Visual Law

Law can be made more comprehensible if it is made more visual.

This means illustrating cases — putting the human situations back into the legal opinions — creating flowcharts out of rules — and thinking about how we can convert complicated text into clear, digestible, graphic presentations.

Is A Burrito A Sandwich - razblint

I have also been putting together flow charts for clearer conceptions of legal rules — that are not put forward only as text or outlines, but as visual journeys of decisions. I find them useful for studying & responding to test questions.

Law - can federal agency get my info

Here are some examples of law school flowcharts and illustrations I have been working on:

ODR - Small Claims Mediation Task Flow - three stages Tax Flow Employee Discounts 2013-02-16 (12.38.14-285 AM) Tax Flow Illustrated - Employee gets free services - razblint Razblint - Law School Sketchbook - Torts - FLow Chart - Alcohol and Duty - color

Examples of Visual Law

Legal icons on Noun Project

I am putting more of my visuals up on Noun Project, so anyone can use this visual language for legal issues and things. You can download them for free here on the Noun Project website to use in your projects! The first batch is fairly sketchy — more proper and clean ones coming soon!


One year of legal community design in the Escambia Project

Last week I went to Orlando to participate in a share-out to the Florida Bar Foundation, by the core design team that worked over the past year to conduct a community-driven design process to create new legal services in Pensacola, Florida — and Escambia County. You can read up on the initial design work we


Key legal visual design patterns

As a part of integrating various design workshops and product development into one resource, I have been assembling the Legal Communication Design resource as a part of the Legal Design Lab’s network of sites. I’ve been sketching out core, cross-legal design patterns that regularly test well as ‘good legal design’. Here are 3 of the


Sketching out how visual design can be used by law

I had the pleasure of meeting Aafke Frederik of Studio Pen on a recent trip to the Netherlands, where I was talking about how visual design can be used to improve how lawyers work and connect with audiences. Aafke made some sketchnotes of my talk — very meta! And I include them here: some sketched


Privacy design patterns in Europe and beyond

Hat tip to Helena Haapio for sending these on: Two different websites chronicling ways to protect people’s data privacy online. There is and PrivacyPatterns.EU. Both sites lay out distinct visual and tech strategies to protect people’s privacy from bad actors, or even corporations. Both versions involve a similar group of collaborators. Their goal is


Visual Guide to Serving Process

During my recent Equal Justice Conference presentation alongside the Harvard Access to Justice Lab, I presented a quick practice visual I made, that would guide people through how they could “Serve Process” in Massachusetts for a guardianship case. These are my first drafts, laying out how I might compose and color a worksheet guide for


Visual Design of Self-Help Materials

I took notes at last week’s Equal Justice Conference presentation that I made with the Harvard A2J Lab crew, Erika Rickard, Jim Greiner, and Hallie Jay Pope. These notes capture the presentation that they made, explaining how they decided to take a visual approach to court outreach to litigants facing debt collection. They used visual


Constitute Project lets you search and compare legal texts

Constitute is an interesting new web-app/design that is all about examining the different constitutions. It lets you choose multiple constitutions to compare against each other, and also filter for certain types of terms and functions that you’re concerned with. You can put multiple documents next to each other, and then click on a certain topic


Comic employment contracts for farm workers in South Africa

Hat tip to Helena Haapio for forwarding me this article out of South Africa about comic-book version of contracts that has been created and distributed by a fruit company, for a contract with its farm workers. A lawyer for the company, Clemengold, named Robert de Rooy created a booklet of visuals and narratives to present


Legal Research primer as a coloring book

CALI has published a coloring book authored by three librarians, Elizabeth Gotauco, Nicole Dyszlewski, and Raquel M. Ortiz, that gives an introductory primer on how to do legal research. Along with essential information, it also provides line drawings for the reader to color in. The PDF version of the book is free online, so you


How can we visualize and compare legal policies? Two models from ‘usable privacy policy’ work

One of the student fellows at Legal Design Lab has been encoding a whole range of similar legal policies, tagging up which sections of different institutions’ policy documents belong in the same category. This allows for a more comprehensive analysis of the policies, as well as comparisons across documents. The question is, how to take


Do Lawyers want bad visual design?

I attended a design talk where startup and tech companies’ designers were sharing notes about what they’ve learned about what kinds of visual and interaction design best connect with users. One of the designers mentioned that you have to sometimes throw out the “core principles of good design” for certain audiences. He was talking about


Hack for Justice event – legal design and the criminal justice system

In early May, the Legal Design Lab is co-hosting a one day design sprint, with the California Attorney General’s office. The AG is focused on making it easier for normal people to understand how the criminal justice system works, and also to use the power of data to help researchers, journalists, and the public better


How can we visually represent legal arguments and rules?

During my February trip to Italy to talk about legal technology and improving the usability of courts, one of the points that got raised several times was: “How can we make effective visuals, that let both lay people and legal professionals easily understand: how the legal system and its procedures work how competing legal arguments


Visual design and access to Justice technology at the ABA Tech Show

Last week I presented at two different panels last week I presented at 2 different panels at the ABA TechShow in Chicago. It was a great chance to meet more lawyers and thought leaders around the future of the legal profession in the US. The first panel I presented that was called Graphic design 101


Making sense of the legal system by drawing it (e.g., Turkish internet laws)

I found some old sketchbooks of mine, that I had on my internship desk between my 1L and 2L summer. I was working at a law firm in Istanbul, trying to understand the intricacies of Internet and free speech laws and all the competing interests in Turkey of 2011 (it has only gotten more complicated


Law For Me visual legal explainers

I had written earlier on this site about Kanan Dhru’s excellent visual law project LawForMe in India, to democratize legal knowledge and education through straightforward, delightful visuals about the law. The LawForMe site is live and full of great visuals. Here is a peek: combining short text explanations, comically-tinged scenarios about legal problems, and colorful,


Sealing Your Juvenile Record: 3 legal infographics

For Expunge Design Day this past weekend, when we led a participatory design session on what better expungement/sealing-record procedures & tools would be, I created these 3 infographics. They were to help me learn the basics of the (COMPLICATED!) California law, and to convey it to the young people, designers, and developers working at the


Trace My Shadow behavior visualizer

Trace My Shadow is an interactive tool from the Tactical Technology Collective that allows a person to see for themselves, in lively ways, what kind of digital traces they are leaving behind as they browse online. It’s an interesting model for helping people have transparency into their own situation, and how they might want to


How to create a legal visual

So many of my design projects are all coming back to the power of visuals to engage people on legal topics & to convey information effectively. Even if it seems that product and service design could be solutions for different challenges, the communication design track (making better visuals and texts) turns out to be the


Swimlane visual of Trademark policy

Here is a legal visual that I had started to create a few years ago during a Legal Design Jam for Wikimedia’s trademark policy. Here I’ve made it more generic — the point isn’t to capture specific policy points in this visual, but rather to draft what a one-page, usable guide of a policy might


Data Visualization of Securities Litigation

Inside Stanford Law School, the Stanford Securities Litigation Analytics project is gathering all kinds of data about securities litigation & then making it visual, interactive, and usable to lawyers and companies. It takes a data-driven approach to how we assess the prospects of a case & what kinds of choices and changes a lawyer or


Legal Visuals in the Courtroom

Yesterday I had the privilege to visit the courtroom of the Honorable Shawna Schwarz in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County. I was there to discuss with a small group about a possible pilot of a Court Messaging Project in some family court hearings. While I was in Judge Schwarz’s chambers, I noticed some


Code Explorer visual tool

Professor Harry Surden of Univ. of Colorado Law School has published a beta version of a visual Code Explorer tool, to unpack & explore the laws on the books. Instead of paging through or scrolling through legal text — you can open up the tree of sections & sub-sections and see the text on the


Legal Mapping

As I’ve been reflecting on different patterns and models of Access projects, I’ve realized that we should be investing in a massive Legal Pathways Mapping project. We should be creating consistent (and hopefully also smart, interactive, encoded) maps of all the legal procedures that are amenable to be mapped. The output would be usable, procedural,


Why don’t smart people care about online privacy?

When I was in law school, one of the projects that got me into design & tech-based work was the challenge of “How to make online tracking and privacy threats more transparent to Internet users?” This big question was part of a Harvard-Stanford law school class, on ‘Big Challenges of the Internet’ — in which


Can we standardize Legal Warning icons?

Inspired by the Mozilla/Aza Raskin’s Privacy Icons project, I’ve been thinking about how we can improve how we communicate legal warnings online. Particularly, I’m thinking of those standard disclaimers & limitations of warranties that legal professionals attach to their websites & their emails. If these consumer-facing warnings are used everywhere, it’s worth thinking of how


Graphic Justice: on visual stories & the law

Graphic Justice is a UK-based blog and network of academics who are interested in storytelling, visuals and the law. The posts on the group’s site focus mainly on how comic books & graphic narratives explore themes of law & justice.  It is less about using visual storytelling to communicate exact legal procedures, rights, or advice.


Legal Design Essential: how to lay out text in better ways

A quick visual guide I made for very low-barrier, easy ways to make your text communications more usable to average readers. This applies to both hard-copy print-outs, and digital text.


Lawtoons comics for Indian constitutional law

In December, I had the pleasure of meeting Kanan Dhru when she visited the on her trip to the US.  I had written about her project Lawtoons when it was in the funding stage earlier this year — she was crowdfunding her plan to make visual stories to explain Indian law to young people.


LegalDesign.It group for people working on visual law

I’ve been talking with some of my colleagues about how to set up some more deliberate & collaborative groups who are working on human-centered design & law.  Part of the problem with the ‘Access to Justice’ movement is how dispersed our work & research is. There have been some groups that have cropped up recently,


Law in Comics & Graphic Novels

Here’s an entire special edition of the journal Law Text Culture devoted to Justice Framed: Law in Comics & Graphic Novels.  I’ve linked to an introduction to the volume by Luis Gomez and Ian Dahlman.  It explores how law is integrated into visual narratives. Thanks to Kristina Brousalis for pointing me toward it. Here are


Isobel William’s UK Supreme Court drawings

Isobel Williams is an artist in the UK who on her site Drawing from an uncomfortable position keeps a collection of gorgeous drawings from the UK Supreme Court. She has the court’s permission to be a drawing-blogger in the Court. Where cameras can’t go, she goes — drawing documentations of cases and culture in the


Law on Display: visuals & legal persuasion

Law professors Neal Feigenson and Christina Spiesel published the book Law on Display in 2011. They make the argument that visuals are becoming increasingly powerful in legal courtrooms: to frame issues, to persuade jurors, to convey scientific evidence with greater force, and to change how advocates represent clients. Aside from the book, they also maintain


Law Comics: Bound By Law: the “Understanding Comics” of copyright

Here’s another example of visual explanations of law.  Here it is the 2008 book Bound by Law?: Tales from the Public Domain, with Intellectual Property Law visualized in comic book format, from Duke University Press, authored by Keith Aioki, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins.  You can buy it here on Amazon. via Bound By Law: the


Legal Futures infographic for the Canadian Bar Association

Here is a visual I made for the Canadian Bar Association, to illustrate the main takeaways of their new Legal Futures report. And then a version in French as well. It was great to have a small part in the report — it’s full of great insights about the near-future for the legal market &


Law Comics: Alice in Patentland

Law Comics is a Tumblr blog that features a handful of illustrated explainers of law — to start with, patents. These first comics are authored by Julia Powles & illustrated by Ilias Kyriazis. Their description of the general project: Law Comics is a project steered by non-boring lawyers to render iconic legal cases in full-colour


Parking Sign Design

I was excited to see a concept design for a Parking Sign featured in Wired Magazine– that would communicate a legal warning/penalty quite clearly to the people who are living under the regulation. It links back into the class Get Smart, on good legal communication design, that I taught this past Spring at Stanford.


Lawtoons & Visualizing Rights in India

Kanan Dhru of the Research Foundation for Governance: in India (RFGI) think tank reached out to me, sharing her Lawtoons project — as well as a more general initiative to bring legal innovation into Indian legal education & court rooms. Lawtoons is currently being crowdfunded, to create visualizations of law for young people.  It is


Graphic Legal Intake form

Here’s a visual for non-lawyers to enter information for a professional to later use in their legal case, and also to understand if they are eligible for DACA. It is a product of the North Carolina Immigrant Rights Project.


Complex Visual Design tools

Here is a handout I made for my communication design students, about different visual structures they can use to communicate complex information. I made it particularly for lawyers, as part of my legal design toolbox.


The Good Notice Project: complex legal information design

For the Get Smart class I’m teaching at Stanford, about information design for legal & financial notices, I’ve put together The Good Notice Project. I’m collecting examples of how notice is given — whether through signs, text, or more visceral experiences. The site’s collection of examples will be useful to the students in the


Visual Law Library

Through the Program for Legal Tech & Design, I’ve launched a new project — The Visual Law Library. We started populating the site with drawings, charts, cartoons, graphs, timelines, videos, and other media that can make specific parts of the law easier to understand. Our goal is to build a usable & beautiful collection of


Legal Claim Maps

At the request of my sister, I have been tinkering with simple diagram templates for law students, lawyers & clerks to structure their legal analysis, and anchor a writing they have to make, evaluating parties claims in light of the law. My first go is a Legal Claim Map — just a simple table template. 


Legal Visual Mnemonics: Breaches of Contracts

This is a new concept I’m playing around with, in the area of Legal Visualizations: Legal Visual Mnemonics. I see all these memorization tools for legal rules with concepts converted into letters, then packaged into words, and finally packaged up into memorable phrases. What if an image could be part of this packaging of the


Immigration Storyline Infographics

For part of the DREAMer Hackathon the past 2 days in Mountain View, I started prototyping some uber-simple infograhpics of (often crazy) immigration narratives. I wanted to show the amount of time waiting, the amount of time in limbo, and the failpoints. Even if you come in legally, happily, optimistically, you can end up


Legal Design Jam: a sketchnote

This originally went up at the Stanford’s Whiteboard site, now reposted here: If you are interested in hosting your own Legal Design Jam — getting people together to work on how to redesign the look and interactions of a legal document — reach out to Stefania at stefania.passera (at)


Bar Study Visuals

Brendan Conley alerted me to a small library of visuals he has built up since he studied for the Bar a few years ago. He has made flowcharts & diagrams to help other students get to the heart of the Bar exam topics more quickly & visually. For example, here is one diagram he made


Legal Design Jam, Part 2

We’ve had OVERWHELMING response to our Legal Design Jam outreach for next Friday at Stanford’s So we are adding on a Day 2, on October 12th, from 12-6pm — this time up in San Francisco at The Embassy Network. RSVP here, it’s open to all kinds of people interested in building better, more visual


Tech Tips for Legals

Here’s a short, unnarrated overview of legal tech tools from Legal Services NTAP that lawyers & others could use to organize their projects, do better research, work on the road, take notes, use visuals, create media, analyze data, and use all the tech they already have in better ways. 50 Tech Tips 2013 EJC from


Drawn Flowchart: State Law in Conflict

Another legal flowchart/mindmap — this time for situations when states have made laws that are in conflict with other laws. I sketched it out while studying for the Bar. Have fun!


Legal Design Jam at Stanford

Will you be in the Bay Area on Friday October 11th? Do you want to come redesign a legal document — make it lively, graphic, & visual? Apply to join our Legal Design Jam at Stanford’s design school! The formal invitation is here, a PDF you are welcome to redistribute. And apply here with this


Legal Visual: Defenses

I drew this while studying for the Bar, to help remember possible defenses. Hope it can help you too!


More Good Tax Form Design

It seems lots of User Experience & Information designers have tried to tackle tax forms.  These are all hypothetical versions (it seems the IRS is massively against any new updates).  They are inspiring in how they simplify complexities and simply look more beautiful. Considering all of these examples, I would love to see a ‘Skins’


Redesigning a 1040

In 2004, Karen Schriver, a designer and professor, took on a Milwaukee journalist’s challenge to make the 1040 IRS tax form more user-friendly.  She tackled the redesign with information design principles, using composition and visual tools, to guide the user through.  Unfortunately, the link to her redesign is broken — but her writing about the


The Challenge of Good Legal Information Design

I’ve been tunnel-vision studying for the California Bar, and in the process, I’ve been trying to hunt down graphics & visuals that will give me a break from text-madness of Bar Prep. I have chanced across one-pagers like this on California Community Property. This is a one-page headache.  Or heart attack? This is what is


What does good notice look like?

I am collecting examples of how Notice is given to people in public, to comply with legal requirements to provide them warnings, information, and notification that something is happening to them.


Evidence Law Flowchart: Admissible?

As requested by a visitor, another evidence flowchart — this time a more general Checklist as a Flowchart.


Typography for Lawyers

I’ve been enjoying the site Typography for Lawyers from Matthew Butterick. He makes some effective arguments as to why Typography is more than just font choice — why it is a design choice that will affect how a lawyer’s audience will react to the text itself. Why does typography matter? Typog­ra­phy mat­ters because it helps


Good Design of Privacy Notices

I dug up a report that the FTC had published a few years back on how they have evolved good information design for financial institutions to give privacy & legal notices to their lay customers. The document is a rich set of patterns, examples, and procedural insights into how to design legal (and law-relevant, rights-relevant)


Legal Jacket concept

A quick sketch of a concept for wearable law… Of course fictional now, but only slightly tongue-in-cheek…


Lexpert & Visual Law

I got a note from Helena Haapio in Finland today — there is a group of legal professionals & others active with the organization Lexpert who are working to innovate on preventative and visual law. They are design-oriented & creative, trying to make law communicated more accessibly. Annika Varjonen provides the text below, and lively


Evidence Flowchart: Hearsay?

Another flowchart that I made for my Evidence final last week, and just colored in…


Law Flowcharts (Hearsay Exceptions)

Prints of this drawing available here for purchase! I am playing with different ways to study for my Finals. I decided to try out flowcharts. My hypothesis: the act of putting together a flowchart is itself one of the best ways to learn an area of law. Especially with a rule-based doctrinal class like Evidence,


Ravel Law, visual legal research

Ravel Law (above, presenting at Reinvent Law in Silicon Valley last Friday) is a start-up that grew out of Stanford Law, that is building visual tools for legal research. Cases’ importance to an issue would make them larger or smaller, cites would be visual links, relationships would be color coded. Another great visual possibility would


Immigration Law Comics

The Immigration Legal Resource Center in San Francisco provides comic book explanations of common immigration scams and how to avoid them.


some Intellectual Property Basics, Terry Fisher at ILaw

some Intellectual Property Basics, Terry Fisher at ILaw


You Choose your ads on Unthink social network

A new social network has come out of Florida, with mom Natasha Dedis at its helm, to let users choose what ads are shown on their network, and to keep their information from being sold by the network to advertisers. From Andrew Couts at Digital Media: Unthink attempts to tackle the exploitation problem in a


How to build privacy into a social network

Arvind Narayanan used the example of LiveJournal to scout out some features which could be built into social networks to allow greater control over sharing and privacy. First: Everyone But X. “This is an example of a whole class of access control primitives that make no sense from the traditional computer science security perspective. If


Privacy Policy By Interface Design

How could a privacy policy not be a privacy policy (a legalistic document stored away at a siloed URL on a website) — but be woven into the user experience of a the site? Are there ways that interface design can do the work of the privacy policy — giving users a sense of what


Legal Flowchart: Understand Immigration!

  A very instructive & fun cartoon flow chart on illegal immigration.  More legal information design, for clarity & playfulness!  From Terry Colon, published in Reason Magazine.


Visualizing California Government

California Common Sense is a new Palo Alto-based non-profit that is trying to gather together all of the data about the state’s government, and then process it into visualizations that are clear, interactive & revealing.  The basic mission: make the government more transparent, starting with California

Know of any other good visuals?
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