Thursday, November 19, 2015

Virtual Police Station and Thoughts on Design and Communicating Law

For those interested The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has a new website called Virtual Police Station that provides a detailed tour of an Indian police station including what victims, accused, and witnesses should expect when they visit. The information provided may not be new to lawyers, but I do think formats like this provide a valuable training tool for law students, the police, and others as a quick tutorial of what proper expectations of the police should be. The idea of placing one in an actual police station is compelling, even if this high definition format may limit the reach of this tool to those in India without very fast internet connection speeds. One could see someone creating a similar tool for explaining court processes.

One of the more interesting academic fields right now I think is about how to communicate legal information most effectively to different types of audiences. Sometimes multi-media experiences like the Virtual Police Station may be most effective, while in other situations simple symbols may be more appropriate. In the U.S. Stanford has a Legal Design Lab, which is a collaboration between its law school and design school.  Much of the US work is looking at how technological changes provide opportunities to interface with customers and populations with legal needs in new ways.  In India you already see this taking off for small business customers with sites like Vakil Search which provides a relatively clear interface for its customers online. The simplicity and approachability of the interface is undoubtedly an attraction to this site and similar ones like LegalZoom in the US. 

Going forward, I think answering design questions will be critical to how the law is explained to and understood by citizens, law students, bureaucrats, and even lawyers and judges. High constitutional theory is interesting to discuss, but most legal problems are more mundane and the question is rather how to communicate what the law is and meet people's legal needs as efficiently and effectively as possible.
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