Let’s start with this idea:
“We should live in a world where contracts are written in accessible language—where potential business partners can sit down over a short lunch without their lawyers and read, truly understand, and feel comfortable signing a contract.”
Not if you’re Shawn Burton, general counsel of GE Aviation’s digital-services unit.
Since 2014 his unit has been on a plain-language mission, resulting in a 60% reduction in negotiation time for the contracts converted from their previous versions, which were full of legalese.
Plain-language contracting is not a new idea. Removing “heretofore,” “whereas,” or “forthwith” has been low hanging fruit for years.
Now, contracts are being completely re-designed or even re-imagined in various ways to make them easier to understand.
We’ve now entered an era of ‘legal design’ which represents much more than just plain-language contracting. According to one of the trailblazers in this area – Emma Jelley, the former Head of Google’s UK & Ireland Regional Legal Team:
“Legal Design is a movement to make law more accessible, more usable, and more engaging. Its building blocks are plain language and attractive visuals… all intended to enhance user experience. Legal design embraces but goes beyond technology.”
The use of visual aids and diagrams can be especially useful for business users (e.g. sales people, project and contract managers (especially non-native English speakers)) who are expected to use contracts and comply with them on a day to day basis.
In this experiment, construction lawyer Damian Curran uses PowerPoint to convert a few clauses of the standard form AS4000 Construction Contract into diagrams. In 2017 the International Association of Contract and Commercial Management awarded Shell an innovation award for diagrammatically capturing the transfer of risk and title at delivery in its shipping contracts.
Contracts are even being re-imaged as comics. From non-disclosure agreements to labour agreements, cartoons are being used for everyday consumers and can be particularly helpful for illiterate users.
But are cartoon contracts binding? According to former Chief Justice of Australia, Robert French, as long as the meaning of the pictures in contracts is clear, they are.
With the emergence of legal design and the adoption of design thinking more broadly across industries, the future of contracting looks more user friendly: less words, more visual, zero legalese.
To end on a high note, here’s Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce’s version of a simple dispute resolution clause: “If there are any disagreements, my mum will call your mum to sort it out.”
Protecting your patient data is increasingly complex with threats of cyber-attacks and data breaches coming from both inside and outside your practice.
If you’ve recently started working from home, you’re probably on a lot of video calls. You might also be wondering why video conferencing is so exhausting.
Sometimes lawyers can get a bad rap if they don’t adapt adopt to new technologies.
Global recession, wealth inequality, trade tariffs between China and the US, Brexit, global warming and volatile housing markets are just a few of the challenges we'll face in 2020.
If you lead an established, market-leading firm, you face a dilemma.
Email our customer support teamSend an enquiry
For customer service and sales enquiries just give us a call from within Australia
(8am to 5pm, Monday - Friday)