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LexisNexis on Uniting Data, Emotion, and Ethics in Legal UX Research

Jeanette Fuccella from LexisNexis on the power of video ethnography to break down stereotypes and inspire understanding.

If you’re asked to picture a lawyer, odds are what you imagine seems plucked straight out of network television. We’re likely to think of fast-talking executives with power suits and intimidatingly firm handshakes.

We’re less likely to think about first-generation college graduates or parents taking their kids to soccer camp.

For Jeanette Fuccella of LexisNexis, addressing the stereotype surrounding attorneys is the most important step in effective user experience design. The company provides legal analytics and software designed to help attorneys manage cases, clients, documents, and the processes that govern their fast-paced, day-to-day lives.

By conducting remote video ethnography with dscout, Jeanette and her team work hand-in-hand with their data science team to bring user stories to life. “Reminding designers, product managers, and engineers that attorneys are unique individuals is just as important as delivering the hard numbers,” she says.

But getting to the human data is difficult in a field where intense client data privacy concerns and demanding work schedules make it difficult for teams to connect with target users.

We spoke with Jeanette about the unique advantages of running unmoderated video studies—and how we can better unearth and share the “show me moments” that convey user pain points and latent needs.

“We’ve pivoted entire strategies as a result of what we’ve learned through video ethnography. There would have been no way to capture that product-shifting data through a different approach.”

On humanizing research and development

“About a year ago, the average engineer at our company didn’t know much about what an attorney’s day-to-day life is like. 

We ran a pilot study with dscout with the goal of capturing our users’ legal research ‘highs’ and ‘lows.’ The results really humanized our users. It humanized their pains and allowed the engineers to see that attorneys come in all shapes, ages, and sizes. 

All of us have stereotypes of various roles, but I think the legal industry in particular has been portrayed in the media in a way that shows either perfect people or stressed-out criminal defense attorneys. We don’t know that they are parents, aunts, and friends. They’re trying to get home for soccer practice. 

In one endearing video, you can see that the user is showing something on her monitor and there’s a Post-it on her monitor with a little note about her kid’s soccer camp dates. It’s a little reminder to herself. It’s just a moment of empathy and connection; these are people with families, lives, and stresses just like ours.

I think that really resonated with the engineering team, because many of them didn’t know lawyers or understand legal research before coming to LexisNexis. It’s important that our team members understand how our customers really use our tools.”

On turning research results into tangible experiences

“For one project we used dscout to collect over 200 videos. Our analysis included coding by task, theme, emotion, and even facial expression. 

By marrying that data with the associated survey data, we were able to not only narrate a compelling story but also create a curated video repository for stakeholders to engage with.  

This study demonstrated the importance of integrating narration into discovery research, telling a story through the live capture of emotions and reactions to a prompt. 

A survey rating can only go so far, but you can move people’s understanding of the delight or pain users feel by literally showing the grimace on their faces. It changes the entire conversation.”

A survey rating can only go so far, but you can move people’s understanding of the delight or pain users feel by literally showing the grimace on their faces. It changes the entire conversation.

On making ethics and diversity a priority of development

“A persona is just that. It’s a stereotype, an archetype, and I fear that when we create them, we just further those stereotypes rather than pushing against them and making them more nuanced. If our ultimate goal is to produce empathy in our extended team members, we need to focus on individual stories, not stereotypes.

The need to understand unique individual stories becomes even more critical as we implement machine learning and artificial intelligence in our products. Many of the ethical concerns that are being raised in the industry are the result of a shallow understanding of our users.

The more we can continue to remind everyone in our organization that our users are diverse and nuanced, the better. We’ve researched with attorneys who are first-generation immigrants, or who are the first person in their family to go to college, much less law school; their backgrounds provide unique perspectives and use cases that we need to deeply understand.

Video ethnography is an especially powerful means to achieve this goal because it provides us with the opportunity to allow our users to share their stories and experiences through a variety of different formats. When our team members experience these stories it provides them not only with unique insights but also a point of connection. Despite the fact that they might work in completely different professions, experiencing first-hand narratives from our users enables our team members to relate to them as individuals —which, in the end, is a much more impactful outcome than a persona can affect.”

If our ultimate goal is to produce empathy in our extended team members, we need to focus on individual stories, not stereotypes…Many of the ethical concerns that are being raised in the industry are the result of a shallow understanding of our users.

On making “data science” meet “human data”

“Our organization is unique in that we report in to the same line of management as our data science team. Being organizationally aligned facilitates our ability to work very closely and collaboratively.

For example, our data scientists might identify unexpected behaviors in the analytic data and ask our UX research team if we can help them understand the motivations behind the user’s behavior,and it’s delightful when we can share actual video of our users explaining—in their own words—why they are behaving the way that they are.

Or the opposite might occur. As UX researchers, we might observe a unique pattern among a small sample of users and ask our data science team to help us understand whether what we’re observing is part of a larger trend. Often, these collaborations uncover entirely new areas of inquiry that the team wouldn’t have previously thought to examine. By combining human data with data science we’re able to ensure that our research balances a broad understanding of user behaviors while being grounded in the real experiences of individual users.”

On navigating the legal industry with grace

“Historically at LexisNexis, UX research was predominantly conducted remotely via e-meeting because it’s just difficult to get into the door of a law firm. For our audience, time literally is money.

They have minimum billable hour requirements that cause them to work 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week. Getting time is extremely difficult and extremely valuable. It’s easier for them to participate in an e-meeting session from home or over their lunch hour.

But we also recognized that we were missing incredibly important and nuanced information about our users. While we were desperate for the opportunity to observe our users go about their daily tasks, it’s very difficult to conduct ethnographic research without breaching client confidentiality.

Using dscout to conduct remote ethnography allowed us to capture critical moments in their workflow that we would have had no means of knowing via our remote studies. By prompting users to tell us about when a specific event occurs, they can interrupt their workflow for just a couple of minutes, capture the event, and then share it with us. Whether photo, video, or written text—they have complete control over the data they share with us.”

On building (and researching for) products that keep pace with a changing world

“We were building a conversational UI prototype—a research assistant programmed with certain core functionalities. In order to collect the necessary data—whether people would use it, when they’d want to interact with it, whether or not it could complete the tasks they needed it to complete—it was essential to watch users interact with the assistant over a period of time.”

This was all part of a process of thinking about different modalities and re-envisioning the future of legal research for our customers. The classic experience was designed for being on a computer in an office, but we wanted to design for when a user might be typing, or speaking, on their mobile device.

We all know that the world is changing. Trying to maintain the experience we’ve built, but also extend it into different modalities, environments, and scenarios is a challenge. We have to create a seamless experience for the user regardless of what they’re doing, where they’re going, or what device they’re doing it with.

The only way to really be able to research that is by having a data collection mechanism that is always present and available to users. By using a mobile app, we’re able to be in somebody’s pocket ready to say, ‘Hey, tell me about that! Show me about that!’ And in response we heard people say things like: ‘I’m commuting to work, I haven’t yet prepped for my first meeting of the day. I really need to know about this case or this client.’ Hearing these real-life stories helps us to more effectively build products that really help support our users’ workflows.”

We all know that the world is changing. Trying to maintain the experience we’ve built, but also extend it into different modalities, environments, and scenarios is a challenge. We have to create a seamless experience for the user regardless of what they’re doing, where they’re going, or what device they’re doing it with.

On seeing users clearly and adapting to their needs

“There’s something interesting about attorneys as an audience in particular. To succeed in that field, you’ve got to be highly driven, and at least a little competitive.

In our e-meeting studies, regardless of how many caveats we might offer, or how relaxed we try to make users feel, they often felt evaluated. They felt like they needed to get it ‘right.’

Using dscout lifts a lot of the pressures that occur in more structured research environments. Because they capture and share data with us on their own time, rather than in real-time, it allows them to be the one in control as they share their expertise with us. That’s something, frankly, that could make anyone more comfortable.”

On letting the data guide big “pivots”

“The first project we ran with dscout went beyond our expectations. We’ve pivoted entire strategies as a result of what we’ve learned through video ethnography. There would have been no way to capture that product-shifting data through a different approach.

At one time, we were marching down a very particular path, with a very particular audience, and felt very confident that we had a solution that would provide value to that audience. Pretty quickly, we learned that to be really ‘good’ at that solution was going to take much longer.

Processing legal vocabulary—which is very nuanced, particular, and specific—was key to our product design. Learning that vocabulary was going to take a tremendous amount of time. So we, in the end, shifted both in terms of audience and functionality. We’ll instead be taking a much more ‘training wheels approach’—and that will be the foundation for what we deliver long term.”

Ali Cassity

Ali Cassity is a writer living and working in Chicago. She likes making complex content more palatable and elevating the stories that put names and faces to research data. When in doubt, you can find her obsessing over her plant babies.

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