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Book Review: The Legal Design Book, Doing Law in the 21st Century by Meera Klemola and Astrid Kohlmeier

Book Review: The Legal Design Book, Doing Law in the 21st Century by Meera Klemola and Astrid Kohlmeier

Reviewed by Mohammed Al Rezan.


Traditional ideas prevail in the legal field; this calls for the development and renewal of legal language, expression, formatting and design to keep pace with changes and interactions in the world. Legal design is still considered a new area of legal interest. In fact, legal design architecture has not yet been fully adopted as a separate discipline in law; however, it is considered a potential future revolution within the framework of law practice. The Legal Design Book: Doing Law in the 21st Century sheds light on legal design and its approach, philosophy, dimensions, work mechanisms and applications. The two authors, Astrid Kohlmeier and Meera Klemola, are at the forefront of legal design practice. Kohlmeier is a lawyer interested in developing legal programs related to innovation and digitisation, and she has been interested in legal design over 15 years. Klemola is a pioneer in legal design. She has experience in consulting and teaching law faculties and is also a specialist in law, design management and business. One of the fundamental issues of this book is in its description of the nature of legal design; because of the novelty and ambiguity of this new field, legal design has been defined by authors as transforming ‘the field of law to legal products, services, work systems, business strategies, ecosystems and user experience’ (p. 6). Thus, the field of legal design depends on two elements, the designer's creativity and legal understanding, which work to transfer legal information and traditional texts into short, easy and creative outputs.

The authors begin the book by correcting perceptions and concepts about legal design projects and laboratories. They emphasise that legal design does not mean making contracts beautiful or formatting texts. Legal design is the change of legal texts based on design innovations and user interaction. The authors then recount several legal design experiences and describe the legal designer, their requisite skills and their roles at work. These skills include creative thinking, idea generation and modelling. The authors then discuss the value of legal design, and finally, how to evaluate and improve legal design. The authors also provide several questions and criteria that contribute to building legal design projects.

One of the most important contributions to this book is the section on field work in Chapter Five, in which the authors review models from six different entities consisting of universities, law firms, major commercial firms and legal departments: Clifford Chance, Hive Legal, Queen Mary University, Airbus, Háptica and Visual Contracts. In particular, for the Queen Mary University project, the first task was to redesign the online terms and conditions of a company. The members were divided into four groups or teams to build prototypes for designing the terms and conditions. They trained for two days and were able to create the new terms and conditions model within two weeks. Then, the researchers interviewed users and tested the models to reach an integrated working model. Overall, the book clarifies the philosophies and the nature of legal design and its objectives and describes the procedures and processes for legal design, such as the importance of forming a legal design team of professionals from a variety of disciplines who have a foundational understanding of concepts, terms or disciplines related to legal design. It also provides many strategies for legal design work, implementation, idea generation and setting determinants for evaluation.  The book’s distinctive and attractive design also contains many informative charts and tables and uses creative layouts, colours and fonts to help ease understanding. At the end of each chapter, the authors also provide a short summary and include blank pages for reflections and criticism.

Some of the concepts and ideas discussed in The Legal Design Book are more broadly applicable to other projects. For example, the authors note that to avoid encountering problems that occur in legal laboratories, focus should be placed on ensuring the environment is well designed for collaboration and has adequate technical equipment, which is the basis of any good design environment. The authors also discuss embracing digitalization, brainstorming, voting, clarifying goals, prototyping and team management as essential to legal design, which are generally accepted as part of any design process. However, the authors were able to situate these widespread design ideas in the specific context of legal design and its requirements and needs.

Presenting experiences and projects written in cooperation with the project's director or supervisor, and supported with pictures of work or implementation steps, the authors provide a significant and direct perception of the central ideas behind legal design. The Legal Design Book contributes significantly to the presentation of legal design’s ideas, objectives and strategy, and this book may be considered a primary source for anyone who wants to understand or specialize in legal design.

Kohlmeier, A., & Klemola, M. (2021). The Legal Design Book: Doing Law in the 21st Century. Published by Meera Klemola and Astrid Kohlmeier.


Mohammed Al Rezan is a Lecturer in commercial law at Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University in Saudi Arabia and a PhD student in law at The University of Malaya. He has diverse interests in creativity, technology, design and innovation and has a background in programming languages, business consulting and teaching law. He is interested in legal design in contracts and regulations. He also seeks to renew methods and curricula for teaching law in Arab countries.

 March 28, 2022