What do you get if you cross a lawyer with a designer?
That's not the start to another lawyer joke, but it does describe the burgeoning field of legal design.
Legal design – is that a thing? Isn't law traditionally all dense monochrome text that you wrestle into submission with the power of your intellect? Well, we're hoping to put the case for the opposition here. Law can be better when it's visual too.
LeDa (the Legal Design Alliance) believe that ‘the legal system can be more straightforward, more engaging and more user-friendly’ with legal designers pushing to make the legal system more human. As law teachers we should be incorporating design principles into our work; in terms of how we present our teaching resources to our students, but also in terms of preparing them for their future in law. Encouraging students to be user-focused, to listen to their clients and to think carefully about how they communicate the law is so important. Amongst our students will be those who will practice the law, but also policy-makers, legislation-drafters, legal technology enthusiasts. They might be working for massive corporates, for government, for tiny start-ups or for the local legal advice centre; having some understanding of what design principles can bring to law is essential for all.
Less text, more visuals
(and sound, and video...)
TL;DR stands for Too Long; Didn’t Read. It’s what editors write next to your wordy text when they skip over it zzzzz.... Our website is dedicated to the proposition that with thoughtful visual design this needn’t ever happen to you!
We aim to showcase the best of design in a legal context – our own and from others – and that doesn't only mean showing better visual presentation. Are you a lecturer who would like to take a new approach to get across something students always find tricky? Or a student who wants some ideas on learning for exams more effectively with visual memory cues? You might have wondered about how you might communicate legal rights to a client who didn’t speak your language? There’s so much to explore here and we're encouraging everyone to get stuck in!
TL;DR is a growing collection. We are keen for it to become a shared space for everyone, whether your focus is legal education or legal design, whether you are a student or a legal practitioner. We hope it becomes a gateway to the incredible work being done in this field worldwide.
Exploring by example
Many years ago (2002), Emily launched the Lawbore site - believing that to spark the interest of students in their subject, the visual was key. Lawbore has gone through many incarnations since then, with its two most popular parts being Learnmore for legal skills and Future Lawyer for event reviews, interviews and career insights.
Prior to becoming a legal academic Emily had a career in legal information management (aka librarianship) and her experience and understanding of information flows has really influenced how TLDR has been structured; both the narrative of the individual resources and that of the website collection as a whole. What always had to be key was the story behind how each resource came into being.
The idea for TLDR has been simmering for a while; we envisage it as a place where lecturers and students can go for ideas on how different tools or techniques might work to help them communicate the law better.
We've been unleashing our ideas, sometimes with the help of professional illustrators, graphic designers and web developers to see what we could come up with on a limited budget. Students have also got involved - sharing their practices and creating new content. The resulting teaching and communication resources run the gamut from simple DIY examples that anyone could make in an afternoon to full-blown interactive multimedia.
We've then documented what was done so you can learn from it – teacher or student. It's not about demonstrating what we think is best practice. It's about showing you what is possible with minimal resources so you're not frightened to get your hands dirty and try a little legal design yourself! Remember if doesn’t matter if you think you can’t draw – it’s the ideas that count. A stick figure goes a long way!