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 flowcharts around — and upon further conversation, it turns out she makes all kinds of legal flowcharts, diagrams, and infographics. She uses a mix of tools — Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, etc. — and does them both for herself & other judges, as well as for lay people and attorneys who are trying to figure court procedure out for the first time.

legal visuals - juvenile dependency

One of them (this map of the Juvenile Dependency Court Process) is blown up big on the wall in some California courts — so that anyone in the court can figure out what to expect and where they are in this very complicated process.

legal visual - marital presumption of paternity

All of this gets me to thinking:

  1. How can I get Judge Schwarz’s legal visuals out to the masses — and to other judges for them to use?
  2. How can we support people like Judge Schwarz to really easily create great visuals both of the process of court matters — and also of what is going on in the court room (like her info graphics do?)

On point number one, I’m thinking of how to create a Visual Law Best Practices. It could be

  • a pattern library (like my Visual Law Library) — collecting together good examples of legal visuals and hopping people will find them
  • an online course that sets some clear instructions & standards of how to do this — how to create legal process maps, flowcharts, and info graphics
  • awards that recognize great efforts to make the court more usable
  • workshops at different court & legal-aid conferences that teach people how to make these

On point number two, there are a few different ideas:

  • Legal Visuals Authoring Tools: very intuitive software that helps non-designers create well-designed process maps, flowcharts, and info graphics (particularly in the world of law)
  • Interactive Legal Visuals Authoring Tool: help the expert create these visuals to be interactive experiences — not just static visuals — so they are clickable, expandable, playable, and staged
  • Pro Bono Design Network: have expert graphic, web, interaction & communication designers do one-off collaborations with court & legal aid leaders (like Judge Schwarz) to train them in specific tools, workshop specific communication challenges, and revise/improve their current legal visuals

Any thoughts on these ideas? Please let me know! I’m starting to work on this cluster of ideas at the end (the authoring tools & design network) — so especially if you have any ideas for me on these, send them along.

Here are some more of Judge Schwarz’s visuals:

IMG_20150427_154123.220 IMG_20150427_154133.269 IMG_20150427_154104.465 IMG_20150427_154112.335 IMG_20150427_154028.427 IMG_20150427_154015.878 IMG_20150427_154040.103 IMG_20150427_154049.911