Ideabook Procedural Guide Training and Info

“Magic” cards: essential info on a business card

Can we boil down all of the most essential things to know for a legal issue onto a business card?

We can list out What Not To Do, What to Say, What to Do, What to Expect. We could perhaps even diagram the procedure to expect.

The goal would be to give people a prep card that they can always have with them if they know a legal issue (like discrimination, arrest, family law problem, or something else) might crop up.

Or it could be for someone who is going through a legal process, and they need some help to remember where they are and what’s happening.

Ideabook Procedural Guide

Starter Kit packets for legal processes

At Self Help Centers, we observed that people got a lot of paper, but didn’t know exactly what to do with all of them.

The idea of a Resource Guide is that there would be a streamlined collection of resources, with forms, to-do lists, timelines, and maps. It would be akin to what new moms get from the hospital as they leave after giving birth. It would have everything organized, so the person feels confident that they have everything they need.

Ideabook Procedural Guide

Giant Visual Storyboards in legal buildings (and elsewhere)

Our proposal is for courts to make huge posters to display on the walls, that lay out the steps of a legal process. They can be replicated on handouts and brochures.

These giant maps would show an illustrated way that a person would get through the individual tasks. They could also show the back-and-forth between a person, their advocate, and the court.

They would address the need we saw, that people can’t get a clear bird’s eye view of how the system works and what to expect from the process. The map could help them contextualize the journey they are on, and to see what to plan for.

Ideabook Procedural Guide

Customizable Process Map


What is it?

Have a standardized paper map of the steps in a legal process laid out, with tasks, hand-offs, and roles.

This map can then be marked-up and customized by the user and by lawyers and court staff, to help them understand the process in terms of their own situation.

Ideally, it would be visual — with icons and illustrations of the steps.

How could it be implemented?

A design team maps out the basic, standard process for a given Legal Issue area (e.g., child custody, divorce, etc).

They vet it with court experts.

Then they print these one page maps out, ensuring there is generous white space on the page for annotations.

If there are common note-taking-points, these can be designated on the map with a box or question bubble.

It would likely take 2 months and under $500 to implement.

Ideabook Procedural Guide

Story-examples to show human process

What if courts documented real-life stories of people who went through various processes, and how they did so. This could be through pictures and words, or through interactive media or videos. It would give the user a sense of how others have used the process, what background they came from, and what they achieved.

This idea is partly inspired by testimonials that come along with exercise programs or diets. Or, like the following images, a booklet describing different birth control methods, and describing how different women chose different ones, why, and how they went about it.

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Current Projects Procedural Guide

Mobile legal help apps

Mobile legal help apps are becoming increasingly common. In these apps, often developed as standalone applications for Android or iOS systems, the user gets a wide range of legal help information specifically geared for self-represented litigants all on their phone.

The advantage of these apps is that once they’re downloaded you don’t need a web connection to access the materials. Also, they become a more reliable companion for those people who are going through a legal process, rather than a website that you need to re-find and re-navigate, the app is a more permanent and friendly way to access the information.

An app can help you bookmark materials, supply you with the right contact and location information about where to get to where you want to go, and potentially let you scan and save materials for your own case.

The mobile app is more specifically designed to be a companion for a self-represented litigant, as compared to a website that is a static source of information.

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Some examples of mobile self-help apps are one from Illinois, the Illinois Legal Aid App.


Access Innovations - mobile self help - illinois legal aid online app - Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 7.50.11 PM

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Pine Tree Legal Assistance and its partner, Illinois Legal Aid Online, developed some of the first mobile apps in legal services. Illinois Legal Aid Online launched the Illinois Legal Aid app and the Illinois Pro Bono app, and PTLA launched the Legal Aid News App, available on Android and Apple iOS. PTLA also developed mobile web applications as part of TIG 10015 — the Legal Aid Finder App and the HelpMELaw app for Maine specific legal information are viewable across smartphone platforms, available on Android and as web apps.

The Illinois Legal Aid app is designed for lower-income residents who need legal assistance and offers plain- language legal information and Illinois-specific referrals to courthouse legal self-help centers and legal aid agencies.

The Pro Bono app provides legal professionals with a volunteer opportunity search tool, a calendar of upcoming legal events, including [CLEs], and comprehensive legal resource guides in the most common areas of pro bono practice. Prior to TIG 10015, PTLA piloted the development of its mobile web statewide website and created a national guide on website development (TIG 08005).

The Final Report from LSC-TIG: TIG 10015: PTLA-Illinois Mobile Project

Maryland also has a Self-Help legal app from the courts. It is available on Android, on Google Play.

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The Maryland Law Help app brings together tools and resources developed by the Maryland Judiciary and others to help Marylanders use the courts or find legal help. Lean about Maryland law, find a lawyer or mediator, watch videos on how to use the courts, and even call or chat with an attorney at the Self-Help Center.

In this app you can find:

Find a Court, Find a Lawyer, Find a Form, Find a Law Library, Court Help, People’s Law Library, Self-Help Center, Videos, Tip Sheets, Mediation, Maryland Laws, Law Help Chat, Law Help Call, Interpreter, Special Needs, About Us

Current Projects Procedural Guide

Rechtwijzer guide through a legal process

Access Innovation inventory - Rechwijzer - Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 4.01.04 PMRechtwijzer is a Dutch platform to help laypeople through the start of a legal process — from problem to legal process.

Probleem of conflict? Vul stap voor stap Rechtwijzer in. U krijgt advies over wat u in uw situatie kunt doen en wie u daarbij kunnen helpen.

It takes an ‘expert system’ approach to helping a person figure out what legal options they have open to them, by leading them through a series of questions and helping them get started on their legal process.

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Ideabook Procedural Guide

One-Page Self-Help worksheets

I have been sketching out some possible templates for what a good one-pager worksheet would be, to guide a lay person through a legal process. The he one-pager has limits, so instead of thinking about it as a total ‘process guide’, I’m thinking of it more as an ‘orientation tool’ that gives the person their bearings in a legal area, with some key terminology, major red flags and warnings, and an overview of what to be doing.

As for composition, my thoughts have been to prioritize white space (not try to cram information on), use icons & faces as accents & markers on the page, and show priority through font size & spaces.

The header is also key — I’m thinking that along with the title of the procedure, the header can also give a ranking about how difficult the procedure will be. This could be a way to encourage the user not to do too much on their own, and seek out expert help while going through it.



Ideabook Procedural Guide

Interactive Legal Maps

Open Law Lab - Visual Law - Interactive Legal Maps

I’ve been prototyping various means to deliver & build legal knowledge — with a specific consideration of bolstering Access to Justice. One pathway, of course, is Visualized Law.

I’ve been playing with it with cartoons and illustrations, and in other forms (hyperlinked, layered checklists — visual expert systems).

One promising prototype is the Visual Mind Map, that is hyperlinked & lively with images, videos, & other cues that can guide the user through. The promise of such a map is that it lets the user locate themselves in a specific cluster of resources within a broader field of information. They can see the broad scope of the area they are in, while still focusing in on what precise information they need to retrieve & actions they need to pursue.

What would such an interactive legal mind map look like in practice? See this embedded Popplet for a first generation play with this format. I’ve used Popplets a lot for my own brainstorming, paper-writing, research, and collaborations with teams. I know there is great potential in scoping out a version of such a mind-mapping specifically for legal resources.

I see a future mash-up of interactive mind map diagrams with a curated, semi-open wiki format. I would love all the legal knowledge and advice out there on a specific legal problem to be extracted out of forums, pamphlets, q-and-as, blog posts, news articles, and other random clips of text around the web — and diagrammed out clearly & visually (if not beautifully too).

I can understand legal topics better when they are composed on the page in a meaningful way, and my guess is that most people with legal problems who are searching around the Internet would also benefit from a Legal Map to ground them & guide them. No more blocks of text!

Another kind of navigator, that shows you how to get from point A to point B, from problem to resolution — this one came out of our immigration hackathon.

Legal Design Projects - title cards-12 - interactive legal map

Ideabook Procedural Guide

Smart checklist and timeline guides

Legal Design Projects - title cards-11 - smart checklist and timelien
An idea to help lay people go through legal processes by giving them interactive and customized guides to going through them step by step.

It is a website that gives a serialized set of prompts and information. We have made a first version of this as Navocado.