Design Thinking & Law: A Perfect Match

Messy Law to Straight Law

My article on the potential for Design Thinking & Law is now published over at the ABA’s Law Practice Today, Innovation Issue.

Here is the start, head on over to Law Practice Today to read in full!

When we talk about innovation and law, it’s easy to fall into a couple of fallacies. One is to assume we know who the audience for innovations are.  We may make broad assumptions about who lawyers are, what their needs are, and what they want to use—based on our assumptions, rather than grounded facts and insights.

Another fallacy is perceiving technology as a savior, the magic wand to solve all problems. More apps, more algorithms, more software—it would be easy to think that these will rejuvenate how lawyers practice & how they serve their clients.

This is where design—and design thinking—hold great promise for aspiring legal innovators.  Design provides the mindsets and methods that lead to greater understanding of who we are innovating for, and what (technological or not) we should be using to innovate.  Design offers reliable, explicit ways to identify areas for developing products, services and organizations, and to implement new ways of doing things.

Design should be of particular interest to two types of legal practitioners.

First, those with ideas for how to do things better—whether how to better manage information or deliver services, or for a new legal startup.

Second, those who want to invigorate their practice, with more creativity, new ways of solving problems, and an eye to improved experiences for attorneys and clients.  Design offers lawyers a new perspective on how to work, and how to develop lasting relationships with clients.


I have been following and I am excited at this line of thinking – I have practiced now for 30 years and have always been disappointed in the degree of creativity in our profession – recently I changed my thinking and have tried to use that as an opportunity, it seem to be working (if for nothing but my own outlook!).

I just saw a comment in an art gallery that “creativity requires the freedom to make mistakes” – I realized that seems to encapsulate a significant problem – we lawyers (realistically or not) feel we can make no mistakes, and any will result in ridicule, alienation, and/or malpractice – I think that needs reconciled as a part of the discussion.

Yes — how the legal profession is regulated, and its unspoken culture all seem stacked against experimentation & creativity. But if we think about small-scale experimentation, like in how we practice & how we communicate with clients, we can start here. At the same time, though, we also need to be thinking at the high level, about how the regulations need to be changed to allow for more innovation.
Thanks for writing!

thank you for your time and energy on this – and for supportive comments – those are exactly what I have dramatically changed (formerly a managing partner of a large firm, now solo with an entirely new approach) – I really think the world may force these changes, less toleration of the profession’s traditional approaches – I’m on board!