Ideabook Work Product Tool

Legal Document Responder App

Could we build an application that would let a person, who receives a legal document or government document in the mail to:

  1. Scan it in, either through a mobile-photo-scanner, or a QR code on the document that makes it easy to capture into the app
  2. Figure out what the document says, in jargon-free language. It also would help you understand if it is valid, if it is really from the court or government. It could also tell you what consequences and process it refers to.
  3. There could be other services attached — like translating its content into another language, showing you online paths to respond to it, or letting you know what advocate could help you respond.
Advocates Ideabook

Consigliere: every family has their lawyer

Law - legal concept - consigliere your family lawyer

What if every person had a lawyer that was closely related to them, that was responsible for advising them and keeping them legally healthy, and dealing with any problem that arises for them.

Ideabook Integration into Community

Online Legal Portals to centralize triage, intake, and services

Ideabook -Mega Portal To Legal Help

What would it look like if there was one major site online, that anyone searching out help for a life problem could use?

They would enter their problem, legal issues would be identified, and then the person would be directed to the legal org who can help them.

They will get a warm hand-off and introduction to that org, and maybe even schedule an appointment right there on the website.

All of this is opposed to the current status quo — searching for help, not being able to find local or available service providers on one site, and not figuring out how to actually make an appointment happen (if you are even eligible for an appointment).

This idea grew out of May 2015’s  ABA Summit on Legal Innovation. Watching all the presentations, and participating in Blue Sky innovations — my main priorities and agenda items for innovating services all got boiled down to one blaring message:

Design the Internet to be a legal help service

Here are some of the people that called for centralizing, coordinating legal help from the users’ point of view:

wpid-20150503_102729-1.jpg wpid-20150503_103102-1.jpg wpid-20150504_090951-1.jpg

There are a few initiatives that must happen to get the Internet to be a law-friendly, people-friendly resource for anyone who is going to type in a query seeking out help for their divorce, debt, bankruptcy, child custody, landlord-tenant issue (and beyond…). Here’s what I’m seeing as a shortlist of things to be working on:

  1. Deep, design-driven research into how lay people approach the Internet when seeking out help for their life (legal) problems (Note: I’ve been doing this, now I need to scale it up & publish the resources)Legal Innovation - user research
  2. Using understandings from this research to feed into new concept designs, principles/heuristics/guides for what better interventions could be, to get the Online Help Seeker to Quality Legal Services easily, directly, happily
  3. Partnering with the right organizations to get these interventions implemented:
    1. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and other search engine companies — which are really the crucial portal for how a lay person will seek out and find legal help
    2. States’ Legal Help sites
    3. Courts’ Self-Help/Public-Facing sites
    4. Other social service/governmental groups that have adjacent, linked resources to legal services’ resources
    5. Legal Aid groups
    6. Consumer Law websites

For step 2 — what the right interventions are to get the Internet to serve legal help-seekers in a better way, I have my inclination about what some key things will be.

    1. Centralized Legal Help Portals: each state, or maybe even the whole country has one *strongly branded* website that does an issue-based, person-based, and jursidiction-based triage on the visitor, and funnels them to a legal help channel that works for them. Its one central, recognizable place that can warmly hand the person off to the right local resource — tells them what their legal issue is called — and whether they might qualify for legal help.Legal Innovation ideas - 211 portals for legal help

The LSC-TIG Summit last year listed centralized state-by-state legal portals as one of their central agenda items, and I want to see this happen!

  1. Smarter, More Directed Search Results: if people are always going to be typing in a query into a search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo…) then why not intervene right there, at the search result list? Like I’ve written before, I want better legal help directions right there on the search results page.
  2. Coordinated Data & Service Offerings among legal aid groups, courts, pro bono, consumer sites, and any other service-provider — so that a person can see the relevant and applicable offerings for them. A site would be able to triage a general Internet-help-seeker to the right service provider and hand them off. To do this, we need to get the service providers all saving, structuring, and sharing their service-offering-info in a coordinated & open way — so that we can collect it and implement triage and hand-off tools on top of it. Look at what Open Referral (associated with Code For America) is doing along this line for general social service providers. Tools like Purple Binder and mRelief can be built on top of this coordinated system.

Okay, whew! That’s a lot of ideas and lists.

Now, to add on a few sketches of what I’m thinking about for these centralized legal portals, centralized triage, etc… They are all at the raw stage, but hopefully they offer some grounding to the ideas I’ve fired out above.

Looking back through my iPad sketchbooks, I came across this sketch of what an online legal help portal might look like. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot — what the right kind of entry point might be for a lay person trying to figure out what their legal issue is and how to deal with with.

The main points I was trying to make with this sketch were:

  1. Putting a very human-friendly search as the priority entry point: just let the user type in what their issue is, and then have the site be smart enough to direct them to what the legal categorization of their problem is
  2. Having back-up common choices: for those who don’t want to search, or who are in a browsing mood, they can see some common legal categorizations to browse through and see if any of them sounds like a good fit for what’s going on in their life
  3. Official marker: to show trustworthiness and encourage engagement, put the official connection front and center on the page, as a badge that declares “you, casual Internet browser, can trust this site! We are not trying to sell you anything, and we are official experts on the law”. This is what Internet-browsers want to see when they’re sizing up legal info sites.
  4. Upon search, visual card glimpses into resources: rather than show a straight text list, show search query results in distinct cards, that have a straightforward visual, a headline, and a glimpse into the content that awaits upon a click. For a person who doesn’t know exactly what legal terrain they’re in, the cards give them some quick glances at what might apply to them. The visitor can look through them before deciding which to click open & pursue.

Here are some more digital sketches that had come out of earlier design sprints on making courts more accessible.


Access Hub site.001

Centralized legal portal - 1 - sketch margaret hagan
Can we have forms integrated right into centralized legal help guides? Less clicking, resources right there where you need them.
Centralized legal portal - 1 - sketch margaret hagan
Can we have smart process guides for any of the legal remedies that we offer to lay people online — to let them see what a path would look like, and how to pursue it?
Centralized legal portal - 1 - sketch margaret hagan
Can we triage people right to the correct legal pathway & accompanying, local legal services?
Centralized legal portal - 1 - sketch margaret hagan
What would a central legal help portal look like, that helped people with common Internet legal-ish searches and directs them to guides, resources, and service-providers for relevant legal actions?

Do you have any more thoughts on these action-plans, or these concept designs? Or do you have connections & resources for me? Send them along, please!



Consumer Law product families

User Flow - Legal Navigator Flow Journey-01

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.

  1. Engagement: inviting the user into the legal world and convincing her to come in
  2. Orientation: explaining the legal system to the user, along with its rules, and her rights
  3. Triage: finding the right path for the user’s particular situation
  4. Intake: establishing a relationship between the user & an advocate
  5. Process Guide: navigating a chosen path step-by-step
  6. Work Product Completion: taking care of specific actions along the path
  7. Strategy-making: helping the user weigh possible paths & decide which is best for her
  8. 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

Access to Justice Design Process

I’ve fleshed these broad steps into a more concrete flow.

Steps the User takes to realize & address a legal problem in her life

  1. Become cognizant of a problem in their life
  2. Figure out that it has a legal dimension
  3. Find out what it is termed.
  4. Find out what possible outcomes are, what pathways there are from now
  5. Decide to get a legal service
  6. Choose the legal service
  7. Prepare for first encounter with the legal service
  8. Work with the legal service for the first time and exchange information
  9. Decide on a plan of action
  10. Begin to create or contribute to a work product
  11. Follow through on the work product
  12. Arrive at a final work product
  13. Ensure the work product leads to the deliverable expected
  14. 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.

Advocates Ideabook

Design Lessons from the 1980s Legal Clinics for the Access to Justice

Consumer Law Design Insights - by Margaret Hagan - from Legal Clinics - dark brown

As more talk grows about Internet & mobile-based technology opening up a new era of Consumer Law, it’s useful to look back a few decades when there was a similar tide of activity around expanding access to civil legal procedures to the middle classes of Americans.

After the Supreme Court ruling of Bates v. State Bar of Arizona opened up the possibility for lawyers to advertise on television, several upstart law firms tried to capture 70% of the population’s routine legal needs through scaled-up, commodity-based law firms located on America’s main streets.  These started off calling themselves Legal Clinics — most prominent among them were Hyatt Legal Services and Jacoby & Meyers.

These Legal Clinics don’t exist today in their original form.  Both firms morphed into other kinds of legal beasts, no longer the consumer-law centered main street law, now Hyatt is mainly in the business of group legal services plans and Jacoby & Meyers is more focused on personal injury litigation.

But thanks to a trove of articles from the 1980s that my colleague Neal Sangal found for his research on legal clinics, I’ve been looking into what the exact strategies and values these legal clinics had in their heyday.

Even if their business model & scaling strategy ultimately didn’t pay off in the 1980s legal environment, the Legal Clinics did enjoy many types of success before they morphed away from the clinic model.  They engaged middle class consumers to tackle their legal problems.  They build tech-based systems to handle routine problems. They radically lowered the prices that people would have to pay for legal solutions.  They built a distinct brand that people trusted, had name recognition, and could be a go-to for finding legal help.

That’s not to say that I would start my own consumer law business in their footsteps — more careful attention needs to be paid to why their expansion model ultimately didn’t pay off.

What I did want to take away especially are the core value propositions & changes that Hyatt Legal Services put forward back in the early 1980s.  This shortlist of 5 things that a law firm, court, or legal aid organization should be doing is crucial, and still relevant thirty years later.

Here are the points that Hyatt put forward in October 1984 of how it would do legal services differently — and that still are breath of fresh air:

Price: “Hyatt offers fees about 30% lower than the average. Fixed fees for standard services were found to be much more important to middle-class clients than low cost.”

Convenience: “Neighborhood centers, evening & Saturday hours, ground level signage, and retail characteristics all contribute to the firm’s accessibility and lower client anxiety about coming to the office.”

Quality: “Internal training programs, experienced lawyers, and expertise in focused areas are measures taken by Hyatt to deliver legal service quality. Checklists, flow charts, and forms help achieve quality control in all branches.”

Speed of Service: ”Document production is computerized to cut down on time spent by lawyers on paperwork.”

Respect: “Lack of respect by lawyers toward their clients is the No. 1 factor in resistance to seeing a lawyer. Hyatt is sensitive to this issue and takes steps to ensure attorney compliance.”

(quotes taken from the article “Hyatt targets legal market with five benefits: Advertising only part of formula,” from Marketing News, October 26 1984 — write me for a copy).

What I take away from these 5 points, that should be applicable in 2014’s tech-based consumer law movement are the following insights:

  1. Fixed fees will draw in users, because of greater transparency and assurance about costs.  Discounts may work, but they still leave a sense of the unknown that consumers will dread.  Give as much upfront reassurance about how much money a person will spend, and they will be more likely to engage in the transaction.
  2. A process-based guide to law, with maps and lists that guide a legal task, will train lawyers better and give consumers more confidence & co-piloting ability.
  3. A consumer law organization needs to build its brand, whether online or in person, so people know that it is available and trusted.  Its brand needs to convey that it’s convenient, transparent & accessible — even if this is not in an actual retail location.
  4. The service professionals need to show respect in their demeanor & their actions to the client.  This means giving more agency to the client with co-piloting tools, clear explainers that make the lawyer’s work more transparent, and other tools & resources that make them feel in control, in the loop, and getting it right.  We need more research into legal users’ experience to find out what these ‘respectful’ tools might be, that get the balance right in the lawyer-client relationship.
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

Advocates Current Projects

Apps to Manage Lawyers

Open Law Lab - viewabill - app to manage lawyer

Here’s an article by Jennifer Smith in the Wall Street Journal on new crops of apps that help clients find and monitor lawyers.  It mentions Viewabill (tracking how much their lawyers are charging them, in real-time); Rocket Lawyer’s mobile app (create basic legal documents and buy plans for low-cost access to advice); Attorney Proz (lists area lawyers, who have paid to be listed); Ask a Lawyer (ask lawyers in Kalamzoo about basic legal questions and get free answers to your e-mail); and soon to be a LegalZoom app.

Now that people use apps to bank, order food and even monitor eBay auction bids, it was only a matter of time before they called in the lawyers.

Appearing in app stores are programs to help people keep track of their attorneys’ bills, draft legal documents and locate nearby lawyers.

Attorneys are doing more work on smartphones and tablets, and they have a whole host of apps at their disposal to help look up case law, track client calls and even assist with depositions and jury selection.

But until recently, few options existed for clients who wished to track cases or seek advice using mobile devices. This new crop of apps aims to add transparency, and a measure of convenience, to the process.

One new app, Viewabill, lets people track how much their lawyers are charging them in real-time. The idea is to head off sticker shock when business owners and company lawyers open up their monthly bills.

The app acts as kind of a client nanny-cam. It captures information as law firms enter it into their billing systems and transmits it to clients’ mobiles and desktops. Users select how often they want to get updates, set alerts pegged to certain dollar thresholds and can mark questionable items. The app can also be used to track hours logged by accountants and other professional service providers.

The app is now being used by a handful of companies and law firms on a beta basis, with a wider launch planned this month, said Florida-based entrepreneur David Schottenstein, who co-founded the enterprise with an attorney friend, Robbie Friedman. Firms would pay an annual cost of $25 to $40 per matter, depending on volume, or $25,000 for unlimited use, said Mr. Schottenstein.

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 1.00.56 PM

“It helps them to understand what we do,” said Brian Baker, a bankruptcy lawyer at Ravin Greenberg LLC in New Jersey, which has been testing the app.

Errol Feldman, general counsel for JPay Inc., a Florida company that provides payment transfers and other services to inmates at corrections facilities, has been using Viewabill to make sure firms working to resolve contract disputes do so in a timely fashion.

Legal consultant Susan Hackett said the app was the latest example of a push for greater communication between lawyers and clients, who increasingly want more involvement in the work they assign to outside law firms.

Some companies with big in-house legal departments have already invested in software programs that let clients track the progress of legal matters or monitor law firm bills from their desktop computers. Such systems don’t come cheap, and not many clients use them yet—fewer than 20% of general counsel, according to a 2011 poll by the Association of Corporate Counsel.

Not all law firms may welcome the additional element of client control on the legal side of things. For Viewabill to work, for instance, lawyers have to enter their hours in a timely fashion.

“These technologies may scare people,” Ms. Hackett said. “But they are all productive parts of the march towards clients and lawyers having conversations in real time.”

This month online legal services company Rocket Lawyer Inc. is debuting a mobile app tailored to its customer base: consumers and small business owners who log on to the site to create basic legal documents or buy plans that provide low-cost access to legal advice.

Charley Moore, Rocket Lawyer’s founder and executive chairman, said more site traffic is coming from tablets and smartphones these days, reflecting his customers’ increasingly mobile bent. Many are small business owners who spend much of their time on the road, he said.

“Their office is their dashboard, so we have to deliver the tools,” Mr. Moore said.

Customers can use the app to create a non-disclosure agreement (more forms will soon be available) or modify existing documents they have already created. The app itself is free, and users can access some functions gratis.

Users can also locate nearby attorneys from Rocket Lawyer’s network—the app is integrated with Google GOOG +0.53% Maps—and punch in basic legal questions, although the reply, which is supposed to arrive within one business day, may not be swift as some might hope.

A handful of other apps offer similar services. Attorney Proz also lists area lawyers, who pay to be included. Ask a Lawyer, an app linked to Kalamazoo, Mich., law firm Willis Law, also offers free answers to basic legal questions, with replies sent to users’ email addresses.

Not to be outdone, online legal services company Inc., a Rocket Lawyer competitor, also has an app in the works, a company spokeswoman said.

A version of this article appeared March 11, 2013, on page B5 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Apps Help Find Lawyers, And Keep an Eye on Them.