Legal Design for Practice, Activism, Policy and Research

46:2 Journal of Law and Society 185-210 (2019)

30 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 2018 Last revised: 24 May 2019

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 18, 2019


This paper offers an original integrated introduction to how, conceptually, to think about what design can do for law; where, empirically, to find examples of legal design; and how, normatively, to assess it. In so doing it strengthens the claim that design-based methods and attitudes can be productively deployed in relation to legal matters. It begins by highlighting three lawyerly concerns: the need to communicate; the need to balance structure and freedom; and the need to be at once practical, critical and imaginative. Next the paper highlights three features of designerly ways: a commitment to communication, an emphasis on experimentation, and an ability to make things visible and tangible. It proposes that designerly ways can directly improve lawyerly communication; and that they can also generate new structured-yet-free spaces in which lawyers can be at once practical, critical and imaginative. The relatively broad conceptualisation of legal design offered in this paper is intended to accommodate the, hitherto unrecognised, diversity of existing practice—a diversity illustrated with examples of from across four fields of lawyering: legal practice, legal activism, policy-making and legal research. Emphasis is placed throughout on the need for a critical approach to legal design—that is, for legal design to be thought about and done with a commitment to avoiding, exposing and remedying biases and inequalities. In that spirit, the paper concludes with an assessment of some of the risks associated with legal design.

Keywords: Legal Design, Design Thinking, Socio-Legal Research Methods, Law And Design, Innovation, Legal Innovation

Suggested Citation

Perry-Kessaris, Amanda, Legal Design for Practice, Activism, Policy and Research (January 18, 2019). 46:2 Journal of Law and Society 185-210 (2019), Available at SSRN: or

Amanda Perry-Kessaris (Contact Author)

Kent Law School ( email )

Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NS
United Kingdom

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics