Joshua Cohen is a Principal at Fat Pencil Studio
Stevens-Ness, the leading publisher of blank legal forms in the Pacific Northwest is closing its landmark retail shop in downtown Portland after a 100 year run. Newspaper coverage cited the coronavirus pandemic, racial justice protests, and a general shift away from the use of paper as reasons for the store’s closing.
It’s no secret that operating a profitable brick-and-mortar retail business is a challenge…particularly this year, and particularly in our location. We’re at least taking some comfort in the knowledge that operating continuously in downtown Portland for 100 years is a very good run.
Elizabeth Snow-McDougall, President
As a designer, reflecting on the Stevens-Ness legacy made me realize that the role of design in the legal profession is not new. These blank forms might not be full of flashy graphics, but they are designed to bring clarity to what might otherwise be a haphazard jumble of facts.
The forms are simple enough to be useful for a layperson, while still covering the most important legal issues. The catalog of form topics is so comprehensive that even the smallest law firms are able to provide general guidance to clients in a wide range of situations.
I recommended their forms so often, that I actually considered renaming my firm Stevens, Ness & Newman. It has a nice ring to it.
Michael Newman, retired judge and lawyer
What’s next for Stevens-Ness? The retail shop will close at the end of December, but the brand will live on as an online source for digital legal forms. Also, while they may have pioneered the idea of legal design, but Stevens-Ness is no longer the only game in town. A new generation of user interface (UX) designers [#legaldesign] are exploring ways to democratize the profession by removing language, cost, and expertise barriers that currently exist in the legal process. However, we’ll always have a special place in our heart for the humble blank form— the OG of UX in the legal world.