I am working on a paper right now that stakes out a framework for those of us who are working on building access to justice innovations & accessible law tools. After having led & participated in so many innovation sessions about what kind of tools would help lawyer-client relationships, self-help/DIY lay people trying to navigate the legal system, and the average middle class consumer trying to get legal help — I have processed my insights into some frameworks. Here is one of them: a typology of consumer law product families.
I am building a user-centered design approach to Consumer Law. It storyboards out the crucial moments (or touch points) of the user with the legal process. Then these moments become tasks around which to define products & services.
I am considering law as a process — as a series of steps for a person to proceed through. With this approach, law becomes less of an artform, or a black box. We can map the actions, the flow & the touchpoints. Law becomes document-able. And as we document the processes, we can use it create frameworks that guide how we speak about consumer law & how we develop new products & services for it.
Typology of consumer law products: families
Here is the first draft of my typology. I’ve taken an average user flow (noted below) and then tried to group stages together into categories for products to serve the user of a legal system, trying to navigate a legal process. There is another set of product families for the legal professionals serving the user, but that belongs in another framework.
- Engagement: inviting the user into the legal world and convincing her to come in
- Orientation: explaining the legal system to the user, along with its rules, and her rights
- Triage: finding the right path for the user’s particular situation
- Intake: establishing a relationship between the user & an advocate
- Process Guide: navigating a chosen path step-by-step
- Work Product Completion: taking care of specific actions along the path
- Strategy-making: helping the user weigh possible paths & decide which is best for her
- Coaching: supporting the person through the process with attention to their emotions & personal issues
Do you have any thoughts on this typology of product families? This is my first draft & I’m interested in feedback on it, as I work on more academic publications proposing a useful framework.
The Basic User Flow
I am basing this product family typology on a generalized user flow through a legal problem situation:
- Activating the User onto the path, overcoming inertia
- Informing the user about the pathway
- User assess legal options available to them
- User chooses a path to pursue
- User pursues the path
- User experiences a resolution (positive or negative) and disengages from the legal system
I’ve fleshed these broad steps into a more concrete flow.
Steps the User takes to realize & address a legal problem in her life
- Become cognizant of a problem in their life
- Figure out that it has a legal dimension
- Find out what it is termed.
- Find out what possible outcomes are, what pathways there are from now
- Decide to get a legal service
- Choose the legal service
- Prepare for first encounter with the legal service
- Work with the legal service for the first time and exchange information
- Decide on a plan of action
- Begin to create or contribute to a work product
- Follow through on the work product
- Arrive at a final work product
- Ensure the work product leads to the deliverable expected
- Conclude engagement with the legal service
Each moment is a family of products — to help the user accomplish this type of task.
Different types of processes — litigation in court, an administrative procedure, creation of a legal life plan, mediation between parties — will involve similar flows of steps. Likely different variations of the products are needed for these varied processes. For example, an Engagement product for Estate Planning process will not be the same as an Engagement Product for a Guardianship process.
Purpose & moving forward
The goal of my typology is not to be completely comprehensive about every single possible product we could build to serve consumer law. Rather, it is to have a framework & language that is consistent when we talk about this new generation of product and services, aimed at improving lay people’s access to the legal system.
A typology of product families gives a focus to where there are valuable functions to be performed — where we should be designing & developing. After developing this initial typology, then we can build on top of it with examples, patterns, insights, etc.
Please let me know what you think in response — as I’m writing more on this track, I’m interested in hearing feedback.