The Triage (or Diagnosis) type of legal product is for a user in the legal system to understand what paths are open to her, based on the particular details of her situation.

The triage pattern is about diagnosing what a legal problem is, or checking eligibility for a certain legal option. Which path do you belong on? Do you belong on this track? Triage is about helping a person apply legal offerings to their unique circumstance (or vice versa).

Triage takes a person from a general set of legal resources to a targeted, customized set specific for their situation. Ideally, it will help them scope and focus on only the relevant parts of the legal system, and also begin to know how to name and discuss the legal issues they’re dealing with.


Use a Triage product when you want to ensure that a person knows whether they are eligible for services, or a certain type of relief. This may be when you are trying to provide self-help resources to people who might be accessing legal services without a lawyer, or when you are offering legal services and want to ensure that only those who qualify to receive services from you will contact you about them.

Ideally, Triage tools will help the user to wade through descriptions of the legal system & processes, to narrow them down to only those that likely apply to her particulars.

Triage is also useful to discern a user’s technical, language, and comprehension skills. If you are providing services in multiple ways (some in person, some online, some with limited assistance), a triage product can help you assess people’s suitability for these different tracks.


Triage can promote efficiency and quality user experience when you are offering services to laypeople. It can prevent people from getting expectations up about services if they are ineligible for them. It can also effectively help people understand what legal options are open to them, so that they are informed before seeking out services.

Additionally, triage can benefit service providers, helping them to sort through potential users to prevent people who aren’t eligible for services from contacting them. It also helps people do more through self-help, lessening the need for in-person conversations to figure out logistics and service eligibility.

Valuable functions of a Triage Tool

  • Help the user put a name on their problem
  • Show them possible paths they could take
  • Give them essential knowledge about the legal system that helps them decide which solution path is most appropriate (blending into a Strategy-Making Tool)
  • Direct them to an appropriate service, so they don’t go to a less appropriate or an inefficient path
  • Gather data from the user, (blending into an Intake Tool) so the professional can better figure out what type of service to provide them:
    • at what expertise level
    • with what kind of vehicle
    • with what level of hands-on support


Within this Triage family of products, there might be ‘expert systems’ that help a user narrow down what kind of legal rules or process apply to her. There could be diagnostic tools, that help her identify what legal problems exist.

User flow of the Triage Tool
A user going through a Triage process will follow this basic flow in order to understand what her situation in the legal system is:

  1. The user arrives at the tool knowing only that she is in a certain situation that might have legal dimensions. She is seeking guidance about how she can resolve this problematic situation.
  2. She interacts with the tool. It might ask her questions, it might get her to make choices — somehow it interacts with her to elicit key details of her situation.
  3. The tool follows a programmed algorithm to digest the user’s details.
  4. The tool presents the user with a prediction of what the most appropriate steps for her to take are — what legal process may be most worthwhile for her to pursue.

Triage could be done through a diagnostic quiz, that asks you questions about your situation and then delivers you a result/prescription that names what your legal issues and options are, and then hands you off to more resources. Think of a Buzzfeed quiz as a model.

Triage could also be done through a spot-your-situation interface. The tool could present videos, text, comics, images, or other representations of various legal situations. The user could browse through them and then say which resembles their own situation — which does not — which more than others — to start narrowing down what legal universe she is living in. This could be based off of medical triage, in which a person points to an image of the human body to indicate where the problem is, or when a tool presents many images of body problems and the user says which of the images/descriptions are similar to her own.

Ideas for future Triage tools

  1. A Decision Tree that a person can follow along, answering questions at each stop, until she reaches an end point with a prescription
  2. A Menu of possible options, that the user can browse among & answer a series of questions to figure out which of the menu options suits her best
  3. A Checklist of factors/symptoms for a certain legal process, that a user goes through and sees if these factors apply to her case. If a certain number of these factors resonate with her situation, then she might want to pursue this process.
  4. A Symptom Checker Diagram that visually represents different factors that indicate a certain legal problem or process, and which the user can then spot and compare to her own case, and figure out if these symptoms match her own.
  5. A Smart Story-listener in which the user just types out or speaks out her case, and the tool parses through her words to spot key details and tell her what her situation is and what possible remedies might be.