“Law cannot go on as it has”: Meera Klemola from Observ Agency talks legal design

We speak to Meera Klemola, co-founder of Observ Agency, about the growing adoption of legal design within law firms and corporate legal departments, and why people working in the legal technology sector should care about it.
Meera, can you tell me a little bit about your career history?
I was a lawyer at K&L Gates in Sydney and I moved to Finland, where I qualified in global innovation and design on a Stanford course founded by Larry Leifer 50 years ago. So you can see that legal design is not new! I’m now completing a second Masters in international design business management here at Aalto looking at how you integrate design thinking across companies.
It’s ranked as the sixth-best course in the world: Helsinki is one of the leading regions for strategic design business. It is so well embedded in their philosophy.
I’m from Australia, where people take a classic approach to legal design – it’s about the aesthetics. But it’s really about how you get from an idea to a product using a human-centered approach to really speed up innovation.
That’s a good point, how would you define legal design – a lot of people assume it’s about creating pretty pictures?
Legal design is the whole process from concept to process to output. Yes, it’s about creating a product aesthetically but design as a process is design thinking. My co-founder Emma [Hertzberg – pictured top right] and I take the full approach to solving complex’ problems.
How do you start the design thinking process, particularly at a traditional law firm?
In all honesty, a law firm has to be ready. It’s counterintuitive to the way lawyers are taught. People are a product of what they are recognised and rewarded for. Having been to both law school and design school, the rewards are polar opposite. At law school if you follow the rules and mitigate risk at all cost you are rewarded. Design school is the opposite: the more divergent path you take the better your results and you are always taught to see failure as a necessary step. The same skill set that makes lawyers excellent are the same skill sets that hinder their natural ability to innovate.
We ought to focus on onboarding these new skills – giving them a new approach to thinking and doing. That could be a contract that looks better, but often you’ll have gone through an entire process to make it more useful and engaging. The legal team ought to view the contract as a strategic tool.
“Tell us about the work you and Observ Agency have done with Linklaters reimagining their training contract?”
At Linklaters, Shilpa is looking at many ways to innovate and this is one.
She wanted to reimagine the training contract not just to provide the information in a better way but also to see if this could be a point of differentiation, to communicate better what Linklaters is about; what its core aims are and what is important. We created a team of many stakeholders across Singapore and the UK.
They have now released this newly designed training contract. What people fail to understand about legal design is that we set KPIs and try to measure impact, and Linklaters has noticed an increase in uptake as well as very positive engagement from its trainee community and the wider partnership. From a business efficiency perspective, the document has gone from being paper-based to fully digital and that accords with the ideas of future lawyers.
Are you working with legal teams on client contracts?
I can’t say who but yes we are working with law firms and in-house teams on core contracts and I’m excited to start. Maybe people have thought of this but this is the first time they are taking action – in the last 18 months we have seen more commitment. That’s something to do with changing client expectation. This recognition that law cannot go on as it has. The best experience wins. Consumers have so much choice now, and if you don’t deliver, they can just switch.
Why should people in legal tech care so much about legal design?
Creating new technology is easy but creating tech that people want to use is hard. They have to need it and it has to have a good UI or it won’t be as successful as it could be. With a design approach you validate along the way: build; validate or discard. It baffles me that the people who select technology aren’t the ones that have to use it. People sourcing technology should always get the people who use it involved. The legal tech solution that works for your competitor may not be the right one for you.
We spoke to Meera at the Legal Design Summit, hosted in Helsinki, which we attended alongside sponsor Janders Dean. For more information on the conference, see http://www.legaldesignsummit.com/ This interview features in a fuller write up of that conference here: http://legaltechnology.com//latest-news/legal-design-summit-in-helsinki-from-strategy-to-culture/