Legal design aims to make the law in general, and contracts, legal acts, processes, etc. in particular, accessible.
This method of putting the needs of users at the center of concerns has allowed the creation of technological marvels such as the Uber mobile application, for example, which offers a simple and seamless user journey!
What concrete applications can be drawn from legal design? What makes a "good" legal designer? What good practices can be put in place to draft contracts?
To answer these questions, we interviewed Romain Hazebroucq, Legal Operations Consultant at RH Visuels and legal design specialist.
Legal design : Romain Hazebroucq's advice
Legal design is a subject that has been much talked about. Do you think that legal professionals have adopted it in France?
There are many signs that the profession has reached a certain maturity on this subject. This can be seen in job offers: knowledge in legal design is often appreciated. It can be seen on lawyers' websites and in their communication: the ability to deliver client deliverables in legal design format is often highlighted. Finally, this is seen in the appetite of the various professionals for training.
Legal professionals also have a more mature knowledge of the subject. The idea that legal design is much more than just adding visuals to classic legal content is now well established.
Many lawyers identify the first element of legal design as drafting: in particular, the use of clear legal language techniques.
Where there is still room for improvement is in the link between legal design and the rest of the business.
Whether it's for lawyers, legal scholars, or other professionals who practice law, legal design is still seen as a coat of paint to make legal documents more "sexy.
As such, legal design is still too often identified with communication. It is seen as a technique for popularizing the law for clients. The fact that communication agencies offer legal design or that legal designers offer communication services maintains this confusion.
The idea that legal design is a productive tool that can accelerate production, increase the legal security of complex documents, serve to develop processes, and, ultimately, allow for the development of relevant digital tools...
Legal design is first and foremost a way to transform the way you do law.
You define legal design this way: "10% real tools and practices, and 90% common sense". What are the tools?
I hope I won't disappoint you too much by telling you that the first tools to master to do legal design are traditional office tools.
When you spend hours with your email client, Word,Excel and PowerPoint, you have to look for what these tools have in their bellies. There are very powerful things that allow you to go very far in sophisticated visual rendering. There are also things that allow you to industrialize production.
I'll take the example of direct mail. I encourage lawyers to work on their documents in tables, "matrices", and the ideal is to do it in Excel.
Once you have your document written in the cells of an Excel table, you need to export it into a Word document. Here, the mailing function can be of immense help. It is a matter of creating a basic frame, in which each component of your matrix will have been formatted in advance, and of pouring the information from your table into this frame. At the end, you have a document that is 80% designed, and only a few finishing touches remain.
Other features such as the advanced use of styles, the advanced use of tables, or the advanced use of PowerPoint's graphic composition tools allow you to do legal design on a daily basis.
That's the tip of the iceberg. The hidden part relates to the answer to your previous question. If we conceive of legal design as a means of production, then, beyond the simple issue of generating documents, we can become aware of the tools that our internal or external clients use.
I will give an example that concerns lawyers, and since we are at Hyperlex, I will talk about contracts.
Rather than providing a written contract audit in the form of a 500-page report, which your client will have to translate into concrete actions in his own management tools, if you know that your client uses a contract management software, you can consider providing him with this audit directly in the tool: the contracts filled in, the alerts recorded, the reminders programmed
Whether we use tools to improve the ergonomics of the documents we produce, or to deliver our expertise in a format that can be directly used by the user, in all cases it is a question of legal design.
With legal design, the lawyer must be able to identify the user's expectations and respond with clarity. What are the qualities of a good legal designer?
Settle down! Do not rush to open a template, copy and paste, write on a blank page, etc. Ask yourself before drafting a memo what your client intends to do with it and, consequently, what your memo should say. Ask yourself before drafting a clause to imagine a sanction in case of non-performance that will be proportionate to what is at stake in the clause (and which is rarely a contractual liability action under common law). Ask yourself, before sending an e-mail, how the recipient will perceive it, and what is expected of him.
As soon as you ask yourself these questions, the customer focus will come automatically. If you need a little help, you can apply a mental exercise that consists of asking yourself four questions: "who is my recipient?" (often you write for your recipient's boss and not for the recipient himself), "what are his constraints?", "what is my objective with regard to him?", and finally "what bias should I adopt?
For you, legal design is not about simplifying content that needs length. If the need is to publish information on 50 pages, or 120 slides, you have to keep this length but structure the content well. How do you know what information is superfluous and what information is essential?
You are right;legal design is not about simplification, it is about decanting.
Our document must contain both the operational and popularized pieces intended for the operational, the summarized legal reasoning intended for our client's lawyers, and the ultra-technical passages or research intended to cover our responsibility. Unlike current practices, which I still see too often, it is just a matter of assuming that these discourses should not be mixed, but juxtaposed and that each should be marked by a dedicated formatting.
In this perspective, how can we know what is technical and what is operational? We should not try to do violence to ourselves: we are lawyers, technicians who are passionate about our subject. Very often we approach questions through the prism of technical detail (qualification, condition/effect articulation, etc.).
So, in the draft, you must pose your syllogism in the traditional way.
But when it comes to the final deliverable, I invite you to start from the technical and work your way up to the operational.
The idea is to ask yourself, for each paragraph, if it justifies another paragraph. If I find that a paragraph justifies an explanation, it is ultra technical. If this explanation justifies a statement, it is technical. If that explanation justifies nothing but itself, perhaps I have one of my key points that needs to be highlighted and placed at the top.
With the experience and expertise of a subject, we manage to do the opposite: identify the operational recommendations that structure our document and then derive the technical explanations and their ultra-technical developments.
What concrete applications can professionals draw from legal design?
The list is endless!
But realistically, we can already start by :
- Write consultations that the recipient will understand on first reading (and thus avoid or limit the explanations that must be produced live).
- Write e-mails on the basis of which your users will actually act, and thus limit the number of reminders. In this respect, I am thinking in particular of e-mails in which information or documents are requested from operational staff: if these e-mails are not thought out in terms of content and form, you will too often have to chase after your recipients.
- Create contracts that are easy to negotiate, not mark-ups.
- To provide popularized legal information to operational staff in order to empower them, all in an ergonomic format: podcasts, videos, comics, digital tools...
Is Legal Design essential to the digital transformation of legal departments?
Not at all (laughs)! Legal design is certainly a necessary step, but it can be done totally unconsciously.
I find it an elegant entry point for legal departments starting their digital transformation.
Indeed, legal design invites the lawyer to rethink the intimate relationship he has with the documents he produces. The formalism that results from this approach naturally leads to the attachment of processes to these documents.
For example: if we spend time creating a consultation model using legal design, it is so that it can be used repeatedly. Thus, in addition to the model, we will naturally create indications and methods of use, or even creation processes (such a person deals with such parts, such a person deals with such other parts, such a person controls, such a person validates...).
On the other hand, in organizations that are already very processed and well equipped, legal design will naturally follow from the implementation of a quality approach. As soon as these organizations ask their clients what they want, and allow themselves to give it to them (even if this leads to the creation of original formats), then they are doing legal design without even realizing it.
Could you give us some good legal design practices to implement when creating a contract?
The first thing is to structure your contract not in articles, but in single points, in an order and with operational headings.
For each of these points, then, we apply a matrix, with the following components:
- the intention of the parties (which will be expressed using the rules of clear legal language),
- the trigger (make sure that it is an event external to the parties that can be observed),
- formalism (make sure that if notifications or reports are planned, the client will have the human resources dedicated to their creation and templates that are easy to reproduce)
- recording (this component is inspired by the creation of processes, it is a question of ensuring that the execution of the obligation is embodied in an indisputable medium or event),
- and finally, the sanction (on this occasion, one wonders if the simple contractual liability of common law is an adequate response in case of non-performance, which is quite rarely the case, and which invites to be creative).
During negotiations, care is taken not to negotiate substantive points with mark-ups. We first validate that the parties agree on the expression of their intention for each point. We will only open mark-ups for those points that have been validated. For the others, we will continue the negotiations on the substance.
If all contracts are structured in this way, I think that the negotiation time for each of them will be reduced. In addition, it will be easier for an operational person to use them, even long after they have been signed.
Moreover, perhapssuch a structuring used on all contracts will facilitate the use of tools such as Hyperlex, in order to organize an effective management of its portfolio of contracts.
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