Stanford Legal Design Lab

We are an interdisciplinary team at Stanford Law School & d.school, working at the intersection of human-centered design, technology & law to build a new generation of legal products & services.

Our Lab team researches and develops new initiatives that can make the civil justice system more equitable and accessible.

We use human-centered design, agile technology development, and empirical research methods to create meaningful new interventions in the justice system.

Our goal is to make a better legal system, that people can use to protect their rights, resolve their problems, and improve their communities.

Our Mission

We train law students & professionals in human-centered legal design and public interest technology.

We develop new models of user-friendly, accessible, and engaging legal services.

We research & scale ways to make the civil justice system more accessible and equitable.

Our 4 Themes of Work

The Legal Design Lab has four strategic initiatives in 2022: Justice Innovation (with a focus on Eviction Prevention), Better Legal Internet, Virtual Legal Systems, and Smart Legal Communication.

Past strategic themes have included Public Interest Technology, Regulatory Reform, Contract Design, Privacy by Design, Legal Design Methodology, and Law Firm Innovation.

Please explore our current four themes in detail.

We partner with legal aid groups, courts, and non-profits to develop innovative new access to justice initiatives.

Justice Innovation work at Legal Design Lab

On this track, the Legal Design Lab creates new services, tech, and policies that can improve people’s access to the civil justice system.

The Legal Design Lab’s main mission is to promote access to justice through innovative methods and projects. Our Justice Innovation track includes classes, user research, software & AI development, and peer cohorts focused on improving people’s access to the civil justice system.

Main website: Find our Justice Innovation website that profiles methods, projects, and principles to use when developing new efforts to improve the justice system.

Forms and Efiling: With the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession, the Lab has launched the Filing Fairness Project to ease people’s ability to participate in court processes.

Text Messaging for Justice: We built Wise Messenger to make it easy for courts and legal aid groups to text reminders, hotlines, procedural coaches, and online intake with the public. Read more about our texting work here.

Natural Disaster Legal Help: The Lab build a natural disaster legal help app, Flood Proof, to help people in Louisiana to clear titles to their homes so they could get disaster relief and find legal help.

Language Access: Our Lab has partnered with state courts and legal aid groups to study how people want language access support through technology and human services. Read the report from our 2019 class to the California Judicial Council.

The Lab has taught classes and run workshops on innovations in the eviction system, expungement and clearing records, guardianships and conservatorship, debt and money problems, and estate planning.

Eviction Prevention work in justice innovation

Within the broader category of access to justice, our Lab has spent the past 3 years focused on eviction protection and housing justice in particular. We have a range of eviction-specific innovation projects.

Eviction Prevention Learning Lab cohort: The Lab works with the National League of Cities to run the multi-city peer cohort the Eviction Prevention Learning Lab. It brings city governments, courts, legal aid, and social service providers from over 30 cities together to identify and spread best practices in stopping evictions and promoting access to justice.

Eviction Innovations site: We have documented promising practices in the space on our Eviction Innovations platform. This website has case studies, guides, and repositories of resources to help policy-makers and service providers develop better strategies and interventions for preventing evictions.

Legal Help FAQs: The Lab runs a national question and answer website, Legal Help FAQs, for COVID-19-related eviction questions. It built the site in Spring 2020 to provide a clear, authoritative source on local laws protecting people from eviction.

NAACP Housing Navigators: Through our series of classes on Justice By Design: Eviction, our Lab team and our Stanford students have partnered with the NAACP to refine and scale their Housing Navigator program. We helped them design their website, social media campaign, and service design & strategy.

ABA Eviction, Housing Stability, and Equity Task Force: Lab Executive Director Margaret Hagan is the chair of the American Bar Association’s SCLAID Task Force working on eviction prevention and housing justice. This group sets national standards on housing law and promotes innovative new services and policies across the country.

Eviction Summons Redesign: We have worked with courts in Ohio, Montana, and more to redesign the notices they send out to tenants who have been sued for eviction. We have worked with them to make these official court documents more engaging, comprehensible, and user-friendly. We are studying if they can reduce default rates at eviction hearings.

We make the Internet a better place to find legal help.

Better Legal Internet work at Legal Design Lab

The Legal Design Lab has focused for the past five years on improving how people find legal help on the Internet. We have built key data infrastructure for R&D, contributed to cutting-edge AI and digital analysis initiatives, and led cohorts of practitioners through crucial improvements to their court and legal aid websites.

In this track, our work aims to a near-future when people can go online, ask search engines or social media about their life problem, and get local, authoritative, user-friendly legal help.

Main website: Visit our Better Legal Internet website to find more detailed descriptions of the projects mentioned below, on improving search, social media, website design, and data analysis.

Legal Help Dashboard: This webpage from the Lab guides legal help website administrators through the main steps to improving their website. Check up on your tech, design, content, and search rank. Follow our guides to improve on all four areas. This page provides tools, guides, and ranks to make legal aid and court websites better able to serve the public.

LIST Taxonomy: Our Lab has established a master taxonomy, Legal Issues Taxonomy (LIST), of all the main legal issues that people in the US face. These standardized codes can be used by organizations, tech providers, and others who are trying to better map, categorize, and develop tech about legal needs.

Learned Hands: Our Lab collaborated with the Suffolk LIT Lab to develop a data-labeling game platform, Learned Hands. On this game, laws students and others can read people’s anonymized legal problems, spot legal issues, and vote whether a certain kind of issue is present or not. This game play creates a labeled data set, that is used to do data analysis about legal needs trends, and to build an issue-spotting NLP bot, Spot.

Reddit Legal Help Bot: Our Lab has built an eviction help bot on Reddit’s subreddit r/legaladvice. The bot uses the Spot classifier from Suffolk LIT Lab to spot possible eviction and landlord-tenant issues in people’s posts about their legal problems on the subreddit. It then auto-replies with a message to let people know they can get more legal aid and court help on Legal FAQ, with its referral pages. We are tracking engagement and preferences with this bot.

Schema Markup SEO Tool: How do legal aid and court websites show up when people search Google for help? We built a tool to help these websites show up higher and to the right audiences. The Schema Markup tool lets legal service groups create code that tells search bots from Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines exactly what is on their website, what jurisdictions it applies to, what legal issues it can help people with, and how people can contact them.

Virtual Legal Systems

We research & propose ways to make hybrid justice services that work better, and allow for equal access.

What do the new normal of online courts, virtual legal aid clinics, and digital legal help look like?

Our team is teaching classes, building resources, and testing new prototypes to help create accessible, fair, and empowering virtual legal systems.

See our Court Observation Hub here. and learn more about our classes here.

Smart Legal Communication

We are designing and testing new ways to communicate complex legal information, like notices, policies, contracts, process guides, and beyond.

Our goal is to create standard templates, metrics, and examples for visual designs that best engage and empower people with legal information. Read more here.

Explore the Legal Innovations our Lab is working on

Eviction Legal Help FAQs platform

In Spring 2020, we built a national Legal Help FAQ platform, with 50-state coverage, of renters’ rights and protections during the COVID-19 emergency.

Our team did extensive legal research and assembled a national network of housing law experts to be able to present, in plain language, if renters could be evicted, how much time they had to pay rent, and what new protections they might have in court. It also has a national database of local legal aid groups, court self-help sites, emergency rental programs, and other services that we could connect renters to in each state.

We designed the site to be expandable in coming months, to include more guides and FAQs on how a renter can navigate the eviction process and raise defenses to protect themselves. This site is unique in providing national coverage and detailed legal information for renters.

The Legal Help FAQ platform was built with the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Eviction Prevention Learning Lab

Since February 2020, Stanford Legal Design Lab and the National League of Cities are leading the Eviction Prevention Learning Lab.

This is a multi-city cohort in which city leaders (from government agencies, legal aid, courts, nonprofits, and private industries) learn about innovative eviction prevention strategies, share peer learnings, and design new interventions.

The current cohort has 30 cities and is an 18-month program focused on emergency rental relief, eviction diversion programs, court activation, effective community outreach, smart use of data, and other topics that have arisen during COVID-19 and the eviction crisis.

Eviction Innovations

We are researching and building what the most promising ways to address the eviction crisis are, and we are building a network of local city leaders to coordinate the development and evaluation of these new interventions. These include new policies, technologies, and service models, that we are profiling on our Eviction Innovation platform.

The platform is in coordination with our Eviction Prevention Learning Lab with the National League of Cities. The website presents case studies and strategies that have emerged from the cohort, and that can help guide them.

LIST: Legal issues taxonomy

Our team has been building LIST, a user-centered taxonomy of legal problems that people might have in the U.S. It’s called LIST, the Legal Issues Taxonomy, (formerly National Subject Matter Index version 2), since it is an iteration of a taxonomy originally developed by legal aid technologists fifteen years ago.

This taxonomy is an essential tool for classifying people’s issues and the legal help resources available to them online. The taxonomy provides standard problem codes, definitions, and examples of the legal scenarios that people might find themselves in.

It is useful for app and bot developers, machine learning projects, legal needs analysis, legal help webmasters, and others who are interested in building more interoperable, AI-powered legal tools.

Read more about how you can use it here at our article on LIST use cases and deployment.

Learned Hands

Learned Hands is a machine learning project to use interactive games to build tools that can automatically spot people’s legal issues. We built this game for law students and lawyers to play, by reading people’s legal stories from Reddit and elsewhere, and then labelling the stories with standard legal issue labels.

With this labeled data, we can then train machine learning models to automatically spot people’s issues and potentially connect them with resources, find patterns of needs, and integrate more AI into access to justice tools.

As more people play Learned Hands, it contributes to the SPOT classifier, which can then be used by our bots and other groups’ tools to spot people’s legal issues in their posts and tweets.

The goal is to be able to help people find the local, public interest help — even if they don’t know that their problem around debt, family, housing, work, or traffic actually has a legal solution.

Learned Hands was built with Suffolk LIT Lab and the support of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Court Observation Hub

Our team has built a central tool for teams to observe online courts. The Court Observation Hub has a master list of online court links, and groups that already do court watching.

Do you want to start a Court Watch program?

Do you want to find the programs that already exist in different jurisdictions?

The Court Observation Hub has the links and resources to help you do virtual court watching.

Our team, working with university, court, and foundation partners in Arizona, built the Arizona Eviction Self-Help website for tenants in Pima County to understand their rights, prepare documents, and get court hearing information for their upcoming eviction hearing.

Our team helped build a Public Interest Technology case study platform with the PIT-UN network, Georgetown, Howard, and New America. We also have work on legal regulatory sandboxes in Utah and elsewhere.

Flood Proof is a mobile app to help people after a natural disaster to start the process of ‘clearing title’ to their house. We built it with the ABA Center for Innovation, and local legal aid groups in Louisiana and Texas.

Wise Messenger is a web application that allows courts, legal aid groups, and others to send automatic text messages (or other messenger application messages) to their users. It lets groups create interactive templates of hearing reminders, intake screeners, procedural coaches to people going through the legal system.

Navocado is a web platform to create and publish better guides to legal processes, with visual and interactive step-by-step triage and process guides.

We create Court Visual Guides, which are print and digital visual guides to complex legal processes, that explain how a person can navigate systems like traffic court or eviction lawsuits.

Our Latest Posts

Read our latest long-form essays and reports on our Medium publication Legal Design and Innovation.

We post our team’s work and reports here, as well as guest essays from professors, designers, technologists, students, and others working on legal design efforts.

If you’re interested in contributing a piece to Legal Design & Innovation, please be in touch!

There Has to Be a Better Way Than This: New directions for insurance contracts

How could computable contracts improve people’s health insurance contracting? by Nora al-Haider, Luz Daniel, Shobha Dasari, Margaret Hagan, Arianne Marcellin-Little, Alistair Murray, Michael Perlmutter, Roland Vogl, and Annie Zhu This piece was originally published at our Legal Design & Innovation medium publication. Table of ContentsKey Opportunities for Human-Centered Computable Contracts“Let Me Know What You Know”:…

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Court survey on virtual legal systems

Do you work at or with a court? Have you been changing tech, process, rules, and help during the pandemic? We’d love to hear from you! Fill out this short form below (or at the link), and we will reach out to schedule an interview. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScKKWIRnBw4mhGHr9MtHygeFoe4R5jIk80mAhnL8RFUIUFAjg/viewform The Stanford Legal Design Lab is looking to speak with court…

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An Equity Lens on Eviction Prevention

The Stanford Legal Design Lab has been collaborating with the National League of Cities to run a 30-city cohort, the Eviction Prevention Learning Lab. We run regular meetings, technical assistance sprints, and peer-learning to spread best practices on eviction prevention. And every quarter we have a big meeting on an issue that many city leaders and communities…

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How can I use the LIST taxonomy on my legal tech project?

1. We need standard codes for legal problems. There’s lots of different words we can use to describe the same legal problem. Is this thing an unlawful detainer, an eviction action, a landlord-tenant dispute, or getting kicked out of your house? These words come from legal jargon, different jurisdictions’ terminology, and people’s everyday language around…

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Blueprints of Justice

New Blueprints of Justice The Stanford Legal Design Lab is collaborating with Virgil Abloh, MIT Architecture and Oana Stănescu to redesign court houses of the future. Stanford students have the opportunity to join the lectures, roundtable discussions and limited spots are available to motivated students who want to fully participate in the design process. We…

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New Spaces of Justice: webinar

The Stanford Legal Design Lab is organizing a public webinar on Wednesday (11/11) at 1pm ET (10am PST) in collaboration with Harvard GSD and Virgil Abloh. These last couple of months, we have been working on designing prototypes for online courts and virtual legal services. During the webinar, we will showcase the prototypes and delve…

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Lawgorithms: Poverty Lawyer’s Guide to Algorithms, AI, and smart tech

Here’s a highly recommended report, Poverty Lawgorithms, from Michele Gilman through Data & Society, on how lawyers working on poverty law areas can better advocate for more ethical, human-centered government systems. In particular, as courts, government agencies, and tribunals buy more ‘smart’ technology that automatically sorts people, predicts risks, and makes decisions — how can…

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New Spaces of Justice: Workshop Series

Stanford students are invited to register for this unique workshop series organized by Nóra Al Haider (Stanford Legal Design Lab) and Oana Stănescu (Harvard Graduate School of Design) in collaboration with Virgil Abloh. The workbook materials are created by Margaret Hagan. The COVID-19 pandemic has made navigating the judicial system even more challenging since restrictions…

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Pop Up Webinar Replay: How to Run a Better Virtual Meeting

After the past months of online work, legal professionals know all the ways that virtual meetings can go wrong: wasted time, audio disasters, low energy, technical confusion, lack of connection — the list goes on. In this one-hour training session, we’ll train you on how to facilitate virtual meetings that are more engaging and effective….

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Designing against legal misinformation during an emergency: Legal Help FAQs

Coordinating a national legal help platform for renters during COVID-19 This piece was originally published on our Medium publication Legal Design and Innovation. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US earlier this year, there has been a legal crisis brewing alongside the public health one. The virus and the economic collapse have prompted an escalation of civil justice…

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How to Design a Policy Hackathon

As an undergraduate at Stanford I’ve worked with the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) and Stanford in Government (SIG) to organize two separate policy hackathons on the topics of Affordable Housing and Criminal Justice Reform. At each of these events, dozens of students competed in teams to create policy proposals and accompanying analytical tools to be evaluated and…

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A hybrid Data/Design workshop for justice innovation

This post was originally posted at our Legal Design and Innovation publication on Medium. Along with Carlos Manjarrez from Legal Services Corporation, I ran a short Data Camp for legal aid leaders earlier this month, at the LSC ITCon in New Orleans. This was a test run for a possible longer Data/Design camp that we could run in…

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Design prototype + policy canvas

For our Design for Justice: Language Access class, our teaching team made a canvas to help a design team craft a forward plan for the projects they have been working on to advance language access in the courts through technology. The canvas can be useful to have a one-page hand-off for a policy partner to…

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Design for policymakers

Earlier in the month, the Legal Design Lab team taught a short workshop with the Stanford Law School Policy Lab to help train students in how the design process might be useful to them in researching, making, and piloting new policies. For our workshop, we tasked the students to imagine they were hired to be…

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Learned Hands game tournament

Tomorrow, we will be doing an in-person game tournament to label as many Reddit-Legal Advice posts as we can in a lunchtime! We will be using the Stanford/Suffolk crowd-game platform Learned Hands. If you are a Stanford affiliate and would like to join in for games, prizes, and machine learning/access to justice work — come…

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Building a Better Lawyer

This piece was originally posted on the Lab’s Medium publication, Legal Design and Innovation.    Building a Better Lawyer by Jorge Gabriel Jimenez, fellow at the Legal Design Lab In February 2018, Michigan State’s Legal RnD and Stanford University’s Legal Design Lab co-hosted a workshop on Building a Better Lawyer, with support from Thomson Reuters. Workshop…

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Prototyping Human-Centered Policies for Children in Nicaragua

The UN has a short article describing how they used human-centered design for complex policy-making: Prototyping Human-Centered Policies for Children in Nicaragua. The co-design teams held feedback clinics, design workshops, and experiments to see how kids and families could be more involved in planning out the interventions that were meant to serve them. The Regional…

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Doing User Research in the Courts on the Future of Access to Justice

This piece is written by our Class Team, Guillermo Aldunate, Margaret Hagan, Jorge Gabriel Jimenez, Janet Martinez, and Jane Wong   Over the past quarter, the Stanford Legal Design Lab has established a regular on-site civic user testing group at the California courts. Through a policy lab class, Community-Led System Design Practice, our team of five students, teachers, and fellows has developed…

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Defense Innovation Board public meeting

The Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Board is holding a series of public-facing innovation meetings to gather more community input into their agenda and work. The next one will be in Mountain View on Wednesday, July 11th — you can RSVP here. The goal of the board is to build innovation capacity in the government agency: The…

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9 Comments

Hello team! Love what you are doing in the design space to make the law more accessible. Can you tell me about future events or course you have coming up? I would love to get involved 🙂

Do you have materials (or can you recommend any) on use of design principles in legal memos and briefs to be submitted to courts?

I’d appreciate any recommendations.

Thanks much!

I am now doing my research for my Governance Innovation Report for the graduate studies at the Ateneo de Manila University- Philippines, I chose to include design thinking/ human-centered approach as one of my frameworks. I am interested in joining your workshop/seminar (public or private) since it will be a great help in my profession as a legal aid advocate. I am looking forward to help more indigent clients, promote a more accessible justice system to all, and improve the legal aid services in our province. Please be an instrument of change through design thinking. Thank you.

My name is Valentina Osorio a law student from URosario in Colombia. I just finished my bachelor degree and waiting for the graduation. I learn about design thinking on a formation program in Accenture and I though that Design Thinking and legal was just like a utopia but now I know that is something real.
Thank you for all the books and content about Legal Design Thinking because I’m trying to figuring out what i want to do in my professional future.

Hi,my name is Lelisa. I am from Ethiopia. I had took my first degree in law at one of the governmental University(Haramaya University).please provide me opportunity to learn your school!

Hi there. I am interested in the Training you offer in human-centered legal design. I am the Marketing and Business Director of Dentons for Central America and found your LAB very interesting and with a lot of solutions we can apply to empower people globally. Can I get some information regarding the course?
Thank you so much.

I am interested in legal design thinking course. Please Can you send me infl about that topic?

Hello am cate from uganda. I didn’t do law at my first degree. I did education. Am I legible for this course? Thnaks