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Stanford Launches Design Lab to Make Law More Accessible

Stanford University Law School launched a new initiative this month, the Legal Design Lab, with a mission to develop new user-friendly models of legal services and train law students in “human-centered legal design.”

Margaret Hagan — a recent graduate of Stanford Law School and a lecturer at Stanford’s Institute of Design — will lead a group of law students on projects intended to make the law more accessible to lay people, including connecting them with Internet-based legal help.

Some projects include setting up easily-understood signs in courtrooms and creating a tool that lets courts and service providers send text messages to people going through the legal system to keep them informed.

The overall goal of the lab, which is part of the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession, is to remove obstacles from the legal system, so that lay people and people who hire attorneys can better understand what’s happening, said Lucy Ricca, executive director of the Stanford Center of the Legal Profession.

“I do feel like we’re in a bit of a moment right now where people are really, really demanding and desiring a new way of thinking how to serve people,” Ricca told Big Law Business.

Students in the lab have so far worked with partners including Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Seyfarth Shaw. Non-profits such as the Eviction Defense Collaborative in San Francisco have worked with students on design challenges, such as how to visually present information to show how cases are proceeding, said Ricca.

Language, she said, “is exactly the right place to start. It’s a huge barrier to regular people being able to understand and be involved in their legal issue.”

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