December 20 by Sally Hughes
There is no doubt that the world today is all about the user experience, and yet the field of contracting remains woefully behind the curve.
Together with a group of leading in-house lawyers, the IACCM has developed a set of Contracting Principles to support and streamline the drafting and negotiation of contracts. Rather than spending time locked in adversarial negotiations, the Contracting Principles offer negotiating parties the ability to take a balanced position from the outset on those terms that frequently absorb disproportionate time and resources, which ultimately shortens the time to signature.
Relational Contracting is rapidly gaining adoption across the globe, particularly in the context of long-term and complex projects. This approach emphasizes the importance of communication, problem solving, and collaboration. Adopting relational techniques pre- and post-award increases the likelihood that a project is completed under budget and on schedule. It also recognizes that contracts are the critical tools for managing performance across supply networks or ecosystems.
New initiatives in design thinking and visualization, including comic contracts, law tunes and the use of graphics more generally, have made contracting more accessible. These approaches get to the heart of designing contracts for the user community and are based on recognition that contracts contain important information which parties to them must effectively communicate.
Far from being immune to automation, contracts and the contracting process are also rapidly being digitized. Technology is an undeniable freight train hurtling through the contracting landscape. As a result, simplified and standardized language, along with more structure must follow. Artificial intelligence and natural language processing are having the most immediate impact, with blockchain and smart contracting beginning to produce dramatic results. Organizations are increasingly focused on “no-touch contracting”, which eliminates humans from the activity completely to drive efficiencies and enhance the user experience.
Contracts remain the cornerstone of business. By continuing to design and write for lawyers and judges, we contribute to their obsolescence and create risk where it has no place. There is no point in creating a contract that the users of that contract cannot understand. To remain competitive, organizations must focus on the user experience in their contracting practices.