We need contracts that are easy to operate and easy to use to gather relevant data.

Simplification deals with the easy to operate bit. At the World Commerce and Contracting EMEA Summit 2022, Stefania Passera, their designer-in-residence challenged her audience of contract and procurement specialists to rethink contracts.

She suggested three approaches to adopt:

  1. A proactive stance on law: proactive or preventative law focuses on doing deals which work for both contracting parties. This means ensuring the terms properly balance risk and reward. The role of a contract writer is to create a document which works for both businesses, is a primarily managerial tool, and is adequate for the transaction. [More in Helena Haapio’s article]
  2. User-centred design process and mindset: instead of considering how a tribunal might interpret the contract, your priority should be to put the user and their context at the heart of what you do. The legal design process starts with empathy, involves asking better questions, and tests prototypes with users. One simple suggestion is to create positive obligations, rather than (negative) restrictions. [More in Stefania and Helena’s article]
  3. Information design: this takes an information approach to the business relationship and will review a document’s usability, language and design. The structure (or information architecture) of a contract can be changed to put business critical information first, list obligations in chronological order, and use informative headings (not based on legal topics). [More in Stefania’s article based on her PhD thesis]

There are examples of the tips or techniques suggested by Stefania in the Contract Design Pattern Library.

What should you do?

Decide if simplifying your contracts will create benefits for your business, such as improving the speed at which your clients or suppliers say yes, or minimising queries and disputes due to misunderstanding.

If the benefits outweigh the effort, get simplifying!

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