15 January 2021

Legal design around the World: a French revolution?

What is legal design?

Marie Potel-Saville explains why legal design is definitely a global movement and how it inspired her to create Amurabi.



Our globetrotting exploration into the growth of legal design continues with Marie Potel-Saville of Amurabi. Marie heads up one of France’s most successful ‘legal innovation by design’ agencies.

how did you first come across legal design?

The short answer is lack of resources, digitalization, and need for greater efficiency.

I was General Counsel in a US-listed group, in charge of EMEA. My region was undergoing digital transformation at a high pace, such that pretty much everything had to be done within 3-week loops. It created a huge gap between the needs of the business teams I was serving and traditional legal tools (e.g. 50-page long contracts even for minor topics, full of jargon, that required months of negotiations). Not to mention users’ (and lawyers’) frustration.marie-potel-saville-amurabi-legal-design-lawbox-design

My first reflex at the time was to turn to tech for a solution. As I explored legal tech and automation, I came across Margaret Hagan’s Legal Design Lab. It almost seemed too good to be true, so I wanted to try and see for myself. After weeks of research, I heard about the Legal Design Summit in Helsinki and registered to the Brainfactory, a 48-hour design sprint just before the summit.

There, I simply felt “home at last“, as I was surrounded by creative, human-centered and action-driven legal professionals, designers, and technologists from around the world.

The whole process — ideating, co-creating, prototyping and quickly testing made it possible to conceptualize and create clear, usable, and engaging legal solutions.

Back at work, I applied the Legal Design approach everywhere I could — from compliance programmes to the privacy policy, terms and conditions, and even commercial agreements. Workshops, co-creation, focus groups: collaboration with users and designers.

And it worked! Clients were looking at me differently, asking for “more” compliance training (who knew?) and redesigned agreements. As to launching my own legal innovation by design agency, frankly, that was a no-brainer. I had seen by myself the results provided by the human-centric practice of law, and I just couldn’t do anything else!

how big a movement is legal design in France?

As far as France is concerned, we observe the following: a growing number of legal design training providers (but still a limited number of agencies actually delivering redesign projects), a growing number of law firms adopting the language and user-centric positioning – nothing specific compared to the rest of the world.

What’s interesting though is that the 2 highest courts in France (Cour de Cassation and Conseil d’Etat) adopted 18 months ago guidelines for judges on how to make their judgements more accessible to, and easier to understand by citizens. Not quite legal design yet, but this is the first step. Further, the national school for judges (“ENM”) came to us to “train the trainers”: we delivered legal design training to judges in charge of continuous education of judges.

are there things that you are doing with legal design that are specific to your jurisdiction?

Again, most of our projects are at least EMEA or Asia-wide, if not global. We work a lot to redesign compliance programmes (AML, international sanctions, anti-corruption…) and clients increasingly come to us to design written submissions before French jurisdictions. Interestingly, law firms with which we collaborate on litigation cases receive it so well they want to learn about it.

In addition, we created a user-testing lab, in collaboration with Mathilde da Rocha, Ph.D. in cognitive science. Indeed, user-centered evaluation is a required activity in human-centered design.

In our lab, we developed a whole range of evaluation methods, based on scientifically recognized standards: from mere readability tests to expert audits and eye-tracking if required. Thus, depending on the needs of each project, we’re able to measure engagement, understanding, memorization, and even behavioral changes.

are there any things about your jurisdiction that make it particularly receptive to legal design?

Legal documents have been suffering from a lack of usability for decades if not centuries and that’s universal!

in summary.

We’re extremely grateful for Marie’s contribution to our mini-exploration of legal design across the globe.

It’s not taken us long to establish that legal design has a key role to play in teasing out the much-needed innovation and change within the legal industry.

Whether that’s actively implementing it to create tangible benefits for end-users, or exploring the many ways in which improvements can be made to our own service and the experience people have when they engage with it.

When asked how Marie’s clients had responded to legal design the testimonials came thick and fast which tells us two things, Amurabi is doing a great job, and their clients are loving the way they do it – through legal design. Marie was also kind enough to share some of their KPI’s with us which we think is hugely valuable and supports the argument that legal design is far more than simply adding colour to law.  These are tangible results that prove legal design can offer significant value to the end-user.

  • Renault have gained 2.5 hours per week per person thanks to our redesigned contractual process
  • ICC Belgium improved the understanding of their compliance advocacy document by 60% further to our redesign project
  • A global pharmaceutical laboratory divided its lead time for NDA’s by 50% further to our redesign

theory vs practical application.

Legal design is clearly on the uptake, but what’s interesting is there appears to be more people training others how to do it than agencies actually delivering re-design projects for clients.  In particular, traditional law firms are more likely to adopt the language and user-centred positioning in their marketing without really delivering on the practical application, which tends to be left to the smaller, boutique ‘agencies’ like us and Amurabi!

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