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

Training law students & professionals in human-centered legal design

Developing new models of user-friendly, accessible, and engaging legal services

Researching how the civil justice system can be more innovative & equitable

Our 4 Themes of Work

Access to Justice Innovation

We are teaching, researching, and developing pilots around how to make the civil justice system more accessible, equitable, and empowering — especially for people without lawyers. This year our primary focus is on interventions to address the eviction crisis. Read more about our projects here.

Better Legal Internet

How do we make the Internet a better place for people searching for legal help?

We are building new data standards, a taxonomy of legal issues, web designs, bots, and search results audits to improve how people can find public interest, quality legal help online. Read more here.

Virtual Legal Systems

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.

Legal Design & Tech We’re Building

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!

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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Justice Innovation with Law School Design Labs by Margaret Hagan

The ABA publication Dialogue published Margaret Hagan’s piece, Justice Innovation with Law School Design Labs about the role of universities in creating and scaling new services and tech for improving people’s ability to use the legal system. Legal design is a new approach to justice system innovation. It offers a powerful way to understand the human experience…

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Northwestern’s Planet Lex podcast: Approaching access to justice with a designer’s mindset

Dean Dan Rodriguez of Northwestern Law interviewed Margaret Hagan for the Planet Lex podcast, on the topic of :Approaching access to justice with a designer’s mindset. An excerpt: “There are areas of our legal system that are particularly ripe for a design thinking approach that can be really meaningful and have an impact soon. Especially…

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States of Change: government innovation labs

States of Change is a network of government teams that are taking participatory, design-driven methods towards social innovation. Their mission statement: We want to build the capability and culture of governments to practically deal with the complex problems they face, and to strengthen the community of practice around public innovation. Read more about their work, case…

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Law + Design Summit in videos, part 1

Last year, our Lab hosted the Law + Design Summit at Stanford d.school, to explore what the state of legal design (particularly in regards to access to justice innovation) was as of 2017.  Here (at last) are some video captures of the day’s events and talks. We will posting another batch soon. Margaret Hagan: Intro…

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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