image of a lawyer drafting a contract
Aufsetzung von Vorlagen

Was ist „Legal Design“ und welche Bedeutung hat es für die Vertragsgestaltung

Learn how legal design is revolutionizing contracts through clear language, visual elements, and user-centered approaches to increase comprehensibility and efficiency.

Introduction - Legal Design: The “How” of modern contract drafting

Imagine yourself sitting in front of a rental agreement that looks like a legal text from the Middle Ages: tiny letters, incomprehensible clauses, a maze of paragraphs. You feel that you need an interpreter to understand what you're actually signing. This is exactly where legal design comes into play. It is the art of turning complex legal documents into understandable, user-friendly and even appealing texts. Think of clear layouts, clear language, helpful graphics — everything that helps you, as a tenant or contract partner, know exactly what you're getting yourself into. Legal Design is revolutionizing the way we interact with legal documents and making the law accessible to everyone.

In this article, we dive deep into the world of legal design. We explain what it is, why it was created and why it is relevant for each of us, not just lawyers. We'll show you how legal design is already changing contract drafting and what benefits it offers for companies and consumers alike. Whether you're a tenant, entrepreneur, or simply curious, this article will open your eyes to a new era of understanding the law.

Why did legal design develop?

The higher-level “Why“Behind Legal Design is the need to make the legal system and legal documents more accessible, understandable and user-friendly. Traditional legal documents and processes are often complex and difficult to understand, which can lead to misunderstandings, inefficiencies, and poor compliance. Legal Design strives to overcome these barriers and ensure that legal information is clear and understandable for all parties involved.

Now imagine being able to design your contracts so that they are not only legally binding, but also aesthetically appealing and easy to understand. Welcome to the world of legal design. Legal design is revolutionizing the way we perceive legal documents and processes by focusing on clarity and ease of use. It is the “how” — the method we use to make complex legal content more accessible and efficient. Dive into this fascinating symbiosis of law and design, and discover how legal design can transform your contract drafting.

The development of legal design is therefore a reaction to the increasing complexity and opacity of traditional legal documents. In a world where efficiency and ease of use are becoming increasingly important, traditional approaches to drafting contracts have often met with criticism due to their cumbersome and lack of comprehensibility. Legal Design has evolved to address these challenges by integrating design principles into legal practice and thus making legal documents more accessible and understandable. This change is driven by the need for clear, intuitive, and user-centered solutions that not only improve readability but can also increase efficiency and compliance in legal processes.

Increasing complexity of language use legal topics are becoming more common

There are, in fact, numerous studies and reports that indicate that the complexity of our language, our processes and our legal system has increased in recent decades.

Complexity of legal language:

Numerous studies and reports show that the complexity of our language, our processes and our legal system has increased in recent decades. Research has shown that legal language is becoming increasingly complex and difficult to understand. A report by Frontiers in Legal Language notes that legal documents often have a high degree of syntactic and semantic complexity, making them significantly difficult to understand and use. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphy.2021.671882/full

Complexity of legal processes

Legal processes have also become more complex. A study in MDPI Journal emphasizes that the multitude of regulations and standards as well as their continuous expansion and adjustment significantly increase the complexity of legal processes. This increasing complexity leads to inefficiencies and increased effort in implementing legal procedures.

Increased requirements due to the legal system

According to an analysis on Oxford Academic The structural and procedural complexity in many legal systems has increased. This is caused by the introduction of new laws and regulations as well as by the increasing detailing of existing regulations. These developments make it more difficult for laypeople and even professionals to navigate the legal system and correctly interpret legal documents.

In summary, these statistics and studies show that our language, processes, and legal system have become more complex over time. This complexity poses a challenge to the comprehensibility and accessibility of legal information and underscores the need for approaches such as legal design to overcome these barriers and make law more accessible and understandable for all.

What is legal design?

Legal design is an interdisciplinary approach that improves legal services and documents through design principles. The aim is to make legal texts easier to understand, more user-friendly and more accessible. This is achieved by integrating visual elements, clear language, and a user-centered approach.

Elements of legal design

  1. visual design: The use of charts, infographics and icons helps to clearly present complex information. These visual elements can make abstract legal concepts more tangible and make it easier to navigate through the document.
  2. Clear language: Instead of legal jargon, Legal Design uses simple, precise language. This not only makes contracts easier to understand, but also more accessible to people without a legal background.
  3. User-centred approach: Legal design focuses on the user. Incorporating the user perspective into the design process ensures that the documents meet the needs and expectations of users.

Why is legal design important for drafting contracts?

  1. Improved comprehensibility: Traditional contracts are often complex and difficult to understand. Legal Design helps to design legal documents in such a way that they are easier to understand for all parties involved, which can reduce misunderstandings and disputes.
  2. Increased efficiency: The clarity and ease of use of legally designed documents can speed up contract negotiations and conclusion. This saves time and resources for all parties.
  3. Better compliance: Contracts that are clear and understandable increase the likelihood that all parties to the contract understand and comply with their obligations and rights. This can improve regulatory compliance and reduce the risk of contract breaches.

Sub-areas of legal design

Legal design is a multi-disciplinary approach that aims to make the legal system more user-friendly and efficient through design principles. It comprises both the user interface (front-end) and the underlying systems and rules (back-end) of the legal system. Here are the most important sub-areas of legal design:

Front-end of legal design: user-friendly interfaces and tools

The front-end approach in legal design aims to develop better user interfaces and tools that enable people to navigate the legal system. One example of this is visual contracts, which are made easier to understand through visual elements such as charts and symbols to improve clarity and accessibility. In addition, the creation of user-centered documents plays an important role. These documents are written and structured in simple language to make them easier to understand for non-lawyers. The development of digital platforms that provide legal services and information in a user-friendly way is also a central aspect of the front-end approach.

Back-end of legal design: intuitive systems and rules

The back-end approach uses the same design principles to improve the underlying systems and rules of the legal system. This includes designing more efficient legal processes that are less complex and easier to understand. Another important aspect is the development of clear and comprehensible rules that are easier to apply and enforce. In addition, the integration of technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence is being used to automate and improve legal processes.

Design-driven rather than technology-driven approaches

A design-driven approach is not against technology, but sees it as a valuable resource. This approach focuses on how technologies can be used to develop sophisticated and functional solutions that meet the actual needs of users. Design focuses on user experience and whether products and services are accessible and understandable to the people who use them.

Legal Design integrates design principles in both the front-end and back-end of the legal system to make it more user-friendly and efficient. This holistic approach helps make legal processes and documents more understandable while improving the underlying systems and rules to create a more equitable and effective legal landscape

Design thinking in legal design

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a creative approach to problem solving that was originally developed in the design industry but is now being used in many areas, including law. It is a human-centered process that aims to develop innovative solutions by focusing on the needs of users. This iterative process comprises five phases: empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing.

The five phases of design thinking

  1. empathy: This phase is about understanding users and their needs. Through interviews, observations and immersion in the user environment, designers gain valuable insights into the challenges and wishes of users.
  2. definition: Based on the information collected during the empathy phase, the problem is clearly defined. This phase aims to formulate a clear problem statement that serves as a basis for further steps.
  3. brainstorming: During this creative phase, various solutions are developed. It is about generating as many ideas as possible without immediately evaluating them. Brainstorming and other creativity techniques are used here.
  4. prototyping: In this phase, the best ideas are converted into tangible prototypes. These prototypes do not have to be perfect, but should illustrate the idea and provide initial feedback.
  5. testing: The prototypes are tested with users to obtain feedback and further improve the solution. This step can be run several times to iteratively optimize the product.

Why is design more “how” than “what”?

Design is the way to achieve goals. It is an area that revolves around the “how” and is therefore an excellent counterpart to an area such as law, which often focuses on the “what.” Design goes beyond just creating objects; it's the process by which we find intelligent, usable, and practical ways to make change happen.

Design is essential for developing appealing communication tools, innovative products, satisfying services, and more effective organizations, policies, and strategies. It helps solve complex problems by focusing on users' needs and perspectives and developing creative solutions that are both functional and aesthetically appealing.

Applying Design Thinking in Legal Design

Design thinking fits perfectly with the concept of legal design, as it also follows a user-centered approach. By focusing on the needs of users — in this case clients and users of legal documents — legal documents and processes can be significantly improved.

  1. Empathy in legal design: Lawyers and designers work together to understand the challenges and needs of users of contracts and other legal documents. This could be done through interviews with clients, workshops or user observations.
  2. Definition in legal design: Based on these findings, the specific problem that is to be solved is defined. This could be the problem, for example, that a contract is difficult to understand or that the user interface on a legal website needs to be improved.
  3. Brainstorming in legal design: Creative solutions are developed to address the identified problems. This could lead to ideas for clearer language, appealing visual elements, or interactive features.
  4. Prototyping in legal design: The best ideas are converted into prototypes. This could be a redesigned contract that includes visual aids, or a website that is more user-friendly.
  5. Testing in legal design: These prototypes are then tested with actual users to get their feedback and further refine the solutions.

By using design thinking in legal design, legal documents and processes can not only be made more functional, but also more appealing and easier to understand. This contributes to a better user experience and ultimately to a more efficient legal system.

Design and technology: A symbiosis for innovation

Design-driven instead of technology-driven

In today's discussion about legal innovations, the focus is often exclusively on technology. These conversations revolve around increasing the efficiency of legal processes, automating human tasks through machines, and increasing productivity through better data and knowledge management. This often ignores the concept of design, although it offers a wealth of methods, processes, tools, and ways of thinking that can lead to more successful and targeted innovations — including those that use technology.

A design-driven approach

A design-driven approach is by no means hostile to technology. On the contrary, he regards technology as a valuable resource that should be incorporated into innovative design solutions. Human-centered design can be just as powerful an engine of innovation as technology — if not a better one. Design is less concerned with the means by which new legal processes can be carried out, but more with the experience of the people who will use these processes.

The focus is on people

Design resists the temptation to praise futuristic technologies for their own sake. Instead, design focuses on whether products, services, organizations, and systems can be used by the people who deliver them and for whom they are intended. Design thinking has already found its way into areas such as management, healthcare, and financial services. Law — as a fundamentally service-oriented profession — could benefit enormously from a user-centered design approach.

Technology as a tool of design

While technology provides the tools to achieve efficiency and automation, design ensures that these tools are used sensibly and in a user-friendly way. A design-driven approach uses technology to develop sophisticated and functional solutions that meet the actual needs of users.

The role of design in legal innovation

Design brings a new perspective to legal innovation by focusing on people. It is about how legal processes and systems can be designed in such a way that they are clear, understandable and effective for users. This approach not only results in a better user experience, but can also improve efficiency and compliance in legal processes.

The combination of design and technology creates innovative solutions that are not only technically advanced, but also user-friendly and accessible. A design-driven approach ensures that technological innovations in the legal sector are not only efficient but also people-centred. This leads to more sustainable and effective innovations that meet the true needs of users.

Practical application of legal design in contract drafting

The practical application of legal design in contract drafting is revolutionizing the way legal documents are created and used. Integrating design principles increases comprehensibility, improves usability, and increases efficiency. Here are three key methods for using legal design in contract drafting: visual elements, clear language, and modular structure.

Visual elements

Visual elements play a crucial role in improving the comprehensibility and accessibility of contracts. By using charts, tables, icons and illustrations, complex information can be presented clearly and concisely.

Studies have shown that the human brain processes visual information faster than text. According to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the brain can capture and process images in just 13 milliseconds. This ability to process visual information quickly makes the use of images, icons and diagrams particularly valuable in drafting contracts. By visually presenting complex information, contracts can not only be made more understandable but also more user-friendly.

charts: An effective use of visual elements is the use of circuit diagrams that clearly represent complex processes and sequences. For example, a supply contract may include a flow chart that illustrates the steps from receipt of order to delivery and acceptance of the goods. Such diagrams help contract partners to better understand the individual steps and responsibilities and to avoid misunderstandings.

Icons and illustrations: Icons and illustrations can be used to highlight important clauses or sections of a contract. For example, a digital services contract could use icons to mark sections such as privacy, usage rights, and payment dates. These visual cues make it easy for readers to quickly find and understand relevant information.

example: A company that regularly concludes complex supply contracts uses a combination of flow charts and symbols to represent the flow of delivery processes and the responsibilities of the parties. These visual aids help contract partners to better understand the individual steps and obligations and to avoid misunderstandings. In addition, icons could be used to address important clauses such as”Payment terms“or”Delivery times“to mark.

advantages:

  • Reduced misunderstandings and disputes through clear presentation of contract content.
  • Faster capture of information through visual processing, supported by research results on image processing in the brain.
  • Better communication between contracting parties.

Clear and consistent language

The use of clear and simple language instead of legal jargon is a central aspect of legal design. The aim is to make contracts understandable to all parties involved, regardless of their legal background.

Uniform structure promotes recognition

A uniform structure in contracts makes it easier to recognize and understand the documents. Consistent layouts and formatting enable readers to quickly find and understand relevant information. Consistent use of headings on each clause helps to guide the eye and make the text easier to navigate.

example: A service contract could use clear, consistent headings such as “Service Description,” “Compensation,” “Confidentiality,” and “Liability” to clearly separate the individual sections and allow readers to quickly jump to the relevant parts.

Avoid complex and cumbersome terms

Legal texts are often full of complex and cumbersome terms that make understanding difficult. Legal Design focuses on avoiding such terms in favor of simple and precise language. This not only makes contracts easier to understand, but also more accessible to people without a legal background.

example: Instead of “termination of the contractual relationship for good cause”, “termination for good cause” could be used. Short and clear terms reduce cognitive load and promote better understanding.

Long words don't help either

Long words can disrupt the flow of reading and make it difficult to understand. It is often helpful to avoid such words or replace them with shorter, more common phrases.

example: Instead of “disregard,” “disregard” could be used. “Due date” can also be replaced by “payment date” to make the text more fluid and understandable.

Consistent use of headings

Consistent use of headings for each clause helps to structure the document and provide readers with clear guidance. Headings should be concise and descriptive to convey the content of the following clause at a glance.

example: Each clause in a rental agreement could have a clear heading, such as “rent,” “duration of tenancy,” and “duties of the tenant.” These clear headlines make it easy for readers to quickly find the information they're looking for.

Explanations of clauses in comments

Wherever possible, explanations of the clauses should be provided in the comments to the document. This additional information can help readers better understand the meaning and implications of the clauses. When using professional contract software, you can also add your own explanations to address specific questions or concerns.

example: A software license agreement could provide simple explanations of technical terms or important clauses in the margins or in separate comment fields. Such statements help to avoid misunderstandings and increase the clarity of the contract.

By implementing these principles in contract drafting, understanding and usability are significantly improved. Clear and consistent language, combined with a well-structured and explanatory approach, not only makes contracts more accessible, but also promotes greater compliance and satisfaction among the contracting parties.

advantages:

  • Increased comprehensibility of the contract content for all parties.
  • Fewer inquiries and need for clarification.
  • More likely that all parties understand and comply with their rights and obligations

modular structure

A modular structure in contract drafting offers numerous advantages by dividing contracts into logical, easily accessible sections. This not only makes it easier to navigate and understand the documents, but also enables efficient handling and review by various departments.

Framework agreement with general conditions

An effective approach is to draw up a framework contract that summarizes general conditions. This framework agreement contains all basic and recurring conditions that apply to all subsequent contracts. As a result, these general conditions do not have to be listed again in every single contract, which both saves time and ensures consistency.

example: A company could draw up a framework agreement that includes general terms and conditions such as payment arrangements, confidentiality, liability and dispute resolution. Individual services or specific projects are then presented in separate contracts that refer to the framework agreement.

Specific contracts for individual services

Individual services or projects are described in detail in separate contracts. These specific contracts contain only the specific conditions and requirements that apply to the particular service or project and refer to the framework agreement for general conditions.

example: An IT service provider could have a separate contract for each service offered (e.g. software development, maintenance, training), which refers to the general framework agreement. As a result, the general conditions do not have to be repeated and the focus is on the specific details of each service.

Order of validity of contracts

It is important to clearly state the order in which contracts are valid in order to avoid potential conflicts between the terms of the various contracts. The framework contract should set out the overall conditions, while the specific contracts contain the detailed conditions for the respective services. If there are similar clauses in the contracts, it should be clearly defined which contract takes precedence in the event of a conflict.

example: The framework contract could specify that the terms of the framework contract take precedence in the event of a conflict with the terms of a specific contract. This provides clarity and prevents misunderstandings between the contracting parties.

Efficient audit by specialist departments

Thanks to the modular structure, contracts can be forwarded specifically to the respective specialist department for review without each department having to read the entire contract. The specialist departments can concentrate on the sections that are relevant to them and thus work more efficiently.

example: The finance department only reviews payment terms and pricing structures, while the legal department focuses on legal conditions and liability clauses. The IT department can focus on technical specifications and requirements. This division of labor saves time and increases the accuracy of contract review.

By implementing a modular structure in contract drafting, efficiency and clarity are significantly improved. Framework agreements with general conditions and specific contracts for individual services, combined with a clear order of validity and targeted review by specialist departments, make contracts not only more user-friendly, but also more effective in handling and enforcement.

advantages:

  • Improved clarity and easier to find relevant information.
  • Better structuring and clarity of contract content.
  • Increased efficiency in contract review and negotiation.

conclusion

Legal design has the potential to fundamentally change the way we design and use contracts. By integrating design principles such as visual elements, clear and consistent language, and a modular structure, legal documents not only become more understandable and user-friendly, but also more efficient and effective to use.

Visual elements such as charts, icons, and illustrations, make complex information easier to access and understand. Studies show that visual representations are processed more quickly by the human brain than text, which helps to reduce misunderstandings and improve communication between contracting parties.

Clear and consistent language helps to make contracts easier to understand. By avoiding complex terms and long words and using headlines consistently, the text becomes more fluid and easier to navigate. Explanations of the clauses in comments also help to ensure that all parties to the contract fully understand their rights and obligations.

modular structure makes it possible to create framework contracts with general conditions to which specific contracts for individual services refer. This saves time and increases consistency, as recurring conditions do not have to be renegotiated over and over again. The clear order in which contracts are valid prevents conflicts between different contract terms and enables targeted review by the relevant specialist departments.

By using legal design in contract drafting, companies and consumers benefit equally. Companies can optimize their internal processes, improve compliance and increase client and partner satisfaction. Consumers receive contracts that are easier to understand and use, which contributes to a more equitable and transparent legal landscape.

Legal Design stands for a new era of contract drafting — an era in which legal documents are not only legally binding but also user-friendly and appealing. It shows that law should include not only the “what” but also the “how” in order to be truly effective. By applying the principles of legal design, we can ensure that law becomes more accessible and understandable for everyone, and thus create a more equitable and efficient legal world.

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