The Justice is in the Details: Evaluating Different Self-Help Designs for Legal Capability in Traffic Court


  • Margaret Hagan Director of the Stanford Legal Design Lab, Stanford Law School


How effective is a legal system that people cannot understand how to navigate? As more people try to navigate the civil justice system as self-represented litigants, there is more awareness about the importance of self-help tools that can build legal capability. If there is more effective self-help, then this can improve the quality of justice, both procedural and substantive, that people experience in the legal system. Yet there is little study of how and whether self-help can be effective in building legal capability, and which kinds of visuals, digital tools, or interactions are most effective at engaging people and helping them navigate the legal system. This paper builds off the nascent literature on how design can improve people’s navigation of complex bureaucratic systems, to conduct an exploratory design research into effective self-help for traffic court. It documents the participatory design process, lightweight exploratory evaluation method, and the findings on which type of self-help has the most promise for this area of court. It finds that visual design patterns have value, but that digital tools are needed to get user engagement and impact on outcomes.






Visual Law as an Instrument of Empowerment