The legal design lab network is an inter-university project between instructors from law and design schools across four universities that began in 2019. Stanford University’s Legal Design Lab had developed a course on court and justice innovation, that they then worked with three other universities — Universidad de Los Andes (in Colombia), Universidad Francisco Marroquín (in Guatemala), and Universidad Anáhuac -Querétaro (in México) — to teach in sync.
The instructors shared class planning, syllabi, partnership plans, and other class resources. The students in the class were all working with local partners, and they had opportunities to share their insights and work product with students in the other universities. This case study presents the narrative of the various university courses, and the insights and recommendations they have for a successful class network for other universities who may want to teach in a similar model.
The 2019 class network was a ‘prototype’ meant to explore what a more permanent network could be. The overall experience of the professors and students was positive, especially as it was the first time teaching an interdisciplinary course between law schools and design schools in the three universities. Still, each of the Mexican, Colombian, and Guatemalan schools had different difficulties along the course. These difficulties and lessons learned would make a second iteration of the course much better. The first versions of the class helped build cornerstones of more interdisciplinary, hands-on, and experiential courses in each of the universities, and the network can grow to accommodate more synced courses and independent development.
The Genesis of the Global Network
Stanford’s Legal Design Lab has been building a curriculum over the past six years to teach a mixture of service design, agile technology development, policy prototyping, and organizational change to our students.
These types of classes help to change the mindsets of students — opening up new ways of working, solving problems, and building a career. The Lab-based classes mix hands-on, client-facing work of clinics, with the systems thinking and research of policy labs, and the development focus of startup classes.
One of the core missions of the Legal Design Lab is training students and professionals in human-centered legal design. In 2018, the Lab team thought about how to scale up the impact in this mission, aside from offering more courses at Stanford. Even if the Lab’s local California courses have impact on the 20-some Stanford students in a given class and the one or two community partners, could the Lab leverage its class model to have a larger impact — on a larger number of the next generation of legal professionals?
The Lab team identified an opportunity in its many recent graduates, many of whom are LLMs or graduate students who, after graduating from Stanford, leave California for other states or countries. What if, as these students were trained them in the Stanford classes, they could also be equipped with resources and abilities to set up similar classes in other universities and groups?
In the 2017-18 school year, a number of LLM students taking Intro to Legal Design asked if it might be possible to replicate the class back in their home countries, where they had already been teaching before coming to Stanford for an LLM. Two particular students, Colombian lawyer and LLM Santiago Pardo and Mexican lawyer and LLM Manuel Mureddu, had the insight that sparked experiment over the past year. They were empowered to use design methods and make a change in their own lives, communities, and (especially) on their legal career. This is how the idea was born: How might we harness the interest of the former students and make the legal system more meaningful through human-centered design at a regional scale?
Setting up a Parallel set of Classes
At the same time as the Lab was talking to interested students about how they might teach legal design in other universities, the Stanford team was also scoping out the next year’s classes. It had been teaching various classes on Prototyping Access to Justice, Design for Justice: Eviction and Fines and Fees — and they wanted to think about expanding out beyond just law students and ‘justice issues’.
After conversations with different professors on Stanford campus, including in Sociology and the Med School, we identified the potential for a course on how emerging technologies and human-centered design could be used to help people going through problems with housing, medical care, and debt. As the team developed this new interdisciplinary class, Justice + Poverty Innovation, they thought if they could link this in with a possible inter-university network of classes.
What if there could be teams at different universities, teaching the same basic course on ‘legal design’ and ‘access to justice,’ but with local partners, policy challenges, and student group? What if law students in different countries could have a similar experience to a Stanford’s student, with the same essential curriculum structure and teaching resources, but with local partnerships and justice challenges?
The initial idea was inspired by a franchise model: to create something of a ‘franchise course’ where the Lab would be the ‘franchisor’ and could provide the syllabus model, support to teach the class, and the materials to the teaching team in each university (the franchisee) who would do all of the groundwork to establish the course, find local partners, recruit students, and facilitate the course. It wouldn’t be about a financial arrangement, but more of an Open Access model: we provide our structure, insights, and best practices in setting up a legal design lab class, and the other universities can learn from it and adapt it to their local context.
The basics of the course
The courses taught at the different countries needed to include six components:
- Content and overarching goals. The main goal is to teach students the design process, and how to use it to solve problems in the legal and justice system. Students would know what human-centered design is, and how to use it to understand how to communicate better, how to create new products and services, and how to reform social systems at the end of the course.
- Hands-on. The class would be hands-on, and the students would create new proposals, designs, and strategic plans. The students would have to take leadership in scoping out milestones, partnerships, and what they would be developing. The class would provide structure, coaching, resources, and connections to support them.
- Partner and real-world problem. Each university needed to work with a client or partner that needed to tackle a real-world problem related to justice. The partners included the Constitutional Court in Colombia, NGOs related to justice, and the legal clinic of the university.
- Interdisciplinary. To inspire creative thinking, the course will bring together students and faculty from different disciplines, and backgrounds. The teaching team should be interdisciplinary, and ideally the class can be cross-listed as well.
- Intercultural communication. The students and professors from the different courses would have the possibility to communicate and receive detailed and cooperative critique on their design process.
- Opt-in culture. The students and professors participated in this course because they chose to. It shouldn’t be required.
Establishing the classes in 3 other anchor universities
The first task for each of the potential class ‘franchisee’s was to find an anchor university that would be willing to host the course in each city. The teaching team had the objective to convince the law school dean of a university to teach a class with the characteristics outlined before. Teaching interdisciplinary courses is not common in Latin America with a tradition of rigid curriculums of Continental Law. After some meetings to explain the course, the Deans decided to join the project. The Universidad de Los Andes (in Colombia), Universidad Francisco Marroquín ( in Guatemala), and Universidad Anáhuac — Querétaro (in México) all accepted to host the course of legal design and access to justice.
Other schools from the different universities also supported the project in more particular ways. In Colombia and Mexico, the design school recommended specific professors to join the teaching team, to balance out the law school instruction with design expertise. For example, Francisco de Santiago, faculty from the design school in Uniandes was part of the teaching team. In Guatemala, the school of business, and political science encouraged their students to take the class, to ensure more of a healthy student mix.
In all three of the new classes, it was the first time that the Law Schools partnered with the other schools like the Design School to develop a course. This partnership benefited from having an interdisciplinary course with students from different backgrounds. In Colombia and Mexico, the course was composed of a mix of Law and Design students, while in Guatemala it was a mix between Law, Business, and Political Science students. It was challenging to find the right schedule that did not conflict with other student’s activities at the different schools. It turns out that listing classes across departments is a significant logistical barrier.
The teaching team in each country also reflected the interdisciplinary approach of the course which allowed the students the opportunity to learn the value of working with a multidisciplinary team. Having a ‘teaching team’ was valuable but also required an extra effort of coordination among them to work together. In most of the countries, it was the first time that they worked or taught together.
There was a minimum number of students that needed to enroll in each University to be able to open the course. The advertising campaign included posters, e-mails, articles on the university news, on-site presentations, and videos. We reached the goal at all the universities: an approximate of twenty students enrolled in each country.
Once the class was established, there was a basic syllabus that was shared from the Stanford class team with the other universities, and then adapted into Spanish language and for the term schedule of the local universities. The basic arc of the class and network activities were same across the class:
- Part 1: Introduction to the legal design approach, the teams, the partner’s challenge.
- Part 2: Exploration of the challenge area, with user research, legal research, observations, secondary reading, interviews, etc. Create ‘understanding’ deliverables to define who the key stakeholders are, what problem framing are good opportunities, and what the landscape of past and proposed solutions are.
- Part 3: Prototyping and experimentation, with brainstorming of a range of possible solutions, trying out experiments with the partners, conducting user testing and stakeholder feedback, and understanding how early-stage ideas might be refined.
- Part 4: Refinement and pilot hand-over, to take the ideas that have received the best feedback and testing results, making them higher fidelity, and working with the partner to determine how they might be piloted, handed off, and brought to impact.
Throughout the course, the different university classes would be in communication with each other. The classes had regular feedback sessions that aimed to be cross-country design critiques. Teams in one class would share their deliverables from their work in parts 2 and 3 with other university classes, for their outsider’s perspective — and also to possibly cross-pollinate ideas on process and solutions.
The teaching team from Stanford created a large Google Drive folder in English and Spanish translations, with its course materials for an initial syncing of all the teaching teams. In addition, the teaching team members from Stanford gave initial virtual lectures in the introductory part of the course to students in the different local classes. This was to provide more detail on the background to the class and the Stanford team’s past experiences in this type of public interest design and technology work.
In addition, one Stanford teaching team member, Margaret Hagan, traveled to Colombia and taught a class to the Colombian students from Universidad de Los Andes. She also got to do a design review of their work, and connect it back to the Stanford students’ projects.
The Colombian class at Uniandes
The University of Los Andes, also known as Uniandes, is a private research university located in Bogotá Colombia. The University has been ranked by QS rankings as one of the top five universities in Latin America and is known among the academic community as the best University in Colombia. Part of Uniandes mission is to create an interdisciplinary and flexible environment for the students. A course with a multidisciplinary approach fits perfectly on the University’s mission.
The School of Law has been a pioneer in legal education reform since the 90s, where they started to rethink how to train people as lawyers. This legacy still stands in Uniandes. This ethos of change and improvement was the perfect ecosystem to propose the idea about the class and the Legal Design Lab – Colombia. The Dean of the Law School, Catalina Botero Marino, was very supportive from the beginning of the possible network. She supported the idea of developing a long-term Legal Design Lab in the Uniandes School of Law, as well as an individual class as part of the network.
On the other side, the School of Design and Architecture has also been a pioneer in innovating the design curriculum for the past eight years and reform their curriculum towards design thinking and service design. The transformation started when the school decided to make the curriculum based on projects and not about theories, moving towards a project-based learning school that worked on real-world projects. For these projects, they worked with other schools, like the school of management or engineering. They started developing interdisciplinary courses with these schools and students liked it. They felt the pressure of experimenting, delivering a prototype on a deadline, and immersing in ambiguity. These types of courses became more popular in the design department, and there was an interest to work with other disciplines beyond engineering and business. The proposal of the course on Legal Design fits perfectly on this interest in exploring different scenarios.
It was also valuable for the experience of Uniandes in doing social projects. They have worked with communities in the countryside of Colombia.
The teaching team was formed by Santiago de Francisco and Santiago Pardo. Santiago de Francisco is faculty at the design school at Uniandes and had heard about the Legal Design Lab. One of his interests was to expand the scope of design to non-designers. He never thought that he would end up starting a course inspired by Stanford’s Legal Design Lab. Since the beginning, he was interested in being part of the project. He proposed to Pardo to create a curriculum remixing his experience at Stanford and the courses he has taught at Uniandes. In his view, one of the biggest challenges was to adapt the content to the Colombian context. There is a big difference between access to justice problems in the United States and the justice problems in Colombia.
The two lead instructors complemented each others’ skillsets and teaching approaches. To create a Legal Design Lab in Colombia was not easy because the local legal education system is very traditional. The fear of change among lawyers is enormous, and Santiago Pardo is convinced that the future of the legal profession goes through legal design. The Legal Design Lab in Colombia could shape the cornerstones of legal design in the country. This infrastructure could be used for future iterations of the course.
This first version of the class was open to law and design students. Half of the students that participated in the class belonged to each school. The groups were organized to have two law sophomore students, and two senior design students to promote interdisciplinary work. Some students dropped the class. At least one group ended up with no law students, but they delivered excellent work.
One of the challenges was to cross the label of ‘design’ and ‘law’ student. The law students would say “this is what designers do” or “I only do design work,” relying on their teammates for specific work. A teaching objective was that lawyers did designer work, and designers could better understand the legal landscape. We wanted to put them on the spot so that they combined their knowledge.
The teaching team enjoyed teaching this course to design and law students. One of the most significant challenges was to make designers interested in real-life problems and non-designers interested in design. With design students, it matters a lot how they see themselves professionally. Some did not care what was happening on the content. Others have a connection with the situation that is happening. The second challenge was to keep the interest of the students for the whole semester. Frustration gets to the students at some point in the semester. To keep the attention is essential to balance the amount of information from design or law.
For future iterations, the teaching team is eager to include technologists and engineers to expand the scope of the lab. To have the right combination of students, it is crucial that the students apply to the course so that the teaching team knows in advance, which is the interest and level of commitment of every student. The students value that the course gives them credit on their respective majors.
The partner was the Colombian Constitutional Court. This Court is the head of the Constitutional jurisdiction. This partnership started because Santiago Pardo clerked for many years for the chief justice of the Court. From his experience, there was an opportunity to begin working with access to justice at the Court using legal design. From the Legal Design Lab in Colombia, it was also a strategic decision because of the credibility that the Court has. This institution could offer an exemplary spotlight on the use of new approaches to advance access to justice. This strategy worked. The Constitutional Court’s case study inspired other public and private institutions’ interest in participating in a course or project of legal design with the Legal Design Lab in Colombia.
The Court accepted to work with an open collaboration agreement. The students would focus on a particular problem of the Court, and the Court would decide if the solutions should move forward. The students were able to show the Court some of the prototypes. The Court was happy to see disruptive solutions. For the students, it was an opportunity to have a glimpse of what they could do after they graduate. The Court is very interested in developing some of the prototypes that emerged from the class. At the same time, an NGO that supports the rule of law initiatives may give seed funding to take the ideas forward with the collaboration of the Court.
The Colombian court projects
The challenge in the Colombian class centered on improving the local ‘Tutela process.’ The tutela represents a legal innovation in Colombia. The tutela was created in the 1991 Constitution, and it was conceived as an informal and efficient legal claim to protect constitutional rights. Some of the characteristics of the Tutela are:
1) it doesn’t require a lawyer to file it,
2) there is low regulation around it, and
3) it can be presented in any court of the country.
However, one of the problems of the Tutelas is that all of them are sent to the Constitutional Court. The Court is over its capacity to attend all the tutelas (each day receives around 3,600). The entry point of the review process is composed of an army of law students who have to process about 80 tutelas per day, per law student.
Some of the projects developed by the students include:
- Tutelapp: an app to file a Tutela after responding to some easy questions.
- Mi Tutela: an app to file a Tutela through voice.
- Dialogue toolkit: a design to understand the nuts and bolts of the Tutela.
- Tutela Canvas: a visual form of the essential information of the Tutela file.
- Tutela Pack: an envelope customized to package a Tutela.
The two prototypes the Chief Justice decided to move forward are the ones that try to answer the question: How might citizens file a tutela on a more natural way to on a format that could be transformed into a digital model that the Court could review faster?
These projects are Tutelapp and Mi Tutela.
Recommendations for better classes
The teaching team is eager to teach an improved course adding more students from other disciplines, requiring an application for joining the course, and focusing on a specific theme. Some of the improvements are:
Force the students to prototype earlier. The teaching team also wants the students to prototype earlier. Students love to conceptualize, but they don’t build enough. Instead of ‘telling’ an idea, students should be able to ‘show it.’ For them, it is easier to only talk about them.
Teach the class once per week. An administrative aspect that they would change is the schedule of the class. This year the course was taught during two days of a short period. It is better to teach the lesson only once a week but for a more extended time.
Encourage the use of technological tools. The teaching team wants to encourage the use of Slack or Trello instead of Blackboard. These kinds of team tech tools could promote the students’ perception that they are working on a ‘design studio.’
The students as ‘leaders of the project.’ Next time, the teachers may give more autonomy to student teams to make a custom plan for their work. The students will not be asked to deliver specific products at a particular point of the quarter. Instead, they would set up their goals at their speed. With this change, the students would feel that they are the leaders of the project. For the design students, this was their graduation project, so they need to learn how to manage their projects.
Have the right balance between senior and sophomore students. A key aspect was to have the right balance between students at the start of their university experience, and those more advanced. The older students (mainly from the design school) were able to bring their experience to the projects, while the law students brought their commitment and passion for the access to justice cause.
Open the class for all the schools at the University. It would be ideal to open the course to all the schools at the University. The teams could be enhanced with the inclusion of engineering, economics, and medical students.
Different type of challenges. To be able to capture the interest of students from the various schools at the University, the course should include different problems.
More activities in the network. A vital aspect of the network could be to co-create more activities and the curriculum with the different professors. The encounters among students were highly valued, to increase academic and professional processes like the meeting between Mexican and Guatemalan students.
The Mexican class: legal clinic in Queretaro
The expectations of teaching a legal design course in Mexico were always high, primarily because of the context of legal education in Mexico. The law schools tend to train ‘juridical technicians’ rather than innovative lawyers that serve themselves from other disciplines. The expectation was to have an impact on the legal world in Querétaro, México. However, the most significant effect was on the design school. The design school could prove themselves that their methodology and way of analyzing the problems could be beneficial for other disciplines (like the Law).
Anáhuac University is a private Christian university located in Querétaro, México. It is a part of a network of universities in Mexico that is ranked in the top 3 places of the QS ranking for Mexico. The University pursues the development of integral people, with an entrepreneurial, innovative and globalized vision.
Manuel proposed to teach the course to the Dean of the Law School, and the School of Design. Both agreed that having an interdisciplinary education is positive for the university. Moreover, the hands-on approach of the class to rethink the law and the institutions could have a profound impact on students.
The class at Anahuac University
The design school was the first one who jumped into the project. For the law school, it took more time to understand the value of this course. The dean of the school of law is delighted with the work of the students. During the last day of the course, the feeling was that it is a project that is worth replicating since the students were so happy with the idea of doing interdisciplinary work.
Professors from both schools participated in the project. The design school invited Manuel and Bernardo to speak at the inaugural lecture to talk about legal design. Most of the students from the design school attended. This event was outstanding in terms of publicity for the class! This event was one of the reasons design students mainly populated the class.
One of the biggest successes was the fact that the class could be taught. There are very few interdisciplinary courses, and a course between the design school and the law school was unthinkable. This experience opens the road for more similar classes.
The professors of this course were Manuel Mureddu, Bernardo Perera, Lucia Peña, Aline Gonzalez, Teresita Suárez, and Maria Teresa Camacho. Manuel Mureddu was the coordinator since he was a student of the Introduction to Legal Design course at Stanford. He understood that the team should be interdisciplinary, so it needed someone with the background on the legal problem, and designers that could bring the creative approach.
Manuel invited Bernardo to join the teaching team. When he approached the school of Law, the dean recommended Bernardo because of his experience on human rights and public law. He did not know about design at all. It took some time for him to understand how design and law could join in such a systemic way. After talking with Manuel, he could realize the value of having an interdisciplinary approach to solve some of the legal problems. Bernardo had the opportunity to participate in the Legal Design Summit at Stanford in 2018 with Manuel.
Lucia, Aline, and Teresita are designers. Since the beginning, they were passionate about the idea of breaking paradigms around the design profession. For them, it was an opportunity to apply design to a new field like law. They could prove themselves that design goes beyond to make something esthetically prettier. This fact was inspiring for all.
Manuel and Bernardo coordinated the process and flow of the class, and the design teachers helped the students to develop their projects. Even though it was a large teaching team, the dynamics worked well and enriched the student’s experience. For Manuel, the biggest challenge was to move from being a participant in the course to be the one who organizes and coordinates it. Both wanted the learning experience to be meaningful for the students so that they could repeat it next year. Both schools are eager to open a new course with similar characteristics.
The class was open to law and design students. However, due to the schedule, most of the participants were designers. Monday morning fitted well for the design school but not for the school of Law. The school of Law could have explained to the students the value of the course or encourage them to participate.
Among the design students, there was a mix of industrial, graphic, and even fashion design. Most of them were sophomore women students.
The initial plan was to work with the office of the defender of human rights in Querétaro since they work with vulnerable populations in the justice sector. They were very interested in being clients of the class. However, the course was not a priority for them. When the semester started, they had a migrant caravan in Querétaro that they needed to focus on. This resulted in the teaching team having to seek out another partner.
The university has a legal clinic that serves vulnerable populations, and since they are part of the law school, it was easy to pitch the project to them. They were very receptive to the idea. During the process, they answered all the questions and were very responsive to the students. Even the law students that work at the clinic helped the class with their projects. This interaction helped to develop some of the interdisciplinary solutions that came out. For one of the challenges, the students even talked with psychology and medicine schools.
The projects in the Mexican class
Each team worked on different challenges for the Legal Clinic.
Challenge 1. How might we enhance the experience of the volunteers at the Clinic? Prototypes: 1) The design of a new and renovated space at the University for the Clinic, and 2) A series of talks of participants and alumni of the Clinic that could share their experiences.
Challenge 2. How might we improve the relationship and engagement among the members of the Clinic? Prototypes: 1) A redesigned and enhanced selection process of new members and 2) The creation of an interdisciplinary way of serving the clients of the Clinic with the participation of Psychology students.
Challenge 3. How might we increase the number of cases for the clinic? Prototypes: Redesign of the corporate image of the Clinic, website, and a social media strategy.
Challenge 4. How might we improve the Clinic’s efficiency and organization? Prototypes: A redesigned program of activities with a calendar, distribution of responsibilities, and follow-up plan. A virtual board for project management.
Challenge 5. How might the Clinic enhance the retention of employees to be able to resolve more cases? Prototype: Redesign the participation of students at the Clinic. Instead of non-paid students, the program would raise money from law firms to give scholarships to the fellows of the Clinic.
The students pitched the projects to the director of the Legal Clinic, the dean of the School of Law, and the design school. All of them expressed they were pleased with the class and asked if the course was going to be offered next year.
The implementation of the projects depends on the Legal Clinic, and ultimately in the Law School. The teaching team is hopeful that at least two projects be implemented. A good aspect is that none of the prototypes represent a significant expense for the university.
Mexico’s Recommendations for better classes
The teaching team and the schools that participated in the process are eager to teach an improved course. Some of the improvements are:
Open the class to other schools at the university. Improve the marketing strategy to promote the class between the different schools is a crucial aspect to get more diversity among students.
Invite professors from other disciplines. The interdisciplinary aspect comes from the students and from the teaching team. The teaching team would like to invite other professors (probably from engineering and political science) to join. This way, the course could be enriched with the knowledge of the different professors of the teaching team.
Coordinate at least two clients. The main challenge was changing the partner to respond to real-world, unpredictable events. For a new iteration of the class, it would be better to secure at least two partners lined up with different challenges. In working with public interest partners
The schedule sets the student participation. The schedule of the class (Mondays in the morning) made it difficult for law school students to attend the course. The program should permit students from different schools to participate in the class. To find the perfect time could be difficult due to the constraints of each school.
Bring the members of the network together more. The teaching team proposed that more organized, collaborative trips and experiences could bring the different students, and even partners, in more coordination. It could be worthwhile if Mexican students or professors could visit or work together with the students of other universities’ part of the network. The different university professors could link up virtually too. Different professors of the network could give an online talk at a specific time. The students might also join if it makes sense.
Improve online Feedback Sessions. The online feedback session between the different universities was exciting for the students to see what were the other courses working. However, there are always barriers challenging to overcome, like language, cultural differences, technological difficulties, etc. For future opportunities, there should be more lectures instead of feedback sessions where it is difficult to give a design critique with all the barriers.
The Guatemalan class: Law, Business, and PoliSci at UFM
The expectation was to create the best course experience that Guatemalan students could have, taking the knowledge of the Legal Design Lab at Stanford.
Francisco Marroquin University, also known by the abbreviation UFM, is a private, secular university in Guatemala. It was founded in 1971 and is reputed in Guatemala for having the best law, business, and architecture schools.
Design Thinking has been taught at the university for more than five years. However, this course was usually taught only for a specific school (the business school). This new course fits well on the university vision to be more interdisciplinary, global, and promote creative and critical thinking.
The law, business, and political science schools were committed in the process.
The School of Law has been a pioneer in the innovation of legal education in Guatemala. The Law School implemented a new curriculum that has on its core values, promoting interdisciplinary and practical courses with active methodologies. The course on legal design and access to justice fit perfectly on the Law School’s new vision. Maria José Lamuño and Milton Argueta, secretary, and dean of the law school, quickly expressed their approval to teach this course because of its innovative approach. This course changed most of the assumptions about teaching a class at the school of law. Courses only have one professor, have students from the law school (and not from other), and do not have as an objective to solve a real-world problem.
The UFM Business School has been teaching design thinking for more than five years. However, they used to tackle problems related to business. Maribel Cruz is part of the business school and got approval from the Dean. The business school was very supportive of providing all the materials for the class. The School of Political Science was very supportive since the beginning. They have a flexible curriculum that lets them include this type of course.
The professors of this course ended up being Maribel Cruz, Patricia Forero, and Carla Silva.
Patricia Forero has been teaching a design thinking course for the past five years at UFM business school. However, the course was only for business students. She had a big expectation with this one since there was a possibility to make it interdisciplinary with the teaching team and the students. Her experience in teaching design thinking was crucial for the success of the course.
Carla Silva is an IT specialist. She has plenty of experience in user experience design of web sites. Her expectation was very high at the beginning of the course. Despite the challenges that the teaching team faced (the most important one was the change of partner), she worked hard to motivate students to give their best to solve the problems. Her experience in user experience was crucial for many of the challenges.
Maribel Cruz was the coordinator of the teaching team. She has been a Faculty of the Business School for more than six years where she has taught a course in Strategy, Marketing, and Innovation. Moreover, Maribel coordinated the global programs of the school. She was eager to learn about the methodology used at Stanford.
The teaching team was used to teach their courses alone. However, for the three of them, it was an exciting experience to teach the course together. It requires more time since the teaching team needs to coordinate and debrief after each class. They even became friends during the process. They supported, learned from each other and worked hard to tackle the challenges these types of courses have. Their commitment to this class was exceptional. All of them attended all the classes. Thanks to this, the evaluation of the students at the end of the semester was excellent.
There was a significant concentration of law students in the class. 80% of the students were from the law school, 15% from the business school, and 5% of the school of political science. This combination of students was not ideal. Despite the course was advertised on the university website and through the different schools, there was a lack of business and political science students. Despite this, the students learn to see the problems with a different mindset.
The partner was going to be the Guatemalan Constitutional Court. This Court is the head of the Constitutional jurisdiction. The conversations started in August of 2018. However, after several meetings and months of negotiating a memorandum of understanding the partnership fell apart when there was a need to sign the final agreement and support the students. The fact that the alliance fell apart was a backlash for the class.
The case or challenge is crucial for the development of a class. Because of this, the teaching team decided to change its partner. The new partners were Guatemala Visible and Iuris Tec. Guatemala Visible is an NGO that has several projects related to the justice system. One of these projects aims to bring transparency to the designation and removal of the judges of the Courts. Iuris Tec is a technological platform that aims to work for the rule of law and the justice system in Guatemala through the analysis of the Court’s cases.
Both organizations were happy with the projects that the students presented. Guatemala Visible is interested in moving forward at least one of the solutions offered by the students.
The Guatemalan projects
All of the projects leveraged technology for public interest. Students had to observe and interview users or potential users of different projects. When the course started, it was difficult to get them out of their comfort zone to talk to other people outside their circle. The groups that took this step had a better result. These are some of the projects:
- Congreso Visible. This project aims to bring transparency and raise awareness of the election of the judges and other official positions from the justice system. The design of the system is outdated. The challenge was to bring a user-centered design approach to the new system so that the users could be more engaged. The organization wanted to know which other information could be valuable for the users, how to generate more traffic, and discover new features. The prototype was a new design of the website and data about the needs of the users to be able to change the website.
- Antejuicio Visible. This project started in 2009 to bring transparency to the election of new judges and chief judges for the Guatemalan Courts. Despite all the information that the organization recollects the number of users remains low. The challenge was to redesign the platform and understand the user: who needs this information? How should the organization design the platform for this user? The prototype was a redesign strategy and vision for the project that takes into consideration the feedback received from the different users.
- Elecciones Visibles. This project creates an easier way to report the misconduct of electoral law. The project helps to enforce the rule of law to maintain elections clean. The challenge was to build a user-friendly platform so that citizens could use the tool. This feature is a crucial aspect since the data collection depends on citizens. The prototype was an interactive campaign with a game (gamification) to get the data from citizens.
- DenunciAPP. This APP helps to report the loss or theft of personal documents (license, passport, etc.). The goal is that this helps to reduce the number of people needed for this at the Attorney General Office (Ministerio Público). Although the App was launched with high expectations, there are not as many people that use it. This lack of use could be because citizens do not know about it, or they do not trust it. How might we build this trust among the citizens to use it?The prototype that the students developed was an advertising campaign and an improved design of the platform.
- IurisTEC. This project has a big database of cases of the Court that the public can access. This platform is helpful for lawyers and judges. The law students and some law firms use this database. However, it has been more than five years since the project started, so it is outdated. The platform could be more user-friendly to find cases, and there may be other features that should be added to add more value. The prototype included a new structure of the organization that could bring efficiency and add more value to the users.
Guatemala’s Feedback for Network improvements
For the Guatemalan teaching team, it was an excellent adventure to teach this course. They are eager to teach this course again. Based on instructors’ debriefs, the practical and big-picture recommendations include the following points.
Change the schedule: The class was taught at 4 pm once a week. This time was difficult for students and the teaching team. Since the beginning, it was challenging to find the time where the different schools did not have a class.
Give more interactive teaching material: The students do not read all the readings that we gave them. It would be good to find podcasts, videos, and other type of interactive information.
Allow for a variety of partners: There was a big expectation of having the Court as a partner. However, there was a backlash when this partnership fell apart. Since the beginning, it is essential to have more than one client. If a partner doesn’t want to continue the relationship, this will not have an impact on the course.
Encourage more students from different disciplines to join: Although the same information was advertised on the various schools, the students had a different understanding of the course. This caused some of them dropped the class. For future iterations, it is necessary to have informative sessions with the students who want to apply. The teaching team also wants to encourage more designers and computer science students to participate.
Set up an international team with students from different universities: Between the network, we could choose a global partner, and we could have one or more different groups from this single partner then linked to the students of various universities.
Organize a retreat for students: The teaching team concluded that they started too early to form the students into teams. They did not necessarily get to meet everyone in the class, or realize exactly what or how they wanted to work on during the class. It may be better to organize a retreat so that the students could meet and create connections among them before building a team.
More cross-network class planning. The Guatemalan teaching team recognizes there is an added value with the network. The curriculum and some activities could be co-created among the different professors. One of these projects could be a guide on how to teach and the best practices to teach the course. Also, there could be more cross-cultural activities like peer-review. This activity among Latin American professors was precious for the students.
Inter-university competition. It would also be interesting to do a contest among the different countries so that the students have another incentive to work harder. The website could also share these materials and have a brief description of the projects that the students are developing. Students from the network and beyond could get ideas from here.
Overall Recommendations for Improving an Inter-University Class Network
Summing the teaching network’s big learnings,
- It is possible to teach a course collaboratively on project-based public interest technology and design work, especially when we partner with a teaching team with prior knowledge in design process and deep expertise in the policy challenges.
- Students (particularly the younger generations) are eager to work in multi-disciplinary teams to tackle real-world problems.
- The participants of the class (including the teaching team) can learn from the application of legal design to other contexts and cultures.
- Courses listed in different schools at the same university help to change the culture of teaching and push the change for a more interdisciplinary teaching environment. For example, Universidad de Los Andes started its Legal Design Lab as a collaboration of the Law School and the Design School and with the support of Stanford’s Legal Design Lab.
- It’s hard to connect students from different classes, different countries, and different languages/time zones. The costs, logistics, and class dynamics all worked against us on this front. We didn’t want to require cross-class check-ins too much — students are already overbooked with their projects, and it’s quite hard to ask them to do reviews or conversations virtually with other teams. In future iterations, we’d need to do some culture-building across schools to get more student-to-student connections!
Major refinements could be around more cross-cultural activities among students and professors, better on-boarding for new network affiliates to know how to teach this type of course, finding a common, specific theme each year, and more feedback from the network of professors to co-create a set of legal design activities.
Some major themes for internal and cross-university improvements across the network were around:
Administrative and Scheduling matters as essential for diverse class composition. Most of the universities are not used to have interdisciplinary classes among students from different schools. As a consequence, the schedule of the students is tailored to fit a particular school and year. Finding the right timing could improve the rate of diversity, energy on the course, and even the disposition of some professors to be part of the teaching team. Asking the students, professors, and the schools about a schedule that works for most of them is a crucial aspect that should be taken into consideration.
Integrate more department leads into initial network plans. The teaching teams saw the value of interdisciplinary work. The diversity of the students varied from university to university, and there is an interest to invite as many schools as possible to join the class to be more interdisciplinary. Since the initial network was built mainly around personal connections between people involved in law schools, that limited how
Organize more cross-cultural experiences. The teaching teams could see the value of organizing activities among different countries. A new iteration of the network could be to co-create more activities between students and professors.
Have more than one partner. In two of the countries (Mexico and Guatemala), the relationship with the original partner fell apart. This is something that could happen again, so it is better to have more than one partner line up. If a partner does not want to continue working with the class, the students will be able to switch from one challenge to another without any difficulty.