Prototyping Access to Justice courses



The Challenge

We are partnered with local California courts, who exist to help resolve common family, debt, housing, and other civil disputes. The courts are interested in how people without lawyers can more efficiently, effectively use the civil legal system.

Though the legal system was built to be used by people with lawyers, increasingly (especially in California) people use it without lawyers. This means that people are getting things wrong, and courts aren’t working efficiently.


Goals & Deliverables

Our court partners have asked us for our proposals for how the court building, website, services, forms, and other service-elements can be made more usable, accessible, and engaging. Our classes are structured with this as the overarching goal. We are taking a human-centered design to craft our analysis and proposals.

On this page, we will document the design work — like maps, personas, sketches, and brainstorms — we do, as well as the concepts that we propose and vet.



A Photo Walk-through of Court

Have you ever been to a court or a Self-Help Center in the U.S.?

Here is a photo-walk-through of what a California court experience is like.



Our Design Work

Our team has been running a series of design sprints and full-quarter courses in California and Massachusetts. In this design work, students, designers, court professionals, and other experts are documenting what the status quo of the user journey through the civil legal system is, particularly for those without a lawyer.

They are identifying core types of users and their needs and requirements.

And they have mapped out the services the users receive, where there are failpoints, emotional highs and lows, and opportunities for improvement.



Class Updates and Work

We’ll be posting up blogs with highlights of our research, analysis, and design work.

In our classes, we map out different users' journeys through the court. This is one of the Northeastern University student teams' map, that abstracts different users' journey through housing court in Boston.
Last Friday was the final class in the Stanford Law School/d.school class Prototyping Access to Justice. Kursat Ozenc and I were teaching the course as a practical, service design effort. The big question guiding the work: if hundreds of thousands of Californians go to the courts to deal with their divorce, ...
A sketch from my notebook, while I was observing a waiting room in a Court Service center in Boston, for people who were waiting for help with housing cases.
Today we held our Prototyping Access to Justice class on-site at San Mateo County court house, specifically in and around the Self-Help Center and Family Law Facilitator. The six student teams are all at the point where they have working prototypes that they want to test. They each have hypotheses about ...
In our Prototyping Access to Justice class, Kursat Ozenc and I are leading student teams to get quickly from speculating about how the courts could be improved to implementing new concepts. In our class today, in week 3 of the course, we had the students make some more progress along the ...
In Spring 2016, Margaret Hagan and Janet Martinez taught a course at Stanford Law School, through the Policy Lab program, called Prototyping Access to Justice: Designing New Legal Services for Self-Help (see the official class description on Stanford Law's site here). In partnership with the California Judicial Council and Self-Help ...
Court user experience can be heavy sometimes due to the entangled nature of court use cases and structures. This past week, our course participants took that challenge and conducted research in the field with court employees, and end users. When they were preparing to present their findings, we asked them to think ...
Talking to the experts in the court system, we heard what some of the most wicked, common problems are for people -- the common places that they fail in getting to a good resolution. It's very hard to finish a divorce case. Even if you get it started, and do ...
In our interviews with experts and court professionals, we identified some of the core challenges and needs. Here are some of the highlights: More and more people are coming to the civil court system without a lawyer Judges, clerks, and other court professionals have an obligation to be neutral, but they ...
As we have been researching the status quo situation of the Self Help Centers, we've identified some common types of users. They are as follows. People with their kids, stressed and overwhelmed. They either can't get child care, or brought them hoping to use court child care, but couldn't because of ...
After our first two classes, we began to identify some of the big questions that characterize how the court needs to improve. We decided to segment based on where the person is in their journey through the system. Each brief focuses on a different moment. We are going to use these ...
MargaretPrototyping Access to Justice courses