This morning, I read an article on Wired about the how the roll out of HealthCare.Gov brought to light the importance of design. As the article says, the design in question is not just whether the colors are appealing, but whether the overall design one that the user can get exactly what he or she wants without having to call a help line or read an lengthy manual.
This led me to think about my own legal services program and law practices in general. When a client comes in, does the design of our practice seem intuitive to them? Is it inspiring confidence? Do they leave feeling more confused than when they entered? Is the way we do business designed to make it easy for the client to get their question answered? Do our clients get lost in the amount of paperwork they have to sign in order to get a question answered about paperwork someone else had them sign?
It is tempting to say that, "well, the practice of law is different than a website. What we do is much more complicated. Design isn't important."
I couldn't disagree more. As lawyers, our job is to help our clients understand their legal rights and, if necessary, vindicate those rights when they have been violated. If our clients come to us and can't understand what we are talking about or if it takes a lot of unnecessary work on their part to get their questions answered, then we are not effectively doing our jobs.
Where are some areas we can improve our design? Informative websites that aren't cluttered with disclaimers to the point that the useful information is lost. Avoiding jargon in talking with our clients. Keeping the paperwork to the minimum (what client who comes in with a contract problem wants to read through a 15 page dense representation agreement to get a simple question answered?)
So, is your practice well designed for your clients, or is it well designed for you? It is not an either or question, but I suspect that all too often, the answer will be heavily slanted towards us and not the clients. And in doing so, we frustrate our clients.