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Legal design: how to innovate the experience of law services with journey mapping

June 14, 2022

For the legal profession, customer experience is of the utmost importance. Legal practitioners are constantly in contact with people in delicate situations. May it be going through a divorce, being accused of a crime, or having experienced severe financial or bodily damages, oftentimes the very fate of the affected individuals is at stake.

Even though these people are emotionally highly involved in their legal procedures, they do not always find the empathy they would so desperately need. While it would be exaggerated to denounce the feelings of the customers towards their legal matters as Kafkaesque, for them the trials, procedures and the way legal professionals work might feel like being in a black box, in which they cannot see nor understand how their matters are progressing.

This article introduces you to legal design: Learn how to apply customer-centered ways of working to provide better legal services and increase your client’s satisfaction.

  1. Legal Design and its relation to Service Design and Journey Mapping
  2. Win-win innovations: benefits of legal design
  3. Designing legal services: Questions to ask
  4. How to create a journey map for law services
  5. Example journey map: legal services experience
  6. Common challenges of introducing service design to a legal context
  7. Conclusion

Legal Design and its relation to Service Design and Journey Mapping

As research in the field of consumer buying processes has shown, customer experience has become the main driving factor for purchasing decisions, replacing price and the product or service itself.

Whilst most successful companies in sectors such as banking and finance, medicine, or telecommunication have all incorporated customer-centricity into their day-to-day operations to meet the needs of their customers and empower them, the legal field has only recently gotten its feet wet in that regard.

Service design is a human-centric mindset, process, toolset and a collection of methods striving to create delightful experiences for people, be they clients, customers, users, employees, citizens or whomever you focus on and any combination of these.

Service design in law can also be called Legal Design. To keep it simple: Almost all principles stemming from service design are equally applicable in Legal Design.

Throughout the article, we use terms like service design in the legal field, in the legal sphere or legal design interchangeably. Journey mapping is, just like in service design, a part of the process of Legal Design that supports a customer-centric way of working.

Win-win innovations: benefits of legal design

Service design enables legal professionals to adequately develop practical, critical, and imaginative approaches in order to improve the services they provide, as well as the relationship between the customer and the service.

By leveraging legal design, legal professionals are not only empowered but encouraged to empathize with their customers, understand their needs and create new approaches and creative solutions to problems that might have seemed unsolvable before.

Through implementing service design principles into the process of creating law, contracts or shaping services, the process changes from being strictly top-down or bottom-up to a symbiosis of both.

Tools from legal design help to find innovative approaches and solutions. They enable practitioners to become aware of their clients’ hardships, pain points thus increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty with regard to their legal services provider as well as opening up new alleyways for general improvement. Satisfied customers are more likely not to churn, are willing to pay more, and are more likely to spread the good word around.

Implementing methods from legal design is not only beneficial for the customer, but also for the legal professional as well as any third party such as courts or notaries; a win-win situation for all sides.

Designing legal services: Questions to ask

As previously mentioned, legal professionals strive to provide their customers with the best services possible, may it be by defending them in court, by drafting contracts or by giving much needed advice in tough situations. For many legal professionals, concrete results are the only measure of the quality of their services.

Therefore, the focus on the client can be lost within all the bureaucracy, hectic work environments and tight deadlines that come naturally with the job.

Yet, the experience that stakeholders have with legal services and products is equally, if not more important than the service or product itself.

A happy customer is the best case scenario a legal professional can wish for; but only through a symbiosis between the specific emotional and pragmatic needs of said customer can client satisfaction be achieved. This is where legal design comes into play.

To embed these methods into the way day-to-day business is conducted, it is necessary to answer a few questions.

A good starting point for legal professionals diving into legal design is asking the following questions:

Who are your clients?

To effectively improve the services and products for their respective clients, attorneys need to know exactly who they are, which needs and expectations they have.

A defendant will most likely have very different expectations and needs throughout their case compared to a plaintiff in a civil case or a parent in a custody proceeding. In a criminal case, the defendant’s life could be on the line, whilst for the vendor of a property, contractual security may be the most important factor. Young entrepreneurs that cannot wait to bring their innovative products or services to the market will most likely have speed and efficiency in mind.

As a first step in developing a clear understanding of the needs, preferences, pain points and insecurities different types of clients have, we can use a tool called personas: A persona is an effective way of defining different client groups to better understand what their specific needs are.

A persona in Smaply that represents a retired widow who wants to give her inheritance early to her children.

Extend persona

These attributes assigned to the persona(s) should not be based on assumptions; legal professionals probably know about the issues that their clients are facing, but asking the clients directly is also a great way of obtaining real world data to make the persona truly representative.

A combination of multiple sources of information is ideal. This can not only help in reducing assumptions about the clients, but is also beneficial when answering  questions such as:

  • To which type of customer(s) should you tailor the services and products?
  • What are things that are important to all clients?
  • Which problems of the created personas do you need to solve?
  • What are the persona’s expectations of  the product or service?
  • Which types of technology is the persona comfortable with?

The created personas are then used as the basis for the associated journey map.

How can you get clients involved in creating more human-centered legal services and products?

The legal profession is usually not the environment that would first come to mind when a person is asked to think about a creative environment.

Service design can change these perspectives and make the process of creating value a holistic, creative process.

Bringing together the legal professional, the client, and if possible, the lawmakers and representatives of the court, and combining their inputs can lead to the legal processes becoming less cumbersome and more pleasant to work with for everyone.

If, for example, a certain template that is designed in a comprehensible way for the client is used in court, everyone benefits. The individuals have an easier time filling it out, their lawyers find that the necessary amount of work is reduced and the judge will receive information that is less prone to errors.

Bringing as many stakeholders to the table as possible will create the greatest variety of good solutions to choose from.

How does the experience-revolution change the law industry, and how can you deal with it?

Slowly but surely, the digital transformation has reached the legal field.

Legal chatbots, tools that can automatically analyze legal texts and find risks within them, or research bots have all shown great potential in providing legal professionals with appropriate assistance.

Let us take legal chatbots for example, which are able to interact with clients, process their information, analyze it and put it together in the way needed by the legal professionals.

Whilst this all sounds good in theory, if we do not put emphasis on the individual’s journey, then these programs can be more of a millstone around the neck for all parties involved than anything else; especially if the tool is difficult to use and/or understand, making the data entered unusable by the legal professional.

Thus, your next step is to think of the client’s journey. By researching and analyzing the findings within journey maps and applying them to the services and products offered, false assumptions about the real needs of clients can be mitigated.

This will help answer important questions such as the following:

  • How do people engage with your legal services?
  • How did they discover your legal services?
  • Which types of support do different types of clients need?
  • How does the traditional way of doing legal business restrict the clients?

How do clients find out about your legal services?

For many lawyers the most important question is: How can one retain or build up a loyal client base that creates a steady order situation?

Potential clients can find out about a law firm in many different ways; may it be over the internet whilst looking for a solution to a specific legal problem, through friends, through information found in magazines, articles or books or through advertisements, just to name a few.

Here, journey mapping and personas form a symbiotic relationship: The persona’s journey can be visualized with their respective journey map creating a customer-centric and holistic overview.

In practice, this means that the persona’s feelings, ideas and concerns tie into the journey map as they can be interlinked with one another.

What can you do to improve your own services?

Understanding what frustrates clients the most will enable legal professionals to make their processes more accessible and understandable for individuals.

Wherever clients are frustrated within their customer journey, one should pay close attention to what can be improved.

Conversely, if clients are especially happy or taken care of at a certain step in their customer journey, one should analyze what was done right and keep working that way.

What makes clients switch to someone else?

How can I make sure to not lose them once they are customers?

This question can be answered through the application of journey mapping as well as the customer journey as pain points, a dramatic arc or other lanes can be used to investigate why clients were dissatisfied with the service provided.

How to create a journey map for law services

Not only is it of great importance to know who the people to whom you provide legal services are, but also how they interact with these services.

To understand the interaction of your client with your service, you can use journey maps: a step-by-step visualization of your client’s journey, their moments of frustration and moments of delight.

To create such a journey map, you need to look at the existing customer base and see how they found out about and interact with your services. Maybe they were looking for a good divorce lawyer or a good criminal defendant.

Whilst it can be argued that no two cases are alike, journey maps help reduce complexity. For example, no criminal case will be 100% the same, yet stages such as the preliminary proceedings will be similar in every case.

Thus, starting out with a single map will make it possible to empathize with the customer and understand their pain points and will shine light onto possible improvements that were not visible before.

A journey map will assist in finding out why the customer chose your services and will answer questions such as:

  • What was the reason behind the need for legal services?
  • How did they find out about your services?
  • Why did they choose you over the competition?
  • Which issues do customers face when getting in contact with your services?
  • How can trust between client and attorney be improved?

Let’s start off by creating a journey map example: A client that wants to transfer ownership of a piece of land to their son or daughter.

We will take a look at every step that this customer will go through during the service, aka their customer journey.

Communication channels

Historically speaking, legal professionals would primarily interact with their clients through traditional means such as face-to-face meetings, letters, e-mails and phone calls. Yet, and not only because of the recent worldwide pandemic, online communication such as video calls, portals for client information, or online customer reviews have become more and more important.

Communication channels help you visualize the different touchpoints a customer has with your services.

KPIs

Whether a customer is happy with your legal services should be measured adequately. An interview with your client after the case has been closed or insights from a data analysis tool are ideal for creating such KPIs.

Dramatic arc and emotional journey  

Having a legal procedure being filed against one can create a lot of mental pressure and stress. Other clients might experience a totally different emotional journey, e.g. a person wanting to sell property.

A dramatic arc shows the emotional experience with all its highs and lows in a customer’s journey.

Backstage processes

In the backstage processes, things take place that the client will not be able to see. It shows which stakeholders are involved in the background, making it easier to know who should initiate change, if needed.

In court for example, before a claim will be brought to the judge, it will usually first be assessed by the administrative staff.

At a lawyer’s office, trainee lawyers will normally do the drafting of legal documents whilst the actual lawyer will give feedback whenever needed.

All these situations can be displayed by adding backstage lanes to journey maps, helping you understand what parties have an impact on the service.

Example journey map: legal services experience

With these details in mind, you can go ahead and create a journey map like in the following example:

A journey map visualizing the experience of a client who wants to give the inheritance early to her children.

Expand journey map

Common challenges of introducing service design to a legal context

The first challenge to applying journey mapping to a legal context is that it is a rather conservative field and creativity is not usually associated with it.

Secondly, explaining the concept of journey mapping to a legal professional might take a certain amount of time as the process itself is not as streamlined and straightforward as some legal procedures.

Lastly, talking to their clients in order to conduct research on the experience the clients had is probably something that most legal professionals have never done before.

A good approach that can help break down these barriers is to explain the way service design works in a pragmatic way and show the benefits it can bring about. After that, dive straight into the matter so that results can be achieved in a swift way.

Conclusion

Legal design and its tools like personas and journey maps are great to help legal professionals not only retain their existing clients and make them more satisfied with their services, but also help them acquire new ones while keeping their expectations and needs in mind.

These are difficulties which the man from the country has not expected to meet, the Law, he thinks, should be accessible to every man and at all times…
Kafka, Franz. 1999. The Trial. New York, NY: Schocken Books.

Even taking small steps towards a more need-based and holistic service can lead to significant effects on client satisfaction and improve the relationship between client and legal professional.

And now?

Now it's about implementing what you've just learned: Create journey maps to provide human-centered services.

The journey mapping tool Smaply lets you easily create journey maps for legal services and client personas.

Sign up now, it's free!

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