Gone are the days when advocates used to be known as liars and ambulance chasers, greedy predators on the lookout for easy prey, said no one ever. It is quite a sad image actually for a profession that is such an important part of the justice delivery system. In fact if someone were to start an organization called Lawyers with a Conscience, many would think it is a joke. After all, how could anyone with a functioning conscience defend an offender? Couple this mild loathing (hopefully mild, that is) with the vagueness over fees charged and the non-availability of enough time on the part of the client. For example, a sea food exporter cannot wait for a long time to sue for non-performance of a contract; the waiting period to get the legal process in motion after contacting a lawyer, negotiating consultation fees and instituting a suit, will be long enough to damage his raw goods. Once proceedings begin, the adjournment culture engaged in collusion with advocates from both parties is an old and tiring delaying tactic that further prolongs a final decision in the case. How would individuals and organizations be able to access good and trust-worthy lawyers who would deliver before deadlines and make Court proceedings a less harrowing experience? It is for services of this sort that websites like http://www.legalpundits.com/ and http://www.advocatekhoj.com/ connect aggrieved persons and potential counsels for them (We cannot quite believe that we are promoting competitors here, but the lack of these services is so conspicuous that we only had two platforms to cite off the top of our heads).
An online profile of the advocate is created with information on his or her background and the status of cases argued, the party puts up details of its case which are kept confidential and strictly private and interested advocates get in touch with the client, who may or may not select them on the basis of their profile, a lot like online matchmaking. Soon getting the perfect lawyer for your case could be as easy as swiping right. Not only would such services increase accessibility to lawyers, it would also make potential clients less apprehensive about the fees that would be charged and the way the advocate handles the case.
While we are still on the topic of sanitizing the image of lawyers, let’s also talk about how legal jargon can throw off a client. A lawyer has to explain the problem and its solution in legal terms and more often than not a continuous rattling of difficult legal procedure accompanied with the complicated legal text would go over a client’s head. Visuals and graphics could go a long way in explaining words. It is easier to grasp a powerful infographic than to merely read text. Tools like data visualization can convey a message in lesser words with more impact, thus saving time and also promoting creativity. In fact, institutions like the Stanford Law School/d. school have very active Law Labs that try to harmonize design and the law by offering courses on legal design. This is a very important venture as universities offer the perfect environment for out-of-the-box thinking if students learn early on that their minds are capable of massive creativity and innovation.
Law students and lawyers can be acquainted with design processes so that every time they face a case or legislation, they can automatically start factoring in on the targeted audience of the law and how to make such law easily understandable to consumers. (We are not asking lawyers to become cartoonists or sit down with chart papers and doodle out case information to clients. It is more of encouraging the building of a platform where lawyers and designers interact to make legal consultation a more fruitful experience.)
Design in law can also be an effective mechanism for spreading information related to law to the masses. We need to move from plain textbooks to more fun and easier ways of spreading legal awareness and creating a scenario where Law is not merely a monstrosity of words that only people with a degree in Law can comprehend. The internet is a giant tool for such dissemination, therefore fertile ground for experimenting with incorporating design into legal services. Of course, we can always utilize other means to increase access to law. Quite recently the Chief Justice of India Justice T S Thakur suggested the composition of a song similar to Mile sur mera tera tumhara (a song from the 80s on national unity) for legal awareness and roping in celebrities to promote campaigns to spread information on rights and duties of citizens. Ideas like these that keep growing and turn into reality will aid the movement of sensitizing the common people about their rights and the protection they can seek under them. And maybe soon people will not gasp when they are introduced to a lawyer at a social gathering and say, “I am scared of lawyers”. Lawyers are not monsters, you know, they are just humans trying to make a livelihood out of their ability to talk and maintain an aura of shrewd intellect around their profession.
About the Author: Dona Mathew is a student of law with a penchant for human rights, the environment, travel, crime novels, 80s music and baking. She studies in her spare time and still hasn’t figured out the interpretation of s. 22 of the ID Act.