A legal design list for better contracts and happier clients.
There are many ways to improve even the most complex contracts.
Some of these ideas are quick wins. Some of them are ways to change your perspective on a document you might have read many times (and probably feels like a thousand times!).
Whether your contracts are B2B or for consumers; internal for employees or external for millions of customers, there are lots of ways and even more reasons to improve your contracts for speed, efficiency, values, and client centricity.
So here’s 100 ways to improve those contracts for the better!
100 way to improve your contracts.
1. Change the font
2. Read it.
3. Look up words you don’t understand.
4. Include your business / corporate values.
5. Check the word count.
6. Remind yourself that a contract is not a piece of paper.
7. Ask your clients what they think of it.
8. Read it from the back to the front.
9. Add or change the colors to match your brand guidelines.
10. Add headings.
11. Include examples.
12. Show it to a child.
13. Consider whether you would sign it.
14. Create a summary of it.
15. Make a playlist that matches how long it takes to read.
16. Print it out.
17. Read it on a tablet.
18. Be a lazy lawyer and find ways to streamline the contract process and contract document.
19. Send it to yourself for electronic signing.
20. Look for long sentences (15+ words) and slice them up.
21. Check the reading grade level.
22. Read it out loud.
23. Read it out loud in a famous actor’s accent.
24. Map the contract creation and signing process.
25. List the top five most important things about the contract.
26. Write down the purpose for having that contract.
27. Think about how you want your clients / suppliers / employees / the other party to feel when they read the contract.
28. Find out the top five client complaints of pain points in relation to the services that you offer.
29. Find a process in the contract that you can make visual with a flow chart
30. Group things that change in the contract together.
31. Try to read your contract on a mobile phone.
32. Think about the lifecycle of the relationship that the contract is creating.
33. Think about all that paper and time wasted from paper contract processes.
34. Change heavy numbering to bullet points
35. Check for non-inclusive language such as tradesmanlike.
36. Estimate how many times the contract is used every year.
37. Add icons to section headings
38. Refine and simplify your signature panel and remove the need for witnesses.
39. Set it up for electronic signatures.
40. Try to automate the entire process so it is self-serve.
41. Have it read to you by read-aloud software.
42. Create a visual avatar for the parties in the contract number.
43. Read through a plain language word swap list for ideas to reduce the legalese.
44. Record someone explaining it to a client.
45. Think about changes to the contract to make it easier to get to ‘yes’.
46. Make a list of frequently asked questions about the contract or the relationship
47. Negotiate the contract like a TV lawyer.
48. Change the words ‘utilize’ and ‘usage’ to ‘use’.
49. Make a list of the things that you like about your contract.
50. Read books about contract drafting.
51. Imagine what an amazing version of this contract would look like.
52. Learn about processing fluency number
53. Take your contract for a walk
54. Write 10 problems you’ve uncovered about the contract, specifically or contracts in general.
55. Reorganise the contract to match the relationship lifecycle.
56. Start each new contract section on a new page.
57. Get a different lawyer to review your contract.
58. Read the contracts of 3 competitor companies.
59. Read the contracts of 3 hero companies.
60. Put your company elevator pitch in your contract.
61. Include page numbers in the format Page x of y.
62. Highlight everything you don’t enforce in the contract.
63. Add a timeline diagram for time-based processes.
64. Run spell checks in multiple languages.
65. Imagine what a stress-free, automated process might be like.
66. Review spelling and grammar with all options turned on.
67. Investigate information design.
68. Search online for key legal issues for your industry or product.
69. Don’t lie to yourself or your clients, suppliers or team members.
70. Think about the future.
71. Think about the past.
72. Put your contract numbers and processes into a calculator to estimate the costs of poor communication.
73. Project the contract onto a big screen
74. Print the contract and spread it out on the floor to see it all at once.
75. Make a list of any contracts approvals that are needed from creation to signature.
76. Read academic articles about the power of visuals in contracts.
77. Watch 3 document assembly legal tech demos.
78. Think about how trustworthy your contracts make your company seem.
79. Ask colleagues about their contracts at the next networking event you go to.
80. Check your contract for legal jargon.
81. Ask your friends and family what they think about contracts.
82. Try to remove yourself from the entire contract process (a.k.a. delegating like a diva)
83. Think about what actor would play the parties in your contract if your contract was a movie.
84. Follow the #legaldesign hashtag on LinkedIn.
85. Add call out explainers for difficult concepts.
86. Investigate the existing features of your current technology, such as Word design features.
87. Turn your contract into a booklet.
88. Add the text of headings to clause cross-references e.g. in accordance with clause 22 (Termination)
89. Create a structure overview diagram to outline the different parts of the contract.
90. Use FAQ-style headings.
91. Create an internal ‘how to use’ guide for your contract.
92. Put key business terms up front.
93. Search relevant community groups (such as LinkedIn or Facebook groups) for contract-related questions and discussions.
94. Create a business case for investing in contract automation technology.
95. Think about how better contracting could help your company meet their current strategic goals / OKRs / KPIs.
96. Identify any clauses which don’t line up with your company values.
97. Estimate some contract metrics around how long it takes from an initial request to a completely signed contract… and extrapolate this out over a year.
98. Soften clauses that are regularly negotiated so they are more balanced.
99. Turn your contract into an action plan.
100. Fill out the Contract Design Canvas to create a ‘plan on a page’ for your contract design project.
Might as well add a cheeky extra way to improve your contract…
101. Book a call to chat all things contract design with us!
Sources and further reading
- Create Contracts Clients Love by Verity White
- World Commerce and Contracting, Contract Design Pattern Library, https://contract-design.worldcc.com/library
- Write Limited, Legal Jargon Buster, https://write.co.nz/resources/free-tools/
- Rewrite for Change, Cost of poor communication calculator, https://rewriteforchange.com/calculators-2/
- Dr Stefania Passera, Graphic Designer and Contract Design expert, https://stefaniapassera.com/project-type/legaldesign/
- Verity White for the Centre for Legal Innovation, Redesigning Contracts for Readability, Usability, and Trust, https://www.checklistlegal.com/2021/08/redesigning-contracts-for-readability-usability-and-trust/