Contract Design

Ease of Doing Business

Good contract templates have many advantages. But not all templates work optimally. Some are simply too complex – or too focused on risk mitigation – to be viable business tools. Some can even have a negative impact on your brand. We argue that contracts should make it easy to do business – they should be business-friendly and human-friendly, not just lawyer-friendly. Contracts should work both legally and operationally. We help drive your business success with Next Generation Contracts.

Research-based Work

Our work is research based. We build on Proactive Law and Proactive Contracting – a line of research where contracts are used to promote what is desirable and prevent what is not. The origins of this approach are deeply rooted in theory, which has influenced and been influenced by several fields of research. The evolution is shown in this figure (click to enlarge):

For us, contract design is about content, language, structure and presentation. In our quest for simpler and clearer contracts, we apply the criteria outlined in “What makes a good document” developed by the Simplification Centre.

Contract Design Patterns

Helena Haapio has partnered with WorldCC and Stefania Passera of Passera Design to bring you contract design patterns: effective, repeatable solutions to common usability and comprehension problems in contracts. The patterns and examples you will find in our Contract Design Pattern Library, curated by the WorldCC Foundation, will help you organize and communicate your contracts more clearly so that they are read, understood, and acted upon. Here is the front page of the Library (click to enlarge):

Patterns and pattern libraries have been used successfully in fields as diverse as architecture, software engineering, and UX design as a means of communicating and sharing design knowledge. Why not use them in the context of contract design?

Visuals – images that help people understand the language of contracts – is the name of one of the 10 pattern families in the Contract Design Pattern Library. We began experimenting with contract visualization in the 1990s. Research and practice tell us that visuals are an effective way to simplify contracts and make them more useful and usable. The examples in the Pattern Library illustrate the many ways in which visuals can be used, either embedded in the contracts themselves as comprehension aids, or in manuals, guides, or explanatory documents.

Please note that design patterns are not templates or finished designs that you can copy and paste. Instead, they provide a model approach and examples intended to help you identify problems and develop effective solutions.

AI-powered Contract Design Assistants

We encourage you to explore the potential of AI tools, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, to help you create human-friendly contracts. Here is what we have found ChatGPT can already do (click to enlarge):

Always verify the information provided by ChatGPT and other AI-powered tools. Use them as a companion: a tool for brainstorming, idea generation and suggestions, not as a source of expert advice or citations. Don’t enter sensitive or confidential information unless your system is secure. And don’t expect to get your input and prompts right the first time – explore and practice!

Contracts do not make things happen, people do!

Contracts are both business and legal tools. They need to be useful and usable, not only to the legal community, but also to the business community they are intended to serve: the contracting organizations and the people who work with contracts. Remember: Contracts do not make things happen, people do!

Our work aims to organize and present contract information in a way that maximizes its clarity and comprehensibility. We use information design and a proactive approach to help you create business-friendly and human-friendly contracts.

In addition to Contract Design publications and keynotes, we offer Contract Coaching and Contract Courses.