Prototyping Access to Justice

Why don’t government – and especially legal – systems work for people?

The legal system can be confusing, expensive, and exhausting for people seeking civil legal help. And worse, people have to use it when they are facing some of the worst moments of their lives: when they’re getting divorced, being evicted from their homes, being fired from their jobs, or facing bankruptcy.

It’s a system meant to help people solve their problems, but it doesn’t work for many. Thousands of Californians who can’t afford a lawyer try to use the system on their own, only to find that they can’t do so correctly or efficiently. In response to this crisis, some courts have made user experience a priority. These courts are trying to figure out how to empower people to navigate court wisely, on their own.

In this practicum, we will partner with local California courts to prototype and pilot new ways to make the legal system serve people without lawyers. Our focus will be on implementation and evaluation of new designs. We aim to deliver projects to the courts that they can pilot immediately. We will draw on a bank of ideas and research from earlier Policy Labs to jumpstart our work.

Students will work on teams to build robust prototypes of new visual, product, and service designs, and then test them on site in the courts. They will evaluate which designs can make the legal system more human, more comprehensible, and more supportive to people. They will deliver these prototypes, along with service design maps, key user insights, and testing results to the court, in order to spur on changes in the system.

We encourage applications from students who have an interest in how design can be used to enhance social justice and dignity, and those who are interested in tackling complex systems challenges.

Consent of Instructor Form


Client & Deliverables

  • Client: local California courts
  • Deliverables: Prototypes for product and service designs; policy brief & oral briefing of client/s