Stanford, Sights Set on Legal: Part 1 - Fidelity Investments Estate Planning

by Joseph Raczynski

The Legal Lessons Learned from Stanford Series


Stanford University is fully embracing the legal industry, a historically cautious mover, as a focal point of its innovative solutions.  The industry is primed to evolve through more transformative processes by pairing inventive thought and applied technological advancement to solve niche legal process issues.  Recently at the Emerging Legal Technology Forum, hosted by Thomson Reuters and Stanford University, we learned how and what the school has developed to initiate increased efficiencies in this arena.


Designing a Better Legal Process:

Fidelity Investments had a problem.  They have 20 million customers and 70% of them did not have an estate plan.  Being a customer centric organization they wanted to significantly lower that gap.  Fidelity reached out to Stanford and the school brought the Design School (d.School) and Law School together to collaborate.  Margaret Hagan of the Stanford Institute of Design and Philippe Mauldin of Fidelity used some of the basics of the design program to figure out how to help find a solution.  Interestingly enough, core to this process was determining what the problem was, and not focusing on the solution.  They began by visiting people’s homes to see firsthand what their customers chatted about when it came to finances.  Fidelity had a focus on how they could help people protect their assets.  What they uncovered is that the problem was education which bled into a lack of execution for their customers.  Simply stated, people did not know what they did not know and so they did nothing.


Fidelity went back to Stanford and they all collaborated on what this process of establishing a state plan would look like on  Their focus was on how to help the customer prepare.  Thus they created a wizard interface with step by step templates from Stanford Law School and linking out for complex legal terms.  In addition the wizard helped guide users through a list of pertinent information assisting them in preparation about decisions that they would have to make.  Once that piece was completed the next step was to assist people in partnering with trusted attorneys.  Stanford ultimately recommended a vetted attorney for each state to keep in compliance for local jurisdictions and to review finalized documents.


In an effort to create a simple legal process, driving understanding and efficiency, Stanford combined their Design School with the Law School through a real world problem to create a better customer experience.  In the next post I will delve into how the d.School tactically innovates through process which I believe all industries could benefit.