Last updated on 

May 15, 2023

Legal Design: How to Craft a Seamless User Experience in the World of Law

Legal Design: How to Craft a Seamless User Experience in the World of Law
Legal Design: How to Craft a Seamless User Experience in the World of LawLegal Design: How to Craft a Seamless User Experience in the World of Law

As a champion for your business, you know that crafting a great user experience is essential to winning and retaining customers. You spend countless hours perfecting the details of your product, from its user interface to its presentation, all to delight your customers and create a loyal following. But have you ever considered how your contracts look, feel, and sound to their readers? Or what would happen if you extended your—unquestionably crucial—efforts on improving the user experience to your contracts and other legal documents? That's where legal design comes in.

You can ensure that your business stays the course by giving the same level of attention and care to your legal documentation as you do to your products and other customer interactions. You can avoid costly legal disputes that could hinder your ability to serve your customers and harm the trust you've worked so hard to build with them. 

In this article, we'll explore legal design and why it's crucial for creating a positive user experience and protecting your business's reputation. It is also the final missing piece of the puzzle completing the journey initiated with your CLM system and creating a fully integrated and seamless experience for your customers and other stakeholders. 

What is legal design?

Legal design is the application of design thinking principles to the world of law, focusing on creating more accessible, user-centric legal documents and processes. By incorporating the same elements that make a product's user experience exceptional, legal design aims to bridge the gap between complicated legal jargon/tradition and the everyday user's understanding. This ensures that your customers feel at ease with the legal aspects of your business and can easily navigate through your contracts, extending your positive and engaging user experience to legal documents.

Design is not just about aesthetics or functionality but about creating meaningful experiences, connecting with customers, and building trust. Legal design can help you simplify complex information, communicate clearly and empathetically, and empower your customers and collaborators to make informed decisions.

Legal design encompasses a diverse range of components that work together to create an enhanced user experience, including:

  • Plain language: by replacing jargon and complex terms with plain, straightforward language, users can quickly grasp the meaning and implications of the document without needing a legal background.
  • Visual Elements: Incorporating visual elements, such as graphics, icons, and illustrations, making the document more engaging and helping users navigate through the content more easily, facilitating comprehension and retention.
  • Structure and Layout: Creating a clear and organized system for legal documents, utilizing headings, bullet points, and numbered lists to break down complex information into digestible chunks. The layout is designed with the user in mind, making scanning and finding relevant information easy.
  • Personalization and Contextualization: Using real-life examples and scenarios to make the document more relatable, putting legal concepts into context. This helps users better understand their rights and obligations, fostering a sense of trust and transparency.
  • User Testing: Just like any other aspect of a product, legal documents can be tested and iterated upon based on user feedback. Your documents can be continually improved, based on your customers' input, ensuring they remain user-centric.

The importance of something as simple as plain language was substantiated last year by researchers from i.a. MIT in the study Poor writing, not specialized concepts, drives processing difficulty in legal language (the paper received a lot of attention in the global legal community due to it boiling down to “Lawyers are not that smart, just bad writers”).

Based on an analysis of around 10 million words, the study showed that contracts are full of hard-to-understand language, unusual grammar, and strange capitalization compared to other types of English writing and speech. These features make contracts difficult to remember and understand, even for experienced readers. The study found that the hardest feature to handle was the use of complex sentence structures. 

The results challenge the idea that legal language is only difficult because it's based on specialized concepts for experts. Instead, the study suggests that contracts are tough to understand mainly because of bad writing that puts a strain on people's working memory. 

By removing these problematic features—improving the writing—contracts and other legal documents become much easier to understand and engage with.

The (quite valuable) benefits of legal design

Legal design is not only good for your customers. It’s also good for your business. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, companies that invest in design have 32% higher revenue growth and 56%  more total returns to shareholders than their industry counterparts. These best-in-class companies adopt an analytical approach to design, make user-centric design everyone’s responsibility, continuously iterate based on user feedback, and embrace the entire user experience. 

To fully reap the benefits, design and design thinking should therefore be applied to the whole user experience, across the board, including contracts and other legal documents ( i.e. legal design). 

By extending the design and user experience efforts and implementing legal design principles, you ensure that your customers have a seamless experience with your business, even when it comes to the legal aspects. 

The result will be that not only will your customers appreciate the effort, but they will also feel more confident and secure in their dealings with your business, nurturing the roots for a more fruitful relationship.

As frequently highlighted in research articles, legal design can have a positive impact on your business in several ways, including:

  1. Customer trust and loyalty: Legal design helps build trust between your business and your customers by presenting legal information in a clear and concise manner. When customers can easily understand their rights and obligations, they are more likely to trust your brand and remain loyal to your business.
  2. Reduced legal risks: By simplifying legal language and using design elements to make contracts more comprehensible, you can minimize the risk of misunderstandings that could lead to costly legal disputes. This saves valuable time, money, and potential reputational damage.
  3. Reduced transaction costs: Legal design makes negotiations faster, and less reliant on advisors, as information is more comprehensible. 
  4. Enhanced brand perception: A well-designed legal document can improve your customers' perception of your brand, showing them that you value transparency and accessibility. This can set your business apart from competitors who may not prioritize legal design in their user experience.
  5. Compliance: Legal design helps ensure that your contracts and legal documents are easier to understand, increasing the likelihood of compliance with the document and regulations and reducing the risk of fines and penalties for non-compliance.
  6. Competitive advantage: By embracing legal design and providing a seamless user experience across all aspects of your business, you can differentiate yourself in the market and gain a competitive edge over businesses that neglect this aspect of their customer experience.

Businesses that have already embarked on the journey offer more tangible examples. In "The Case for Plain-Language Contracts" (Harvard Business Review), the General Counsel of GE Aviation's Business & General Aviation shares their experience of implementing plain language in contracts and simplifying templates, leading to impressive results. By focusing on making templates clearer and easier to understand, negotiation time was cut by 60%.

This allowed the business to achieve its crucial speed-to-market strategy, using the time saved from less critical (but still time-consuming) negotiations for more commercially valuable activities. Importantly, GE's legal position remained uncompromised by these changes, maintaining all necessary legal safeguards despite deviating from the usual way of legal writing.

CLM Synergies

But is legal design really necessary if you have a CLM, or do they supplement each other?

The allure of an effective CLM system (such as Contractbook) is multi-layered, offering advantages that positively impact both the internal team and external stakeholders. 

For you and your employees, a robust CLM system streamlines the contract drafting and management processes, reducing manual tasks and increasing efficiency. 

For your customers and business partners, the CLM elevates their experience by offering a modern and smooth contracting process with user-friendly features, such as native e-signature capabilities. This eliminates the outdated and time-consuming "sign, scan, and return" method, providing a more easy and up-to-date approach. 

So, a good CLM will certainly get you part of the way by creating better processes and is a great place to start when setting out to improve your user experience while becoming more efficient yourself. Maximizing the potential of your CLM and creating the optimal user experience, however, also involves paying close attention to the contents of the contracts themselves.

By incorporating legal design features in your templates, such as plain and accessible language, visuals, and a clear structure, you ensure that your customers are not only delighted by the smooth process of agreeing on a new contract with you but also by the contents of the document, creating a holistic and seamless user experience. 

When legal counsel is still needed for reviewing and negotiating even relatively simple, standardized contracts, a large part of the potential benefits of a CLM system is lost. Enabling your counterpart to feel secure and confident in both the process and with the contents of your contract, without needing to rely on a lawyer, can yield significant savings and benefits for them, which will only reassure them that they’ve made the right choice with you.

Finally, the magic of legal design lies in its ability to transform contracts into accessible, visually engaging documents. When paired with a CLM system, these visually enhanced contracts genuinely come to life, as the digital format allows for more dynamic and interactive content than traditional paper documents.

In a CLM system, legal design elements such as graphics, icons, and illustrations can become much more interactive and responsive, allowing users to easily navigate through complex legal information. This seamless integration ensures that a well-crafted, visually appealing contract reaches its full potential, providing a user experience that paper simply can't replicate.

Starting your journey

A truly exceptional user experience extends beyond the interface and embraces every facet of customer interaction—even the legal aspects. Transform your legal documents from daunting to delightful through the tools and concepts provided by legal design, and feel the difference with your customers and other stakeholders.

If you are interested in optimizing your contract templates through legal design, we have a service for you. RESOLVA LAW is a Danish ALSP with previous experience in legal design projects. We can help you achieve all the advantages listed above (building customer trust & loyalty, reducing legal risks and costs, building brand perception, compliance, and competitive advantage) by applying human-centered design principles to your contract templates, such as:

  • Aligning your templates with your business goals and values
  • Simplifying and clarifying your templates and legal language
  • Using visual elements such as icons, diagrams, and charts
  • Testing and iterating your template designs with feedback
  • Optimizing your contract templates to ensure consistency, accuracy, and compliance across your contract lifecycle and leverage the automation and analytics features of your CLM system

Legal design can transform the way you create and manage contracts and develop trust and satisfaction among your customers and other stakeholders. If you want to learn more about legal design or our services, please feel free to reach out to us.

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