Is contract design for you? Here’s how you know

It’s not just for designers. 

Lawyers can design contracts

It’s not just for designers. 

If you’re a lawyer who’s wondering if you can design contracts, read on and find out. 

Tip: By “contract design” I mean structuring and presenting contracts using new contract architecture, plain language, and visual elements. Watch episode 23 in the series to learn more about what contract design is all about. 

If you want to know more about contract design, check out our Contract Design School where you can learn everything you need to know about contract design: simplification, visualization and serve your clients the way you’ve always wanted to.

Design is not only for designers

Lawyers and designers often tell me that design is for designers.

Many lawyers think designing contracts is about pretty contracts, visuals and graphic design.

But there is more to it.

Lawyers understand the issues at play and know their clients better than anyone – and can use these insights to make immediate improvements to how their clients relate to and understand their contracts.

Professional designers prefer working as part of a multi-disciplinary team to achieve the best design outcomes – and when lawyers go it alone, they feel a little concerned. And I get that. 

But they are not mutually exclusive and we can all play a part in making things better for our customers.

GET CREATIVE WITH CONTRACTS

The Ultimate Starter Kit for Contract Design

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Lawyers and contract design

Lawyers can help their clients and deliver better service with a few simple steps. You don’t need to get another degree, simply embrace a change in mindset and apply new skills. 

It’s not about guesswork either, your clients will give you the answers. Those answers will come by asking different questions. 

Would your client understand the contract more easily if

  • It was restructured and presented in a different way
  • The language was simpler and easier to understand
  • If visual elements guided them through the document

The question is whether you’re willing to change because I’ve seen lawyers just like you learn how to design contracts and use it in their everyday work. 

The question is whether you’re open to it.

And here’s where we find out.

What kinds of lawyers use contract design

The research on lawyers as part of our contract design course showed us that lawyers who use contract design in their work share some common traits.

Contract design lawyers work everywhere

Where you work has no impact on whether you can be a contract design lawyer. We found lawyers using contract design across all areas of the career. They work in

  • Law firms
  • Corporate legal teams
  • Governmental agencies
  • Their own practices
  • Some are still law students

Rather than defining lawyers by demographic and job title, we actually discovered that contract design lawyers work everywhere. It’s a way of thinking, not about where you work.

Contract design lawyers want to make complex things, simple

Lawyers use contract design to help clients understand complex topics in simple ways. That is their priority. 

They don’t design contracts because it’s trending or “the thing to do”. They acknowledge that law is too complicated for their clients and it is their job to find a way to make it easy – and well-thought-out contracts are a vehicle to do it. 

One young lawyer I interviewed said it well

“A good lawyer for me is someone who can explain complex things in a simple way.”

This discovery helped us understand that lawyers want to learn how to design more simple and creative contracts because, for them, the client is everything.

Helping the client in a way that makes sense to the client is the key driver for a contract design lawyer. 

What is your most important driver?

Contract design lawyers want to make a difference

Positive change is always on their agenda. Whether it is in their own work, their business, for their clients, in the community or in a wider context – lawyers who use design thinking in contracts seek out positive change. 

These lawyers understand the existing legal profession is not sustainable and acknowledge their role and the opportunity for them to be the change. 

They want to change the way they do law, so they can change the entire industry – from the bottom up.

This doesn’t mean you should forget about profitability or commercial reality and become an activist manning the barricades. Quite the opposite.

What we learned is that lawyers leaning into contract design continue to work as distinguished practitioners and often have aggressive goals for business growth. 

And at the same time, they are carrying the torch and walking the walk of transforming the legal space to be more client-centric, creative and human.

Contract design lawyers want to make use of their creativity at work

Contract design lawyers want to make use of their creativity at work and implement right-brain activities in their legal work.

But, that is not the same as saying contract design lawyers want to be creative or that all design lawyers are creative. 

We are all creative, but whether we use our creativity in the workplace is a deliberate decision. 

Contract design lawyers create space for activities to encourage and strengthen creativity. They build their creativity muscle through action and learning to design creative contracts is one of these activities.

When was the last time you allowed yourself some free thinking at work? Does it interest you? 

We were surprised by these findings and wonder if you share any.

Different shapes of lawyers

Now let’s look at other data. 

Researchers have identified different shaped lawyers and the skill those lawyers need to navigate the uncertainty and global trends shaping the world as we know it.

There are I-shaped lawyers, T-shaped lawyers, O-shaped lawyers and even Delta-shaped lawyers. For further information on the lawyer shapes, watch episode 22 of Legal Design Thinking IRL.

The difference between these shapes is how well-rounded they are and how diverse their skillset is. The shapes illustrate whether a lawyer concentrates solely on legal substance in their work or whether they have other knowledge, practical skills and personal traits. 

O-shaped and Delta-shaped lawyers have expertise and knowledge in law and build on that with optimism, open-mindedness, creativity, collaboration, innovation, communication and entrepreneurship. They are leaders even if they don’t have any formal leadership position.

I believe O-shaped and Delta-shaped lawyers are most likely to want to learn contract design, too.

Take the Quiz: Are you a contract design lawyer type

Now you understand what a contract design lawyer looks like, let’s see where you fit.

Quiz

This quiz is designed to get you thinking – there are no right or wrong answers and it’s not based on science. Don’t take it too seriously, rather use it as a basis for understanding your thinking and assumptions. 

Every “yes” equals one point. The more points, the more likely you are to be a contract design lawyer type.

  1. Do you ask your colleagues and customers if they understand the content of your contracts or what they are struggling with? 
  1. Do you regularly ask for feedback from your colleagues and customers? Do you ask about your contracts or about working with you?
  1. Do you use simplification in your work? For example: can you explain in simple terms how a certain legal concept works and what it means for your customer?
  1. Do you take out a pen and paper when you’re explaining something to someone? Do you doodle or create simple diagrams to help? 
  1. Do you enjoy working in diverse teams?
  1. Do you encourage yourself and others to generate new ideas and try them out?
  1. Do you experiment with new ideas in the real world? 
  1. Have you failed in trying new things?
  1. Are you able to let go of ideas and solutions that didn’t work as intended?
  1. Are you actively exposed to new ideas and ways of working in and out of your own industry?

If you scored high, kudos! You’re well set for the next steps in learning contract design. If you did not score high, don’t worry because it means there’s more room for growth.

Notice that the quiz did not ask you about your legal expertise and how good you are with your contracts and drafting. We take it as given. The most important thing is looking at your ways of working and willingness to learn new ways of doing things.

For example, one of the questions was about failing. You get a point if you have failed in trying new things. Willingness to try and failing is a sign of creativity, an open mind and resilience to keep trying until you figure it out.

Where to now?

If you’re interested in contract design but didn’t score highly, take some time to think about your answers and whether you’re open to changing things up. If you topped the charts, awesome, you’re ready to go.

Either way, if you want to explore further, grab the free “Getting started with contract design” resource and try it out. See how it looks on you and I’ll send you some information on our contract design course. What have you got to lose?

Legal design thinking: IRL. Episode 24

You’ve just read a summary of my LinkedIn Live. I am Hannele, the founder and CEO of Lawyers Design School on a mission to transform legal space with a human-centered design better known as legal design. I’m teaching you how to add a creative and human touch to your everyday work as a lawyer so that you can be the lawyer your clients and the world need you to be.

If you’ve read something that interests you please join me next week. 

You can catch a replay of episode 24 here or join me live and ask questions.

Legal Design Thinking IRL. Episode 24. Is contract design for you? Here’s how you know

Ask a question

Feel free to DM any questions or join me on LinkedIn every Wednesday at 8 am ET where you can ask me about legal design and growing your law firm. 

Follow me at  @lawyersdesignschool for more tips and tools.

Prefer email? Drop me an email at [email protected] And while you’re here, take a peek at the Lawyers Design School and the contract and legal design courses we offer to help you thrive in your legal career.

Watch all the Legal Design IRL episodes.

GET CREATIVE WITH CONTRACTS

The Ultimate Starter Kit for Contract Design

Get this free checklist and start creating contracts your customers want to use!