Lawyers can be excellent teammates when it comes to design. They can also be the key factor to ensuring that the design you create can actually be used by the company that needs it.
Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the end of a project, believing you nailed it, only to be told that your design will actually create legal issues for the company. That’s the kind of information you need upfront and along the way, not at the end.
A virtual law firm can partner up with a designer, as needed, throughout the design process, to offer advice and input about what will work and not work. A big bonus to a virtual law firm is that they can collaborate remotely.
Here are some times when a lawyer will be an asset on your design team.
Intellectual Property Versus Fair Use
Borrowing and being inspired by older design and art is integral to the design process. Sometimes, the goal of the design is to explain or comment on a previous work of intellectual property. Of course, the designer never sets out to blatantly steal or commit copyright infringement. That being said, the lines of infringement and fair use can sometimes be confusing. When a new design references an old design, or when it includes work previously created by another, consider using a virtual law firm to come in for a quick opinion and guidance about how to stay in your own lane and avoid being sued.
Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance
If your design will be used by people with visual impairments, it would be smart to bring in an expert on how to comply with the ADA. Making sure people with varied abilities are included when designing a product might be as simple as using higher contrast, bigger fonts, or simpler graphics. If you are assisting with the design for a physical structure, such as creating wayfinding signage, it’s essential to make sure that the signage conforms to the needs of people with disabilities. A quick consultation with a lawyer versed in disability law can prevent legal problems and harm to your reputation.
Different types of businesses need to follow different types of rules for marketing. Lawyers and other professionals typically have to follow strict rules about the wording that can be used, for example. All businesses need to use fair practices in marketing, giving consumers accurate information about the goods or services being offered for sale. What might seem straightforward to the designer might actually be confusing or misleading to the consumer. Lawyers who understand fair marketing laws can give input on how to make sure the message is clear and every relevant piece of information is put forward. The marketing design should never be the reason a company is accused of false advertising.
Everyone is familiar with the nutrition label on the back of every packaged food product. People who listen to the radio have undoubtedly heard someone at the end of a commercial speed reading all the caveats and exceptions for the great offer just presented in the ad. The people who designed these ads and products didn’t choose them. They had no choice, legally. If you are helping design a product label or ad, that label or ad might need legal disclosures. Ask a lawyer.
Advertising for Hiring
Advertising for recruiting and hiring can have similar pitfalls. You want to make sure that the wording of the ad does not clash with any employment laws. What size is the font? What language is used? Even subtle things, like how easy the advertisement is to read can be viewed within the context of how inclusive the company’s hiring practices are.
Conducting Interviews or Focus Groups
Although it is not a strictly legal use for an external lawyer, remember that lawyers are trained to get information out of people and documents. If you are putting together an interview or focus group, a lawyer can help you craft the questions and spot weaknesses in the design. Critical thinking will get you to the answers and information you need faster and more effectively.
Keep an eye open for elements of design that delve into legal issues. Bring a lawyer onto your design team for consultation. Keep your process running smoothly without incurring excessive costs by utilizing a virtual legal firm, who can provide strategic advice on a limited term, to meet your specific needs.