Comprehensibility as a Rule of Law Requirement: the role of legal design in delivering access to law

  • Michael Doherty Lancaster University


Visualisation, as an element of legal design, has a functional relationship with the issues of free access to law and plain language in law. ‘Functional’ because we can locate all three issues within an overarching functional account of law – Joseph Raz’s doctrine of the rule of law. Raz asked what ‘law’ – at a meta level – was for, and answered that its function was to guide human behaviour. The further characteristics and structures of law and legal systems that he derived from this meta-function were framed by the technical and social possibilities as they appeared in the 1970s. These possibilities, like so much else, have been disrupted and expanded by the digital revolution. The fact that citizens are now directly accessing primary law raises challenges for how readable and comprehensible that law is. It is in addressing this need for comprehensibility that visualisation can make a uniquely important contribution.