“There is two things wrong with almost all legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content.” Fred Rodell, Prof of Law, Yale, 1936. This is still valid and probably even more valid today – a lot of people disregard legal text, simple because they cannot understand it. It is complicated and not possible to digest. It is simple not fit for its use. As an experiment with your mind – compare to any other product used by you as an end user – would you accept a smartphone or a car with the same usability as a contract?
Yesterday I met several people behind Contract Visualisation at a workshop at IACCM Americas (Helena Happio, PhD Candidate, University of Vaasa, Finland and International Contract Expert, Lexpert and Stefania Passera, Doctoral Researcher and Designer Aalto University, Finland). The statement behind their research is simple: “Users NEED and DESERVE better Contracts”. I cannot agree more – contracts are not written for the user to read – they are written to protect the writer’s company.
Here is how I can see lawyers starting to change (below is a condensed view based on what I have heard from above researchers):
- Think about the contract as a product to be used. Think then Function, then usability and then user experience. That is new to a lawyer …..
- Think about the target groups because they have different context of use, goals and use different parts of the agreement and there are several:
- Litigation lawyers (working reactive)
- Contract / Commercial people
- GC, in-house lawyers (working proactive)
- Business Managers
- Operational /delivery teams
There are some techniques to write a good contract (which is not necessarily legally “perfect” contract). Start by using plain language (cut the bull … please). Think about how you design it – think readability and understandability. What are you presenting and in which order. other communications means when they are better – timelines, tables, bar charts, flow charts, pictures.
Read more hear about visualisation here. I am looking forward to learn more.