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A Legal Design Case Study

How the Finland Arbitration Institute is using legal design to reshape arbitration services

The legal industry is buzzing with talk of legal design. This naturally leads to the question – where can we find concrete case studies and examples of legal design projects? And, how do organisations benefit from legal design?

The Finland Arbitration Institute (FAI), together with Dottir Attorneys (parent of Dot. Legal Design) and design agency Hellon recently embarked on a legal design project to design and develop a solution to the challenge the FAI had encountered: how to reach their customers with information on arbitration that is easy to understand and practical. The solution needed to be engaging, pragmatic and help users and potential users of the arbitration understand the process. The end-product, the FAI Arbitration Process flowchart was recently unveiled at Helsinki International Arbitration Day on 24 May 2018 and has since received widespread industry recognition.

We wanted to share with you the details of this legal design project, to provide a clear example of how legal design is being used to develop new user-friendly legal tools and services and influence collaborative working styles within the legal industry.

The FAI Legal Design Project – The Challenge

The FAI administers the settlement of disputes in domestic and international arbitrations and mediations under the FAI Arbitration Rules, FAI Expedited Arbitration Rules and FAI Mediation Rules (the “FAI Rules”). Instead of resolving disputes itself, the FAI provides a framework for the resolution of disputes outside state courts, including the appointment of arbitrators and mediators who, respectively, resolve disputes with a final decision or facilitate the resolution of disputes.

Like many rules of arbitration, the FAI Arbitration Rules are detailed—with many paragraphs and annexes—explaining the various stages of an arbitral process with all finesses that you can find in today’s modern international arbitration rules, practices and standards. However, based on the inquiries received from FAI customers—users and potential users of the FAI’s services—, it appears that these rules and processes are not clear from the end-users perspective. Identified end-users of arbitration include business people, in-house counsel, attorneys or simply anyone who is not that familiar with arbitration or dispute resolution.

The FAI wanted to find the best way to address this gap between the end-user and the overall clarity of the FAI Arbitration Rules and processes. The FAI considered it important to listen to the end-users and to give them the possibility to take the driver’s seat. Legal design became the obvious choice for the FAI, after learning about the possibilities it could offer to improve and reshape the FAI’s services by combining legal knowledge, design methodologies and technological potential (if necessary) to better meet the arbitration users’ needs.

Together with Dottir Attorneys and Hellon, the FAI embarked on this legal design project aimed at creating a solution to ensure that arbitration information is communicated in an easy to understand, transparent and practical manner.

The FAI Legal Design Project – Starting blocks

Each legal design project is unique and therefore the approach can vary depending on the project goals and requirements. Nevertheless, there are some important starting blocks to every project:

Mindset is crucial to legal design. In legal design, the aim is to go into each legal design project as if it were a clean slate – no preconceived ideas of solutions.

Whilst this may feel uncomfortable and perhaps somewhat counterintuitive to lawyers (who are taught to seek solutions from the outset), embracing ambiguity, is one of the key ingredients to ultimately designing and developing the best possible solution. Starting a legal design project with a preconceived end solution will only serve as a limitation, particularly in the ideation phase.

A team can rest assure that by going through the legal design process, the end solution will be one that will truly resonate with the users.

Diversity of thought and collaboration are also essential aspects to legal design. It has been found that the best outcomes are borne from interdisciplinary teams comprising those with different experiences, expertise and ideas. With legal design, legal safety and compliance are never compromised and held equal with the design and product development aspects. Therefore, both legal and non-legal professionals must be involved.

Finally, it’s important to understand that the legal design approach is not one that should necessarily be followed in a linear order as this contradicts the reiterative nature of the approach. Rather, in legal design we refer to a framework of ‘phases’ each of which should be carried out, but then can equally be revisited over and over again until the legal design team is satisfied that they have created the right solution. In this sense, it is more appropriate to view legal design as a cycle as opposed to a linear process.

What did the starting blocks of the FAI legal design project look like? The FAI embraced the notion of ambiguity and ran with it at full speed for this project. Thus, the right mindset was there. We also had a great interdisciplinary team that worked together on the project: Jukka Pello, Partner at Dottir and the FAI Secretariat members spearheaded the legal aspects of the project whilst working closely with key stakeholders and other members from Dottir and Hellon who specialised in design and technology. The project itself was an interesting journey that included different phases, as described in detail below.

The FAI Legal Design Project – The journey

The FAI legal design journey can be described in 5 distinct phases:

1- Defining the design challenge

Our first task was to define the common goals of the project and frame a precise design challenge. To do this, we had a kick-off workshop with the core legal design team, which comprised individuals from FAI, Dottir and Hellon. In this workshop, key performance indicators and desired outcomes of the project were set. The general goal was to improve the usability and transparency of the FAI services particularly from the users’ point of view.

From the outset, we agreed that the design challenge would be to create an end solution, that, regardless of its form, would be engaging, functional, pragmatic and help potential users to easily understand the arbitration process.

2 - Understanding the service from the users’ perspective Human-centeredness and empathy is core to legal design. This means having the ability to see and understand the legal service from the perspective of those using it. Traditionally, such “soft” values/skills have not been considered relevant for legal problem-solving. However, increasingly, value is given to empathy in a business context, and it can, and should, have significant importance in the legal market as well.

To gain a deep understanding of the FAI users’ needs, wants, goals, challenges and values we held an interactive legal design workshop. Dottir and Hellon facilitated this workshop, in which participants completed a series of collaborative needfinding exercises. Needfinding exercises are useful methods to identify areas of opportunity for improvement. Workshop participants worked together to create:

  • Journey maps: to document key painpoints and challenges in the arbitration process as well as understand the steps which are most important to users.

  • Empathy maps: to identify how users feel at each stage and discover which stages in the arbitration process may evoke less positive feelings.

  • Personas of the FAI’s key stakeholders - their goals, motivations, needs and preferences. The key stakeholders identified were business people, in-house counsel and counsel representing clients in arbitration proceedings.

  • Bug lists: to ascertain information that may be deemed confusing, or where informational gaps arise.

3 - Ideation & Prototyping

Based on the information and insights obtained from the interactive workshop, Dottir and Hellon designed and developed a prototype solution. Interestingly, the first prototype created was in fact a static, visual diagram of the FAI arbitration process, intended to sit as an image on the FAI website. Although it included a lot of useful information for the users and potential users of the FAI’ services, and was visually intriguing, it resembled a traditional diagram/process map. After further user testing and feedback, it became clear that an interactive web tool would be more beneficial and practical for users. As such, the prototype evolved.

4 - Validation Once the prototype wireframe for the solution had been designed, it needed to be validated. By validating a prototype with end users, you can be confident that every detail and feature serves a specific purpose, is founded on evidence rather than instinct and enhances the overall user experience. Important aspects, from the language used to the specific information included, visuals, icons and even the colour schemes were tested by both senior in-house counsel and CEO’s. Validation was a vital step in ensuring that unnecessary details were removed and that any important details or features missing from our prototype were included in the final solution. Interestingly, the participants of the validation workshop were engaged in stimulating and lively discussions on all aspects - even on the colours and fonts used in the prototype.

5 - Evolving, finalizing & implementing Following the user-validation workshop, the legal design team tweaked, finalised and implemented the solution on the FAI website.

The FAI Legal Design Project – The Solution Together, the legal design team designed and developed The FAI Arbitration Process flowchart – an interactive web tool that explains the FAI arbitration process in a pragmatic and user-friendly way.

Based on the feedback received, the interactive flowchart has been found useful for all early identified key stakeholders. Business people can gain a quick understanding of the whole arbitration process including relevant timeframes, costs and other key information in a one-stop place; in-house counsel can easily communicate the relevant steps of the process to their top management; and lawyers acting as counsel can easily explain the arbitration process to their clients.

The solution layers information in a way that makes sense to the users – starting with a big picture overview of arbitration and then expanding to reveal more specific content should a user be interested. From this perspective, the tool provides precise information not only to those new to the FAI arbitration process, but also to those who want quick links to detailed legal information such as the FAI Arbitration Rules and practical information, such as costs of arbitration.

With the flowchart, all information deemed relevant by both the users and the FAI can be found in a centralized web page, thereby removing the excess time previously spent navigating from page to page to find desired information. Also, as it is both mobile and desktop optimized, it means that users can access this information on the go, fitting in seamlessly with the way in which modern business is conducted today.

Much more than a solution

  • When using legal design as an approach to create new legal tools and products, the end solution is just one of the many outcomes achieved: During a legal design project, a company gains important insights into their customer’s needs and preferences.

  • The collaborative nature of legal design helps build stronger relationships and establishes new working dynamics between a company and its clients.

  • Co-creating solutions with clients and other stakeholders often leads to higher rates of adoption, as people tend to support initiatives in which they had an active role in creating.

  • Employees are given new tools and training to explore alternative ways of problem-solving and are able to tap into new mindsets that diverge from the typical ‘lawyer’ mentality.

  • Those involved in the legal design project are encouraged to redefine the status quo and push boundaries, thereby driving a more creative, experimental and innovative culture from within an organization.

Also with the FAI legal design project, much more than an interactive and visual process map outlining the arbitration process was created. The process of working with stakeholders and users gave the FAI first-hand insights and information on their core clientele’s needs and preferences, which they can utilise to continue improving their services.

The FAI legal design project is one of the first concrete examples of how legal design is being applied in a practical context. It clearly demonstrates how legal design can be used to not only successfully innovate and reshape legal services, but also to influence mindsets and collaborative working methods whereby legal teams work collectively with stakeholders and non-legal professionals.

The FAI are taking a true designer’s approach to this project, and the legal design project is by no means over: the flowchart will be further developed based on the users’ experiences and we warmly welcome your thoughts and feedback so that the flowchart can continue to evolve in line with the needs of arbitration users. And who knows, maybe the users’ needs will guide the FAI towards a new legal design project in the future. This is in fact quite likely as the FAI Secretariat members became enthusiastic about legal design and the possibilities it could offer to further develop the FAI’s services to better meet the users and potential users’ needs.


About the Authors:

Heidi Merikalla-Teir is a Director at the Finland Chamber of Commerce heading its Dispute Resolution Services. She is also the Secretary General of the Arbitration Institute of the Finland Chamber of Commerce (FAI). Heidi has extensive and versatile experience in domestic and international commercial arbitration, litigation and mediation. She is a CEDR Accredited Mediator. Previously, Heidi worked for more than 12 years as attorney and Specialist Partner at one of the largest Finnish law firms where she specialized in commercial dispute resolution.

Meera Klemola works at the intersection of law and design. She is the Lead Legal Designer at Dottir Attorneys and Co-founder of leading legal design agency Dot. As a legal designer, Meera helps her clients use legal design to modernize legal thinking and develop human-centric and innovative legal solutions. Clients include multinational brands, institutes and law firms. Meera is also a frequently requested speaker at global conferences including Legal Geek, Legal Hackers and JDHorizons. Prior to Dot. Meera worked as a commercial lawyer for a top-tier international law firm in Sydney, Australia. She has qualifications in Global Innovation by Design, Law, Commerce and postgraduate studies in Design Thinking.

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