Law By Design

Why use Design Thinking?

Design thinking for law is a process of experiencing knowledge and exploring the human mind’s ‘playground of ideas'.

Design thinking helps us to change the law for the better by…

  • Asking participants to take on a beginner’s mindset
  • Looking beyond the borders of the “law” as currently defined
  • Stripping away the fear of making mistakes
  • Teaching creativity and prototyping as core skill sets

Read more on Medium

Listen to the Evolve the Law Podcast


Events from Duke Law By Design

Students and faculty have engaged in human-centered design processes with stakeholders, other service professionals, and partner organizations from the community. The following is a sample of past and upcoming workshops using design thinking.

January 2018

Prof. Jeff Ward and Rochael Soper Adranly co-developed and co-taught the Wintersession course, Designing Creative Legal Solutions, at Duke Law for the first time. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Facilitated by Duke Law alum Keith Porcaro, Using Technology in Legal Practice brought together Professors Charles Holton and Jesse McCoy of the Civil Justice Clinic, Jeff Ward of the Duke Center on Law & Technology and members from the Mayor's Office of Durham for a hands-on, interactive workshop on design thinking applied to eviction procedures in Durham.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Director Jeff Ward hosted "Big Ideas: Designing Creative Legal Solutions." This design thinking workshop sought to imagine measurements of project and attorney success beyond the billable hour. Participants included professionals from banks and law firms, legal tech companies, law students, in-house counsel, and the NCBA Future of Law Committee.

Friday, October 29, 2018

Prof. Casandra Laskowski hosted Camillo Sassan and Kevin L. Schultz from IBM's Design Thinking Studio for a session titled Design Thinking and the Law.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Director Jeff Ward led a design thinking workshop for the North Carolina Bar Association's Future of Law Committee around increasing access to justice. Read about the meeting in the Salisbury Post.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Prof. Anne Gordon led a design thinking workshop during the Ten Years After “A Path Forward”: Strengthening the Connection Between Forensics, Statistics, and Law Conference at Fuqua School of Business around rethinking a basic, two page lab report. Prof. Brandon Garrett will assist in the exercise. The central question: How might we improve forensic reports to be more complete, accurate, and comprehensible? Sponsored by the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE) and the Innocence Project.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Director Jeff Ward spoke on a Legal Design panel at Wake Forest Law on March 8 at the Journal of Business & Intellectual Property Law Symposium.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Prof. Cas Laskowski co-presented a two-part workshop on design thinking, Agile, Lean, and Design: OH MY! with George Taoultsides (Harvard Law School), at the Southeastern Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries (SEAALL) Annual Meeting 2019.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Kelli Raker and Prof. Cas Laskowski co-presented a workshop on design thinking, A2J by Design: Prototyping Innovative Solutions with Open Legal Information, at the UNT Open Access Symposium 2019 at UNT Dallas College of Law.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Kevin Lee (Professor of Law at Campbell University Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law) and Raina Haque (Professor of Practice of Technology at Wake Forest University School of Law) will join Director Jeff Ward to lead a design thinking process to generate creative ideas on how to build thriving legal services markets for the "massive middle" - those individuals who need assistance with their legal problems but are unable to access full-freight legal services and do not qualify for legal aid / pro bono services. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Prof. Cas Laskowski and Kelli Raker partnered with facilitators at IBM and local human traffkcing specalists to present a day-long workshop, Designing Innovative Ways to Meet the Needs of Human Trafficking Survivors. This small interdisciplinary group used design thinking methodology to explore new ways to help human trafficking survivors and the community organizations that serve them. More info.

January 2020

Prof. Cas Laskowski and Libby Magee Coles '08 are co-teaching Wintersession course Law 865: Designing Creative Legal Solutions, a design-thinking course aimed at bringing together community partners and law students to develop real creative solutions for our community around human trafficking and real creative mindsets for ourselves.

Jeff Ward and students

Students at design thinking workshop



Courses using Design Thinking at Duke Law

Designing Creative Legal Solutions

Readings in Social Justice: Mass Incarceration


Facilitators of Duke Law By Design

Our Duke Law By Design facilitators have completed training through IDEO U about design thinking.

Erika BuellProf. Erika Buell

“Lawyers often bring an analytical mindset to a task or scenario - including rapid assessments, analysis, judgments, and conclusions. Suspending this type of ‘lawyer’ thinking and embracing design thinking — watching (without judging) and empathizing with curiosity — is a profound shift in mindset that facilitates new insights.” 

Read more about Prof. Buell

Anne GordonProf. Anne Gordon

"I've had a variety of profesional interests and jobs, so I'm used to the idea of trying, failing, and stumbling toward something that at the end will work for me. Design thinking is right in line with how I view life - as an opportunity to iterate towards your final goal."

Read more about Prof. Gordon

Crystal GrantProf. Crystal Grant

"I collaborate with professionals across a number of disciplines.  Design thinking provides a framework I can use in my interdisciplinary work and client representation.  I have expanded my problem solving skills and I can't wait to share my insights with students."

Read more about Prof. Grant

Cas LaskowskiProf. Cas Laskowski

"As a gamer, I'm used to failing several times before getting it right. Design thinking encourages us to embrace failure to progress. Failure compels us to look at problems in new ways and think of creative solutions."

Read more about Prof. Laskowski

Kelli RakerKelli Raker

"Empathy is one of the cornerstones of design thinking, which we all need to practice more often. I’ve taught empathy and active listening, and found that it impacts how we respond to others when faced with a complex problem. I am a better person and professional when I connect with others around their experience using empathy." 

Read more about Kelli

Professor Jeff WardProf. Jeff Ward

"The law, like every powerful institution, needs engines of renewal and disruption, and design thinking fuels these engines, giving students full license to make tomorrow’s law better than today’s."

Read more about Prof. Ward


Alumni Profile

Rochael Soper Adranly, L ’97/98 is Partner, General Counsel + Legal Design Lead for the international design firm IDEO. She has been representing creative and innovative individuals and organizations, while pursuing her own creative projects, for close to 20 years. In her role as Legal Design Lead, Adranly walks the fine line between the rules-based world of law and the nonrules-based world of innovation, seeing to ensure that legal processes, tools, roles, and assets fit the needs of users as well as the human-centered culture of the firm. In 2015, she worked closely with her IDEO colleagues to create IDEO's Legal Design + Innovation practice to help law firms, in-house legal teams, law schools, public sector clients, and criminal justice reform advocates across the globe embrace human centered design against a rigid legal landscape.

Before joining IDEO, she worked in law firms in Houston, New York, and Silicon Valley and taught client counseling and negotiation at the UC Hastings and UC Berkeley Schools of Law. In 2017, Adranly co-developed and co-taught the Wintersession course, Designing Creative Legal Solutions, at Duke Law with Professor Jeff Ward. Adranly earned her JD and LLM from Duke Law School in 1997/98 respectively.