Everyone deserves technology they can trust

Effecting Change in the Legal Profession with Design Thinking—Karla Schlaepfer gives a talk with over 70 lawyers and legal tech enthusiasts at the 5. NRW Legal Tech Meet-Up on Feb. 12, 2019

Who would have thought that a large and diverse group of lawyers and techies would be so open to experiment and ready to participant in a surprising group activity? In this short time, members of the audience practiced in teams of two creating interpersonal trust and a certain risk-taking awareness. This activity was presented to stimulate the “growth” mindset so vital for innovating processes and with Design Thinking.

Here the report from the host Wolters Kluwer on the meet-up at Headquarters in Köln.

The follow are some snippets from my talk:

Effecting Change in the Legal Profession—in 30 short minutes you`ll get a blazing overview of how you can innovate with Design Thinking framework and mindset, what the building blocks are, examples of Legal cases studies for adopting a key Design Thinking principal, namely collaboration.

Hi, I’m Karla. I help people solve problems, communicate better, and with me people learn how to innovate with agile processes and Human-Centered Design or Design Thinking.

I was born in Southern California, graduated from US Berkeley and have spent the last 25 years in adult education. I’ve written two books, articles and besides knowing my way around innovation processes like Design Thinking, I’m a certified systemic coach.

Since I’m not a lawyer but an innovator who starts with the end in mind. I asked myself—who are you, my audience, my “clients” for the next 30 minutes?

Survey On Resistance To Change

I did some research and found a survey where young lawyers rate themselves and how they see the future. And since tonight is a Legal Tech meet-up, I thought you might also be interested which technologies are integrated into law firms.

This survey is by International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA)—whose members are aged between 25 and 45—and the Council of Bars and Law Societies in Europe (CCBE)* All the names and resources that I mention in my talk are listed on the handout (see below). They consulted 180 lawyers from 48 countries. Now here, on the subject of change, you see what they reported was stopping innovation in their firms.

Almost half of young lawyers see resistance to innovation by their firms as the biggest threat to the profession, according to an international survey.


This resistance might be due to the fact the innovation is a change process. And why is this so hard for people, for lawyers, to accept?

Ready For An Experiment?

Now before I ask you to try out a short experiment, this trust leap, I want to tell you about

Dr. Larry Richard who has spent years studying and writing about lawyers behaviors. In his work, he found that Lawyers score lower than average for resilience and sociability, and way above average on skepticism—which makes this next activity daring. But itt only takes a minute and it is not about producing perfect masterpieces

Let me take you back for a minute because I believe everyone has potential to overcome this kind of risk-avoidance and over skepticism. … All children draw. Then, somewhere in the course of becoming logical adults, we unlearn this elemental skill. As Bob McKim, founder of Stanford’s product design program, and “lateral thinking” pioneer Edward de Bono have found, when you use drawing to express an idea instead of words or numbers, you engage a different part of the brain.

Now take out the paper and pen from under your chair and you have about 60 seconds to quickly sketch your neighbor or team up with a partner …

What is really the Problem? How can Design Thinking impact what you do?

Design Thinking is an innovative method that is focused on people. We cultivate a skill and mind set that Prof. Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset. We encourage experimentation, curiosity and learn from mistakes. These necessary soft skills go even further. We share, appreciate effort not only results and are very flexible. We ask questions and try to determine—what is really the issue? In our VUCA world these skills are vital. Since we put people in the forefront, we always have our client solution first and we are clear about the “Why” of our mission. Our response must therefore be to start with the customer and work backwards from their needs. Figure out through an innovation framework like DT their motivations, joys, needs, fears, pain points and how those relate to the innovation challenge.

Sweet spot in Design Thinking

In DT terms, innovation is the balance between these 3 components. If you have a fantastic technological product, but it doesn’t help clients easily solve their problems, it won’t work. Noone will use new tech if they don’t trust it. In order to design products and services that people find trustworthy, you have care and to build a consistently trustworthy relationship with your stakeholders. This respect is often a part of the living company culture.

Design Thinking Legal Lab Stanford

This group of educators and lawyers were the one of the first. Drawing on so-called soft skills to drive change and create a positive legal experience that is accessible and jargon free. And special products for specific legal needs.


One key principle in DT is networking collaboration. Team collaboration. Interdisciplinary team collaboration.

Principle DT: Build interdisciplinary teams, use smart collaboration internally and externally in relation to collaboration. This type of collaboration is also called Cross Functional Alignment. Not just to advance your own organization but to benefit the partner organization in some way, to build relationship and ultimately create strategic partnerships. But do not overextend your organization



How to use DT innovation to drive Silo breaking participation

Workshop Or Design Sprint


Case Study: Legal Design Thinking In Munich

Here an example from a Muncher publishing house Droemer-Knaur how they used Design Thinking to re-create and personalize their vendor contracts. They did research and among other things they asked their clients, “What purpose does the license agreement fulfill in your eyes?”

Ralf Reuter is the head of Legal at the Publishing house in Munich and an enthusiastic design thinker. He showed how they were able to considerably refine and shorten (from 31 pages to 13) a license agreement. Instead of sending cold recitations of the law and decision, the group used human centered design and co-creation to understand the emotional experience of the recipient, as well as their practical needs, to draft new license. Cost savings and high client satisfaction!

What new value could you legal in-house department be delivering tomorrow that it isn’t today?

**Find out how with and start to develop future oriented client services models that make positive impact. Start to develop the necessary confidence and skills to give new creative ideas a try with Design Thinking for innovation! Contact Karla Schlaepfer:

Talk Sources

“Effecting Change in the Legal Profession with Design Thinking”

Survey by the International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA)

Dr. Larry Richard

IDEO Tim Brown/ draw your neighbor

Prof. Carol Dweck/mindsets

Legal Design Lab Stanford

Parts without a Whole (Study 2017) on Design Thinking improving work culture

Ralf Reuther, Verlag Droemer- Knaur

Rachel Botsmann: Trust is the new currency

Get In Touch

Contact me for a motivating talk in your Legal Firm!