Legal service design is here to stay, but wait a minute… What is service design?


There is a phrase that I love and it is the following one: “Before running you must learn to walk and in any case to crawl”, it is a recurrent phrase in my articles.

In that sense I would like to start this article by emphasizing the definition of service design or better known as “Service Design”, and for that, we are going to break down the definition into small pieces: “…A service is a system of people, processes and goods that meet needs through the exchange of value…” [1] and so today we hear more about system design, but we will talk about that on another occasion.

So if we say that a service is a system of people, who makes up that system, I think that answer is going to depend a lot on the type of sector in which that system is going to operate, it could be the IT sector, the agro-industrial sector, the telecommunications sector or the legal sector, which is what we are interested in for the purposes of this article.

Teathre stage with audience
Picture 1 :Service design el viaje a la innovación que tu empresa necesita-Repensar-Medium

In the case of the design of legal services, the answer is more than obvious, the actors in this system are mostly lawyers and I say mostly because new actors are appearing -and are better integrated into this ecosystem- such as data scientists, designers (logically), engineers, developers, among others. The allegory that best exemplifies the design of services — legal and non-legal — is that of the theater and here you can visualize it and I will proceed to explain the role that both the actors in the front-stage and the support team in the backstage play.

“…Imagine that you go to the theater. You locate your seat, sit down, and wham! A light cannon is turned on towards the stage, the curtain opens and an actress dressed as a Viking appears and starts singing. The play ends and you are surprised by a handful of emotions that have gone from laughter to tears. Then, you are allowed to visit the backstage and you go running behind the scenes to discover that, to achieve all those sensations, it took not only the 7 actors on stage but also a team of technicians in lights, sound, costumes, makeup, and so on, which amount to almost 50 people[2]

And of course, that is also true of any organization, whatever it may be; also, let’s remember that organizations do not offer just one service, but two, three, or more, like, for example, telecommunications companies or the airlines themselves, and not to mention legal services, badly called -in my personal opinion- only law firms, why? The answer is simple, I say they are misnamed “just law firms” because:

1. By calling them that way, we are typecasting them in that the service is only created by lawyers, which is not necessarily the case and it should not be like that at all, and I have many reasons for that, but I would like to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of the service, just because the accounting — except for small cases — is done by a certified accountant or the firm’s software is always done by an engineer[3].

2. By calling them that and limiting it to the “legal” field, we do not provide law firms with that share of humanity and service that they are supposed to have and/or should have, some few firms have it, in others, it is halfway and there are those in which that sense is non-existent. Aren’t our “clients” at the end of the day supposed to be people who have emotions and feelings?

3. When we call them that we are not contemplating the service with a holistic perspective where all the actors intervene in its co-design and co-creation, on the contrary, we are again typecasting it as being thought and conceived by lawyers for a client who may also be another lawyer, since generally, it is another lawyer who represents the interests of the client, of the counterpart, of the people, except in some systems that with enough limitations allow the legal self-representation in certain cases, but that is another song, in general lines the service that the legal firms offer is thinking by lawyers for lawyers and not for the receivers or those that finally are impacted by the decisions of their representatives, the people.

By calling them that way we indicate that the only thing that law firms do is legal assistance, but we castrate other service interactions and other services that complement the legal services that the law firm in question may provide such as proxy, representation which, is not the same as mere assistance in many cases, automation of procedures, collection of unpaid bills, design of documents and various papers, negotiations, among many others that come to mind and those that are missing.

workflow of legal process
Picture 2 : Service design approach to legal system- Margaret Hagan-Medium

Under this perspective, then we have not one, but several actors involved in the design and operation of the legal system which in turn as we see is composed of several services and that in any case, we can redesign the concept of “only law firm” by that of legal services and in any case provide that concept with greater content and impact that really has and corresponds. In that line and according to the definition quoted in the first paragraph, which indicates that these people create and/or design artifacts or products, the next question would be what exactly do we design, what do the actors of the legal sector and the law firms design?

Service design acts and or allows for the design or intervention of a variety of objects and can influence or create change on a variety of levels[4]. I love this brilliant definition of Lucy Kimbell because it is so insightful, in that it introduces another important term that is “behavior change”, just like one of my mentors the Behavioral Scientist, Matt Wallaert, in his book “Start at the end”[5], agree and I also agree that when we intervene the services and products and / or devices that they involve in the end what is sought is to generate a change in the behavior of people and although not looking for that change in some way or another a good product, device or service will somehow impact some behavior of people for whom it was designed or redesigned.

concentric circle about service design core
Picture 3:

Since we are talking about the impact of technology and taking advantage of the fashion of “The social dilemma”[6] I recommend this series very much and it will be the subject of another delivery, in fact, the designers of services and even more the designers of legal services have the “Enormous responsibility” to have in clear the following questions:

1. What do we design or redesign?

2. For whom do we design or redesign?

3. Why do we design or redesign?

4.What impact will my design have on the ecosystem?

one boy thinking about service design process
Picture 4:

And the analysis could continue, but at least those four points seem basic to me because they delimit the north of a designer in general, and in the case of legal designers or those who intend to start in that career, I would add a fifth point which would be:

Does the design or redesign of my product, device, or service contribute to or facilitate access to justice? The scale of this point will depend on the field in which the legal designer practices because it can be wider or narrower depending on where he provides his services, however, the golden rule in fashion applies here: “Less is more”, the more always, and limited your solution is, because much better, we are all in search of the “Eureka moment” when what we should do is to solve or at least try to design or redesign and solve everything around us and we consider can improve and this is already a final conclusion: I am more inclined to redesign — I explain it better in this article[7] — and “EVERYONE HAS OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT” and I put it in capital letters because perhaps we will not all manage to have that “Eureka moment” but at least we will have been useful, we will have served and contributed to improving the ecosystem in which we participate.

The third point of the definition referred to that the products, devices, or services we design seek to meet the needs — of people — through the exchange of value, I leave it for the next article because there are more doubts and it is better to go breaking down the definition and the tools that are currently available that are many to design or redesign the legal services we provide to make them more accessible, attractive and usable by people while generating and contributing to achieving a fairer and more humane society.

service design model for legal systeam
Picture 5: Service design approach to legal system- Margaret Hagan-Medium


[1] “So, like, what is service design?”-Shahrzad Samadzadeh- Medium

[2] Service Design: el Viaje Hacia la innovación que tu empresa necesita- Repensar-Medium

[3] Hybrid profiles for digital lawyers- Karol Valencia-Medium

[4] LDoc Keynote. Lucy Kimbell on Designing For Services: Past Moments and Possible Futures

[5] Wallaert, M: Start At The End: How to Build Products That Create Change

[6] The social dilemma trailer-netflix

[7] Legal design journey map: What it is, how it arises and where are we going-Karol Valencia-Medium



WOW Legal Experience I Legal Design Agency 🌎

⚖️We co-create great experiences, services and products for the users of the legal & justice sector 👇