Ideabook Procedural Guide

Legal navigator concept sketches

Legal Navigator Images

One of the projects on my front-burner is getting a great legal navigator built, that takes a person step-by-detailed-step through a legal process. Here are some of the sketches from my notebooks on how I hope to actually lay these out on a webpage and/or printed page. Composition has turned out to be a fun but non-linear design challenge. How to lay out lots of complicated steps thoroughly, but without overwhelming the user? You can see some of my rough initial thoughts here in my sketches.

Process Guide - Triage and then guide - Design Process - Legal Navigators

Ideabook Procedural Guide

Court Companion app

Legal Design Ideas - stay on track with reminder
Could we have a tech-based companion for people going through a court process? It could have timing advice, location directions, and other support to make sure the person is prepared for their day in court.

The value of this design would be to coordinate all the resources into a single place — the app. It would assemble and time out the information, and remind people of it.

Current Projects Procedural Guide

The National Expungement Project: a web app for crim law procedure

National Expungment Project - ExpungeMaryland - crim justice app - Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 1.56.33 PM
The National Expungement Project. is a Maryland-based effort to guide people with a criminal record through an eligibility check (can I expunge my record) and then direct them to how they can follow through on this procedure (where can I find good — and maybe even free — legal help?). Right now, there is a Beta version of a Maryland-based version ( and there are plans for more states’ versions.

National Expungment Project - ExpungeMaryland - crim justice app - Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 1.58.15 PM

The project is run by two JD/technologists based in Baltimore — Jon Tippens & Jason Tashea. Their vision:

In search of a better way, we created for a local non-profit. It’s a web app that connects people who need an expungement with volunteer lawyers.

Since creating ExpungeMaryland, bar associations, legal service providers, and even a state supreme court have asked us about using tech to improve access to expungement in their states. Our experience building ExpungeMaryland and other projects makes us adept at scaling this project nationally.

Our vision is to bring expungement apps to 25 states by partnering with local stakeholders. This will capture 80 percent of the U.S. population, and 75 percent of its annual arrests. We will also make the code available to any other states interested in replicating the project.

Here are the interface flows —

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Ideabook Procedural Guide

Google Maps for Law: Interactive, Personal Process Map

Legal Design Ideabook - google maps for law
Could we build an interactive & responsive map, that would show a person the steps and path of a legal process — and then document where they are on it?

This would be a personal, living map for the person to follow. It could be formatted like a roadmap, a flowchart, or a decision tree.

Legal Design Projects - title cards-12 - interactive legal map User Flow - Legal Navigator Maps - Concept Design of a user experience flow Legal Navigator Maps - our initial idea

Current Projects Procedural Guide

Court Hearing SMS Reminder systems in Qatar and Australia

Two years ago, there started some talk about US courts using SMS and other phone-based communication to issue reminders for court hearings to people. It seems several other countries have already launched such pilots.

Court Hearing SMS - Qatar

The Qatari government’s Supreme Judiciary Council has one such program live, at Court Hearing SMS Reminder – Hukoomi – Qatar E-government. Any litigant can register online & in three steps, the Court will let them “receive text message reminders on selected court hearing dates and times.”

The steps the citizen needs to follow:

  1. Sign Up Online
  2. Enter ID number
  3. Enter mobile phone number
  4. Click the registration button

Qatar’s SMS reminder service is free and apparently beyond just a pilot stage.

Court Hearing SMS - Australia

Australia also has an SMS Reminder system, in Pilot phase. The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria runs the pilot in the Criminal Diversion Program. There is no way to register for the system online — like Qatar allows.  The Australian Court provides these details on its pilot:

In order to increase compliance with Criminal Diversion Plans, an SMS Reminder Pilot has been established statewide and administered from the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court. Offenders who have not finalised their Criminal Diversion Plans within a month or a week of their stated completion date, will receive reminders via SMS to do so.

The aim of the pilot is to increase compliance of offenders, reduce paper usage by the court, and in doing so, reduce the cost of administering the Criminal Diversion Program. The SMS Reminder Pilot commenced on Monday 2 July 2012 and has so far indicated a strong early result with respect to the aims of the pilot.

For more information, please contact your local Criminal Diversion Coordinator, available at all headquarter Magistrates’ Courts within Victoria.

Another court in Australia, the Adelaide Magistrates Court, also is issuing phone-based reminders to offenders and accused in criminal proceedings. Tessa Akerman in The Advertiser wrote an interview with one of the judges involved.

ACCUSED criminals can expect text messages reminding them to appear in court, as the state’s magistrates courts embrace the use of technology.

Judge Elizabeth Bolton, the state’s Chief Magistrate, told The Advertiser that people needed to realise the world had changed and we needed to “make the most of, within our resources, using those technological solutions”.

“We’ve still got some things in the pipeline from the process redesign project we did a year or two ago. I’m hopeful we will get around to the SMS project that might help people who, as many do, forget or don’t read their papers correctly, whatever it is, just as a reminder as you do from your hairdresser, your dentist,” she said.

But it would have to wait “a little bit” because computer resources were needed to complete the fines transition process, due to start in February.

Judge Bolton said shrinking budgets and changing needs were behind the court’s increasing take-up of technology.

“I think it’s incumbent on all of us to realise we are living in an age where there is much more technological facility than previously and if people habitually put all their stuff in their mobile phone rather than … write it on a piece of paper or have a calendar … then we just have to realise that’s how their minds operate.”


Current Projects Procedural Guide

Visualizing Immigration Journeys


I’ve just posted a project summary up for my team’s work at the DREAMer Hackathon at the Program for Legal Tech & Design’s site. Come over & read about what we built, see our demo, and read about our future plans. And I uploaded my entire photo log of the event, from Day 1 dinner to Day 3 demos. Here’s a clip:

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This past week, I was invited to serve as a Design Mentor for the Fwd.Us DREAMer Hackathon. The event featured a group of 20-some immigrants, most of them without documentation, leading up small teams of designers & coders. Each team was tasked with coming up with an idea to help immigrants, or the immigration reform movement. We would work for 2 days at the LinkedIn headquarters in Mountain View to come up with a working demo of our idea.

I was mentor to team NoblePaths.

Fwd_us DreamerHack 2013-11-21 16.44.30

Our goal was to create a visualization app that would empower immigrants to tell their personal story in a share-able, if not viral way. The point was to make the complicated (if not, outright broken) immigration system visible, and in human terms rather than in cold, formal, legalistic ways.

Current Projects Procedural Guide

CUPS visual guides to public services

I’ve been searching around for good information & graphic design, to communicate laws to average people. I stumbled across some amazing booklets & posters from the Center for Urban Pedagogy, or CUP.

Open Law Lab - CUPS - Making Policy Public

One of their missions is to make law & policy comprehensible to normal New Yorkers. This is one of their processes, of how they get designers together with public service orgs or governments.

Open Law Lab - CUP - Legal Design

Here are some of their project areas:

Community Education

CUP works with advocacy organizations, policy experts, and designers to produce publications, workshops, and other teaching tools that explain important policy issues for the people who most need to know. CUP publications and teaching tools are made for and with specific groups in specific places, but they reach a national audience of people interested in civics education and graphic and information design.

CUP’s Envisioning Development Toolkits are workshops built around interactive tools that teach people about basic land-use terms and concepts, enabling them to participate meaningfully in neighborhood change. For example, the Affordable Housing Toolkit teaches participants about income demographics and the technical definitions of affordable housing to help them analyze proposed developments in concrete terms of units, rents, and incomes. The toolkits are developed in close collaboration with community organizations throughout New York, such as Good Old Lower East Side, the Fifth Avenue Committee, the Municipal Arts Society, and Tenants & Neighbors. For more on the Envisioning Development Toolkits, click here.

CUP’s Making Policy Public series facilitates close collaborations between policy experts and design professionals to produce foldout posters that make complex policy issues accessible. For example, The Cargo Chain helped 10,000 longshoremen understand their place in the global shipping network, and is also a bestseller at art and design bookstores in New York. Collaborators have included designers like Candy Chang, MTWTF, Alice Chung of Omnivore, and Thumb Design with organizations such as the Brennan Center for Justice, Community Voices Heard, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. For more on Making Policy Public, click here.

CUP’s Public Access Design series of multimedia organizing tools brings together designers and animators with community organizations on short-term collaborations that use design to make complex issues accessible to the New Yorkers most affected by them. Each project results in a short video or animation, a pocket-sized foldout, a small booklet, or an interactive website. Collaborators have included community organizations such as Damayan Migrant Workers Association and the Immigrant Defense Project, and designers such as Raj Kottamasu and Petra Farinha. For more on Public Access Design, click here.

Through our Technical Assistance program, community organizations and advocacy groups can hire CUP to create custom outreach and organizing tools. For example, we are working with the Participatory Budgeting Project and Community Voices Heard, along with designer Glen Cummings, to produce outreach and educational materials, as well as maps and ballots for a citywide effort to engage public participation in City Council budget decision making.

Here is one example of their work: a booklet for Street Vendors in NYC about their rights, the policy that applies to them, and what to do if they have interactions with the police or government.

Open Law Lab - CUPS - Making Policy Public 0
Open Law Lab - CUPS - Making Policy Public 4Open Law Lab - CUPS - Making Policy Public 2 Open Law Lab - CUPS - Making Policy Public 3

Current Projects Procedural Guide

Pocket DACA

Here is another current initiative for Access to Justice through design/tech: Pocket DACA.

Open Law Lab - Pocket DACA 1

Pocket DACA is an app, released this summer for free for Android & IOS, to help people who came to the US as a child, who might be eligible for DACA.  It was produced by Pro Bono Net & Immigration Advocates Network.

The app is full of resources — primarily of which is a screening tool — that will let people understand if they can apply for DACA.

Open Law Lab - Pocket DACA 2

It also has other features, like finding legal services nearby, based on the phones geolocation, & discovering other resources for immigrant youth.

Open Law Lab - Pocket DACA 3

The app is generally a redesign of a legal services website for a mobile experience — added in with an interactive ‘expert system’ that will help a user figure out if they can get on this legal pathway (DACA) or not.

Here’s a video review & summary of the app.

And some more screens:
Open Law Lab - Pocket DACA 5 Open Law Lab - Pocket DACA 4

Current Projects Procedural Guide

Citizenship Apps

Open Law Lab - Citizenship Apps
Citizenshipworks is building online and mobile apps aimed at non-citizens in the US — trying to give them resources and tutorials to navigate their way through citizenship.
They have checklists, expert system interviews, and tutorials to help the users along.
Damian Thompson of the Knight Foundation, writes of the new app.

I’m also proud to report on last week’s launch of the CitizenshipWorks mobile app for iOS and Android. Knight Foundation is the chief funder. Tony Lu, one of the app’s developers, says its combination of features is unique, integrating citizenship eligibility tools, such as a “trips calculator” and a document checklist; a legal directory; and study aids.

Those resources are immensely helpful for people navigating the path to citizenship. For example, green card holders who want to become citizens have to list every trip they’ve taken abroad on their applications. Imagine if you had to list every trip you’ve taken over the past five years. It would be a nightmare, especially if you didn’t keep systematic records. This is where the trips calculator can help.

Open Law Lab - Citizenshipworks - cw-collage-640