PUBLISHED:November 18, 2022

Students from five N.C. law schools team up for human centered design challenge


At the 2022 Legal Design Derby, co-hosted by the Duke Center on Law & Technology and the NCCU Technology Law and Policy Center, teams developed ideas for improving the legal system and expanding access to justice in the state.

Students from five of North Carolina’s six law schools met Oct. 22 for the 2022 Legal Design Derby, a design thinking challenge focused on improving the legal system and expanding access to justice in the state.

Six teams of law students from Duke, N.C. Central, Elon, Campbell, and Wake Forest participated in the event, which was hosted in person as a day-long sprint at NCCU’s New Student Center after two years of being held virtually over several weeks. During a busy day, the students used human-centered design principles to develop, refine, and present a prototype that answered the question, “How might students and law schools prepare for future paradigm(s) of legal service delivery?”

students waving to camera


In advance of the Derby, students were provided resources and information related to the challenge question through a digital playbook. On the day of the event, Jeff Kelly, attorney at Nelson Mullins and fellow of the Duke Center on Law & Technology, presented an overview of the challenge before hosting Ashley Campbell, CEO of Legal Aid of North Carolina, in a fireside chat about her experiences in innovation and legal services. Campbell discussed challenges with access to justice, including a finding from the 2022 Legal Services Corporation Justice Gap report that “low-income Americans do not get any or enough legal help for 92% of their substantial civil legal problems. ”Multiple students shared that they were unaware of the scale of the problem.

Professor Diane Littlejohn
NCCU Law Professor Diane Littlejohn

Students were supported during the event by law professors, a member of the winning 2021 Derby team, practicing attorneys, and trained design thinking leaders, including facilitators Professor Jeff Ward (Duke Law), Kelli Raker (Duke Law), and Professor Raina Haque (Wake Forest Law). In addition to facilitators, coaches Professor Diane Littlejohn (NCCU Law), Sharma Vemuri (LexisNexis), and Hillary Teoyotl (NCCU 3L) provided guidance and advice throughout the sprint.

"I was amazed by the commitment of the students and the creative ideas that students devised to help solve the access to justice crisis", said Littlejohn, executive director of the NCCU Technology Law and Policy Center.

Nearly 40 students — including 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls — applied in September to participate either as a team or as an individual. Those who applied individually were placed on a team after applications were accepted.

Surya Korrapati, a first-year students in Duke’s JD/LLM in Law & Entrepreneurship dual-degree program, said the Derby encouraged him and teammates – fellow 1L JD/LLMLEs Clifford Gilman, Hunter Jung, and Andrew Xavier – “to think outside the box and really question the assumptions that define our current legal system.”

“The practice of iterative thinking challenged us to better tailor our solutions to some of North Carolina’s systemic legal deficiencies,” Korrapati said.

At the end of the day, after learning about empathy, brainstorming, prototyping, and feedback, students had three minutes to present their idea. Two teams incorporated a skit into their presentation, with one team also using a slide deck; another made a comic with 3D pipe cleaner accents. Three teams used graphics and charts to show relationships between ideas or concepts. After their presentations, students answered questions about their prototypes from the facilitators and a guest judge, Herb Brown of LexisNexis, a recent graduate of NCCU Law. 

students posing with project
1Ls Andrew Xavier, Surya Korrapati, Clifford Gilman, and Hunter Jung with their Legal Design Derby project.


The presentations showed the wide range of interest and experience, from development of a multi-tiered legal services with new categories of certified legal professionals, and an after-hours clinic and night court for individuals who can’t come to court during the business day, to an app with concierge legal services and support. The judges chose to recognize all of the participants’ hard work with a prize of $100 to each participant.

“Across the board, the ideas generated showed both a deep commitment to the idea that legal resources should serve all and an admirable willingness to unmask law’s sense of privilege,” Ward said. “Their solutions showed us what a world might look like where we take seriously the challenge of bringing legal problem-solving to those who need it most.”

Professor Jeff Ward laughing with students
Duke Law Professor Jeff Ward


The Legal Design Derby was co-hosted by Duke Center on Law & Technology and NCCU Technology Law and Policy Center. The event was planned and coordinated by Raker and Littlejohn with additional administrative support provided by Associate Dean April Dawson, Cedric Pickett, and Staris Best Powell of NCCU Law. The Legal Design Derby is made possible due to sponsorship of the event by Lawyers Mutual Consulting + Services, sponsorship of the Duke Center on Law & Technology by LexisNexis, as well as the volunteer contributions of faculty, staff, guest coaches, and judges.

Learn more about the 2022 Legal Design Derby at