This summer, law students from the University of Richmond and the University of Cambridge took part in their first Legal Design Sprint, hosted in Cambridge’s historic Emmanuel College. Here four teams of students presented legal design solutions to four unique and interesting human rights topics, including the death penalty, religious freedom, the right to marry and employment discrimination. With their focus on the US, the teams created real-life personas and user stories to frame the development of their solutions.
Each presentation and legal design solution were judged by Hon. Professor David Feldman, QC University of Cambridge, Downing College, Jack Merritt Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge and Emily Allbon City Law School, University of London, to select a winning team.
The first group had the challenging task of locating and understanding information on the death penalty in the USA. As a team, their goal was to develop ways to explain the legal processes involved in layman’s terms, including the right to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment,trial procedure, the appeals process and conviction rates.
They took the perspective of an older family member who is seeking to learn about the processes, laws and appeals when someone is sentenced to death in Georgia.
The solution, developed through user journeys, research and various stages of ideation, came to be an interactive website designed with a US State hierarchy and decision tree functionality, which guided users through simplified descriptions of important legal information.
Pictured: Grace Bowen, Davina Seoparsan and Katie Ryan Snyder presenting on the topic of the death penalty.
The next group’s aim was to help explain the ambiguity in the law regarding the necessity for businesses to offer wedding services to same-sex couples. Situating the problem in Texas, the group chose to focus on a couple planning their wedding, who were denied wedding services by a local business. Their goal was to provide information on how the right to equal protection applies to marriage in the US.
Taking into context the couple’s activities with regards to wedding planning, the group decided to deliver an infographic in the shape of a wedding cake, with each tier addressing a different aspect of the law. Their idea was to have the infographic included in wedding magazines and brochures. This demonstrated the groups understanding of the context as to when and where this information should be delivered.
Pictured: Sam Galina, Taylor Donley and Jade-Amanda Laporte using role-play as a mechanism to communicate the user’s story when experiencing issues related to the freedom to marry.
The religious freedom challenge related to a family who, for financial reasons, is switching from a parochial school to a public school. This group had to address the important concern for many American families of explaining the relevant meaning and impact of the establishment and free exercise clauses of the United States First Amendment. Specifically, the right for children to pray and have religious freedom while in education.
The group understood the complexities of this challenge, and importantly that it could be the parents job, not only to understand the law, but then to explain what their child can and can’t do while at school, which may be dramatically different from what they are used to.
Their solutions took two forms, firstly the idea of a decision-tree style game, to help break down the different areas of the surrounding law, and secondly an infographic to help visualise some of the more commonly asked questions for families in this situation.
Pictured: Emily Gindhart and Tabetha Soberdash showcasing their decision tree logic to their game solution for religious freedom.
The final group were challenged with communicating the complex nature of employment discrimination. They chose to focus on how these laws apply to a pregnant mother at different stages of pregnancy. Their goal was to explain her constitutional and statutory rights in the context of an at-will employment jurisdiction.
The challenge for this was related to the changing nature of the law under different stages of pregnancy, and company characteristics including company size.
Their solution took the form of an accessible website for communicating the key points an expecting mother needs to know at different stages. The website presented as a wireframe at the design sprint used visuals combined with text to communicate the law in an easy-to-understand manner.
Pictured: Lizzie Mahoney, Matt Romano and Michelle Soo presenting the wireframe of their website solution for communicating information related to employment discriminations and the rights of women at different stages of pregnancy.
Legal design sprints are becoming ever more popular around the world as law firms, academics and students recognise the value of learning how to communicate the law to clients in new and resourceful ways to ensure they understand areas of importance to them.
The success of this event is credited to the students who all committed a significant amount of time to develop, research and design effective solutions to real-life problems faced by millions of Americans every year.
We would like to acknowledge and thank Grace Bowen, Davina Seoparsan, Katie Ryan Snyder, Emily Gindhart, Tabetha Soberdash, Lizzie Mahoney, Matt Romano, Michelle Soo, Sam Galina, Taylor Donley and Jade-Amanda Laporte for sharing their ideas with us; the staff at Emmanuel College at Cambridge for hosting this unique event; Emily Allbon, Senior Lecturer in Law at City Law School, University of London, Roger V. Skalbeck, Professor of Law for the University of Richmond, Andrew B. Spalding, Professor of Law the University of Richmond, and Matthew Terrell, Head of Marketing for Justis, a vLex company,and all those who have supported our event and attended the sessions. Thank you.
For more information on the Legal Design Sprint please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also connect with the organisers on Twitter:
Emily Allbon, Senior Lecturer in Law, City Law School, University of London
Roger V. Skalbeck, Professor of Law, University of Richmond School of Law
Matthew Terrell, Head of Marketing for Justis, a vLex company