices enables the production of better legal documents: legally sound, while easier for users to understand and act upon.
Keywords: Document design, information design, information products, Legal Design Jams, legal writing, readability, simplification, usability, user-friendliness, visualization
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