Our team love geeking out on the latest in legal tech especially when it comes to making contracts easier to review!
So we got pretty excited when legal tech company Onit got in touch with our founder Verity White to lend her plain language contract drafting skills to their new legal AI platform, CheckThisContract.
We encounter contracts throughout our lives: when we’re renting, buying a home, starting a new job, getting a promotion, or running a business. But many of us are guilty of skimming the pages, signing the bottom, sending it off, and forgetting all about it! In fact, about 80% of us won’t seek legal help when we need it – whether that’s because we feel intimidated, are worried about the cost, or don’t realise it’s an option.
Onit and SimpleLegal are on a mission to build better digital-driven workflows around the law and are currently tackling the general public’s aversion to dealing with contracts. They recently launched CheckThisContract: a digital platform that automatically reviews a contract and offers tips to help people protect their interests.
Jean Yang, Vice President of Onit’s AI Center of Excellence (formerly McCarthyFinch), is one of the key legal and creative brains behind CheckThisContract. She’s passionate about empowering everyday people to understand and apply the law in their own lives. In fact, Jean says one of the first things lawyers are taught is that there really is no law if it’s not accessible.
Jean and her team spent months speaking to consumers to design CheckThisContract. With a background in legal innovation, she already knew that technologies were being built for lawyers to streamline their practice. In fact, Jean had designed some of them herself. But she wondered: what would happen if those very same tech tools could be delivered straight into the hands of the end user?
CheckThisContract breaks down barriers between legal solutions and the average consumer. The process is simple: upload your contract, then wait as the AI powers through it in about 90 seconds. It then presents back possible legal issues, with recommended guidance and next steps.
CheckThisContract is driven by artificial intelligence (AI) that is pre-trained to understand and find key legal issues. However, despite the sophisticated technology, it looks simple to the end-user because the AI’s findings have a human touch delivered by Verity of Checklist Legal.
When Jean and Verity met, it was a connection of likeminded souls. Both women love working with contracts, but they also share a broader mission to use design thinking and innovation to break down the traditional barriers that keep people at arms-length from the law. Verity’s thought leadership around contract law, confidence to ask questions and delve deeper, and her collaborative and pragmatic approach made her a perfect fit for the CheckThisContract project.
Verity’s work is now the communicative ‘voice’ of the AI. She wrote comments, feedback, and standard clauses in plain English. With visual appeal a major consideration for Onit and SimpleLegal, she also added in emojis and icons. Jean says the overall approach to information design is crucial for end users, and the accessibility of law as a whole.
Seeing is believing; and CheckThisContract has made the process behind contract work demonstrable and tangible. It has helped spark conversations with consumers, law practices, and in-house legal counsel about how legal services can be delivered differently.
There’s no danger that CheckThisContract will replace the work of real lawyers, however. Onit and SimpleLegal have produced a corporate version of the product that businesses can use to support their in-house legal teams. CheckThisContract is designed to help users be better informed rather than replace legal advice. It will help them know which questions to ask and spark more engagement with both their lawyers and the legal process.
The upshot of CheckThisContract is that this platform, and other legal innovations like it, will create a new generation of empowered people who understand the value of the law and leverage it in their own lives.
Lessons from Jean Yang, Onit
- Jean says that ease of reading is crucial when it comes to making the law accessible, so design your contracts with the everyday end user in mind. That means using plain English!
- Every contract should be reviewed – don’t accept it at face value. If you’re nervous about seeking legal advice straight away, you can use CheckThisContract for free as your first step.
Jean has a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Auckland and is admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand. CheckThisContract does not offer legal advice. Readers are advised that the content of this article is for information and entertainment purposes only. For legal matters, seek the advice of a qualified lawyer.
And if you think your contracts might be ready for a little plain language and contract re-design magic, let’s have a chat!