This academic paper is based on a systematic content analysis of legal texts, building a statistic on how often flowcharts and similar visualizations were used to make legal concepts more approachable.
The result – astonishingly, but maybe not surprisingly, an almost complete absence of visualizations – ultimately lead to the author’s final question that summarizes the paper rather well:
How can we expect communities to be cognisant of and adhere to legislation that has become so verbose and complicated as to be incomprehensible even to those who are legally educated?
The legal field and the related professions are traditionally strictly text-based. While the benefit of visual cues is well researched and slowly gains some traction by means of the legal design movement, their widespread adoption are still a long distance away.
When we consider the many thousands of academic articles, textbooks, case reports, websites, blog posts and other media published each year on an almost limitless range of legal topics, that the use of visualisations as observed in this literature review never exceeds 10 in any given year is unfortunate. More than that, it demonstrates a collective failure to rethink and improve how we draft, teach, research, communicate and practice law to empower all in society.
The discussion in the paper raises four important aspects:
- Lay comprehension
- Access to justice
- Legal education and meaning
This is an exciting field where design (not just visual, but ideally also interactive) can directly contribute to people’s lives – hopefully publications like these have the potential to raise awareness for these “new ways” of legal work.