6 Reasons Why Legal Design Should Matter to In-house Counsel

By Legal Adjacency staff. 09.23.20

In-house lawyers have a lot on their plates — their giant, constantly moving plate is often piled high with questions preferably answered yesterday and responsibilities spanning across every disparate corner of a business. With that, it’s easy to push off things you consider to be simply “nice-to-haves” because there are more pertinent issues. You may have heard about legal design; you may think it is a nifty little trend, or you may even think it is something you like, but “now is not the time.”

If you feel you do not have the time to make sweeping systematic changes, if you feel overwhelmed with too many significant problems to tackle, it is precisely the time to learn why legal design is essential.

Legal design is more than just a shiny new buzzword. Human-centric and empathetic structures are not just about being nice and making people happy—legal design can lead to real, meaningful business progress. Here are 6 advantages in-house legal departments reap through legal design processes.

1. Efficiency saves you time

In-house lawyers deliver practical legal advice that the business can implement into daily operations. Built into this is the responsibility to translate your legal expertise into understandable objectives. Companies run on efficiency, and a significant source of inefficiency can often exist between a business and in-house counsel. If there is a gap between your understanding of the law and your internal client’s understanding of what they need to do according to that, you waste a lot of time and energy wrestling with follow-up questions and confusion.

Taking a user-centric approach to your work with legal design is not only to help others understand your job easier; it directly enables you to save time and do more with less difficulty.

2. Organization keeps your many responsibilities under control

In-house legal work differs from some other attorney jobs because you have jurisdiction across a large spectrum of legal subjects. As in-house counsel you are a generalist, and that poses a unique volume challenge that requires an especially strong process.

Legal design allows you to redefine a work process that considers all the people that need to be involved, their needs, and the tools to streamline the process. Reorganizing the scale of your different responsibilities to individualize how you approach them allows task completion to be speedier and less overwhelming.

3. Improve the entire business as you improve the legal team

An in-house legal team is one part of an ecosystem that is a business. Legal design, because it is concerned about how users respond, connects every aspect of the business, and helps address all problems in relation to each other. A legal issue can be considered along with the needs, expectations, and frustrations of other teams. In solving one legal problem, you can also provide a collaborative solution that moves the whole business forward. Sometimes, your legal department’s change may not be as effective if another department does not make a tangential change, or your seemingly beneficial change hinders another department’s workflow.

In-house counsel cannot only consider legal issues in a bubble secluded from the rest of the business, and legal design is purposely tailored to examine the big picture.

4. Innovate through collaboration

Collaboration and teamwork are not just factors of a “friendly working environment.” Any business needs strong collaboration between people, especially in the 21st-century when technology can replace work that does not require people to do; drudgery that does not need human interaction is what technology is built for.

Humans, though, with empathy and collaboration, can produce strategic solutions and novel improvements. Legal design fits the jigsaw of ideas together to drive shared goals for the business. Using legal design can orient your legal counsel team to a more strategic role within the business, which benefits future business developments and efficiency overall.

5. Revamp legal documents to get the business properly engaged

The greatest best-practice guidelines and policies you come up with are useless if stakeholders are not inclined to engage with them. Legal content needs to be client-friendly, and with in-house counsel, which means it needs to fit in with the everyday realities of a business. You are not working solely with other lawyers who have gone through the legal writing curriculum of law school and know how to interpret ab initio and indemnity. Legal design enables you to create legal documents legally secure and user-friendly – in other words, effective.

Privacy policies, compliance programs, contracts, influencer agreements, memos – everything that is meant for someone else to read, sign, or follow – can benefit from being looked at through a legal design perspective. What aspects of contractual language are frustrating and confusing that you can change? How can you make a privacy policy that consumers could engage with and comprehend rather than just agreeing to blindly?

6. Modernize to keep up with evolving policies

Businesses exist in a realm of laws prone to change, mainly if you work in a company involving technology, data, and privacy. Legal design is a reaction to changes in consumer demand and policy priorities.

For example, Article 12.1 of the GDPR requires consent-related information to be easily understandable in a “clear, concise way” to non-lawyers; following legal design increases your legal safety on top of all the internal benefits it brings to the business and your team.

The legal profession is traditionally slow to change—legal design is not revolutionary, with the legal field-leading as an example to others; it is a reaction to the design thinking many other professions are embracing. Especially being internal counsel, you do legal work in a fast-paced, constantly adapting world.

Legal work needs to be modernized to keep up with business demands.