Margaret Hagan started her career on the path of the academic. She received her undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago; she got her Masters degree in Nationalism Studies from Central European University, and she received her Ph.D in Politics and International Studies from Queen’s University in Belfast. Margaret’s plan, from there, was to enter the foreign service & grow a career as a diplomat.
Her defense was behind her, and the road ahead seemed clear. Then came the diagnosis.
During a routine exam, a university nurse discovered lumps in Margaret’s neck. It was Stage IV Hodgkins lymphoma. The year-long treatment regimen put a stop to nearly all of Margaret’s academic work. She moved home to live with her parents in Pittsburgh and published a few articles related to her thesis. But most of her time was dedicated to distractions — anything to get her mind off of the chemotherapy treatments. She took a film class, produced radio segments for student stations back in Belfast. She started drawing comics.
“I know what that feeling is like — to be like, my life is over,” Margaret said. The experience helped her realize she wanted to have an impact rather than merely study and write.
So Hagan applied to law school.
She became the co-president of the Stanford Law and Technology Association and was admitted as a fellow at the Center for Internet & Society, focusing on privacy and technology. Margaret also became enthralled by the Liberation Technology Group, which focuses on the role technology can play in international crises. She enrolled in a class focused on the subject the following year, which brought her to the d.school. That experience taught her the value of starting small and listening to users early and often.
Today, Margaret is marrying her legal expertise with design thinking to help people better understand the law and improve access to justice. She has built more than 10 apps, including Law School Dojo and GRE Dojo, which use quizzes to help users gain a better grasp of the law and the GRE respectively. She also developed Turkification, a quiz-based platform for users who wish to learn Turkish.
As a d.school fellow, Margaret plans to develop a new field: legal design. The process will involve bringing those with legal expertise together with their counterparts in the design world. The ultimate goal is to both improve the job market for a growing number of unemployed and underemployed lawyers while improving access to legal counsel for prospective clients.
“I’m so done with talking, and so done with sitting in classrooms and reading articles,” Margaret says, “I know there’s an opening to do something amazing, excellent, interesting.”
Follow Margaret on Twitter at @margarethagan.
“How designer Margaret Hagan drew her way through law school”
Terry Carter, Legal Rebels for The American Bar Association.