The legal industry is often thought of as nothing more than endless litigation in court and the delivery of complex legal advice. In reality, contemporary legal practice has much more to it. Legal professionals advise clients on a diverse range of matters, from corporate mergers and acquisitions to local development applications. Through the delivery of these services, complex laws and legal jargon can often be lost in translation. The result of this is a sizeable disconnect between the legal industry and the end user of legal information and services.
One professional seeking to bridge this divide is Bond alumna Meera Klemola. With expertise in design principles and a Bachelor of Laws / Bachelor of Commerce (CRICOS 093908G) from Bond University, Meera has dedicated her career to making legal services more accessible through legal design.
Recognising the value and potential of this important discipline in legal practice, Meera has recently collaborated with Bond University to deliver an industry-leading legal design microcredential and subject. The Fundamentals of Legal Design course equips learners with the skill set needed to innovate and drive change within the legal sector, enhancing existing processes, systems, and services using legal design.
We spoke to Meera about her time at Bond, the discipline of legal design, her impressive career to date, and her decision to collaborate with Bond on the Fundamentals of Legal Design.
Hi, Meera! Let’s start with the basics – what is legal design?
Legal design is the application of design principles to the practice of law. These design principles can be applied in several different ways to make legal systems, products, services, processes, and environments more usable and engaging.
Presently, what we see is that legal information is mainly drafted by lawyers, for lawyers. There seems to be a disconnect between the work legal professionals do and the understanding and accessibility of this for everyday people. An example of this is our court systems, which are not easily navigable for those without a legal background. Similarly, things like terms and conditions and privacy policies are not comprehensible for most people. This is also the case for in-house legal policies, compliance documents, and obligations – which are often little understood by business professionals.
We can alleviate the resulting disconnect between legal professionals and end users through the human-centred approach of legal design. Legal design can also be applied strategically to improve performance, innovation, brand perception, and even audience and client engagement, among other metrics. So, ultimately, legal design is the application of design in law, which results in making information, services, and solutions accessible, clearer, and more engaging and understandable for everyone.
Tell us a bit about your journey and how you came across legal design.
I studied a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Commerce at Bond University as a Vice Chancellor’s Elite Scholar. My time at Bond was really special, and all of my memories of uni are extremely positive. Some of my closest friends today are Bondies, as is my husband! It’s safe to say I got a lot from my time at university. In particular, I really appreciated Bond’s one-on-one attention, ‘learning by doing’ approach, and focus on practical skills.
When I graduated, I spent some time working at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions on the Gold Coast, which I found very meaningful as it gave me the opportunity to represent victims of various crimes and gain firsthand knowledge of the Australian court system. After some time working in public prosecutions, I relocated to Melbourne, and it was there that I stepped into the world of corporate law and gained valuable commercial expertise.
My interest in design is longstanding, and I decided to formalise this interest by completing a master’s degree in international design management from Aalto University in Finland, which is one of the top 10 design schools in the world. During my studies, we worked with lots of different companies from various industries, undertaking industry research on how design principles were being used to innovate and solve complex problems.
Initially my idea was to pivot away from the law and move into service design, however, as I read about all these industries using design, it struck me that law was not one of them. So many other sectors had tapped into the business value of design to innovate, solve complex problems, and become more user-centric. Law, on the other hand, showed little evidence of following suit. In a way, I guess I was at the right place at the right time, being in Helsinki. One of the law firms was extremely interested in this area and leading the movement globally. They hired me to lead their legal design team, and from there, everything has just grown and developed.
After working with them, I started my own consultancy, Ground M, which has enabled me to work with a variety of players in the legal industry – from private practice to in-house counsel and higher education institutions. Through my consultancy, I’ve really focused on upskilling lawyers with legal design skills, as well as leading different legal design projects and initiatives.
Tell us a bit about your work in legal design.
I've been at the forefront of the legal design movement for several years now, so my experience is extensive and varied. In terms of project work, I've collaborated with some of the world's largest companies and law firms on legal design projects, as well as upskilling their legal teams. Some companies that I’ve worked with include Chevron Accenture, Daimler Automotive, Nike, and Estée Lauder. I’ve also worked with global law firms such as Linklaters, White & Case LLP, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP to name a few.
Beyond my experience in legal design projects and upskilling legal professionals, I was the host of the world’s first Legal Design Summit back in 2016. This summit is recognised as the platform that cemented the legal design movement globally. Over 600 people from across the globe attended this event, and it has since occurred every second year.
Contributing to the evolving literature on legal design is something I really enjoy. Most recently, I co-authored The Legal Design Book – Doing law in the 21st Century with Astrid Kohlmeier. It is one of the first books in this space. We are humbled to have received fantastic reviews from both legal professionals and law schools around the world, many of whom have now selected this book as recommended reading for their law students.
What inspired you to collaborate with Bond on The Fundamentals of Legal Design?
Through my work and the publication of The Legal Design Book, I am regularly approached by many students and professionals from around the world looking to upskill more thoroughly in this area. People wanted more information on legal design than just a few online blog posts. It struck me that there were limited offerings for formal upskilling on legal design for working professionals, with most offerings available mainly to students at certain law schools. There are a couple of short courses that give learners a taste for legal design, but nothing offered by a leading university that truly develops a deeper skill set and enables learners to lead projects and upskill their teams in a capability-building sense. The desire to address this gap in the sector is really where the inspiration came from.
It’s a privilege to work with the forward-thinking law school at Bond University to bring this microcredential to the market. It feels like a full-circle moment, starting first as a student at Bond, and now returning in a different capacity to collaborate and teach.
Who is the Fundamentals of Legal Design microcredential for?
The Fundamentals of Legal Design microcredential is for any legal professional who has the curiosity and interest to do things differently and navigate change within the law. I would recommend this course to partners of law firms and in-house counsel who want to be at the cutting edge of different innovation methods, as well as lawyers who want to upskill and future-proof their careers with a new toolkit. Ultimately, this microcredential is perfect for any legal professional who is striving to better connect with clients, create more user-friendly legal advice, and bring an innovative mindset to their projects.
What is the course structure?
This flexible online course is designed to fit seamlessly into your busy schedule, while simultaneously equipping you with core knowledge, skills, and tools to develop and grow your legal design competency. It comprises a series of online modules with a complementary workbook filled with activities and exercises to apply your learnings, and legal design templates that can be immediately utilised in the workplace.
You will hear case studies and tips from industry experts, including global law firms and organisations, providing real-life context to legal design, how it is being implemented in industry, and why it is relevant.
You can also access group check-in sessions with me, where you can ask questions, engage in discussions, and connect with your fellow participants. To confirm your understanding of key concepts, there are quizzes and knowledge checks along the way, and a final short assessment – your own legal design project pitch. Upon completion, learners qualify with a formally recognised microcredential in Fundamentals of Legal Design from Bond University.
Want more insight into Bond’s full suite of microcredentials? With courses from mediation to insolvency, Bond is your one stop shop for upskilling, completing compulsory professional development hours, or discovering your new niche.