The legal industry still has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to innovation. So many of legal’s ways of working are rooted in tradition - a comfort zone many lawyers hesitate to leave. Risks inherent in trying something new reinforces their hesitation.
One of the most common examples is so ubiquitous we probably encounter it several times a day: the way people interact with privacy policies and terms and conditions (T&Cs) on company websites. Users normally accept T&Cs without reading the content which consists of long, dense paragraphs, stuffed full of jargon only lawyers can understand – often pulled from boilerplate text filled with copy-pasted terms extracted from old templates that were probably never updated.
- Assembled a team
- If there’s an in-house legal team, they create one based on a template.
- If there’s no legal team, the company spends too much money for external counsel to write one.
- The final text is hurriedly uploaded to the website …
- … and forgotten about forever.
Several things are still strange to me. First, I always find it unusual that the process only involves the legal team, when realistically, it would benefit from input from marketing, design, and content developers as well. And second, once published, companies pretty much forget about the policies, despite their value for offering insights into important data.
So instead of blindly following such traditional tedium we decided to place the end user at the heart of the project and our focus and work backwards - with a team that included me, Stefania Passera, our marketing and content team, our external counsel, and our front-end developer.
Stefania was already leading the way in the legal industry on information design, and how contracts should be designed with the user in mind. Looking back on the project, she said to me:
“There's quite a conservative attitude from lawyers and organizations in trying out these initiatives, and it surprised me that, with Juro, it was the opposite. You understood the value of good legal design.
The request came from a startup, which also surprised me. It’s not often the most obvious investment, and smaller companies can struggle to justify a non-revenue-facing task to the board. But I am glad that everyone was genuinely open to this, also as a learning experience, and in the end, it paid off”
- Perfected the text
At this stage, I had stored our draft policy text in a Google Doc,2 which our external counsel had reviewed beforehand. But before we could even explore the information design aspects, we had to determine the biggest and most frequent pain points with legal documents: language and length.
One of the first things we learned, early on, was that privacy policies tended to overwhelm end users with information overload. According to research carried out at Carnegie Mellon University, if people actually read through all the T&Cs they’ve accepted in their lifetime, it would take 76 days to get through it all.3 And when you combine this overload with the language used - archaic legalese - users will understandably avoid reading the small print altogether.
It was a lengthy task - we went through 21 different versions to perfect the wording and the structure, but this was essential before we moved onto the next stage. Each of those 21 iterations was a team effort between Stefania and I, as well as our external counsel and marketing colleagues to balance perspectives so we could reach the right outcome.
- Designed the template
Creating the designs was an iterative process - on paper, the policy looked straightforward. But we wanted to create a design that was engaging and eye-catching, so people would face a different experience they would remember. And yet, even with user-friendly language we still could not guarantee that end users would stick around to read every word.
Stefania proposed several alternatives and approaches, which we then tested on a cohort of users. One example was using hover-click elements allowing users to hover over an icon to read a descriptor of that topic. Learning really highlighted the importance of user testing. Stefania explains why:
“The hover-click elements tested poorly, and people didn’t read them. They didn’t want to spend time waiting over a button to read the descriptor. Luckily, we knew the importance of testing with each change we implemented; and sometimes you need to kill your pet ideas. That’s the guiding light - it doesn’t matter if the feature itself looks ‘boring’, so long as it helps the user on your page and delivers a positive experience”
- Asked questions
Collaborative dialogue was key - Stefania wasn’t a lawyer, and I wasn’t a designer, so we leaned on each other to create a policy that was both legally sound and visually appealing. From my perspective, the design process involved asking as many questions as possible! Stefania faced a similar experience:
“I had to catch up quickly with concepts like legal basis, ICO guidance, the regulators’ perspective, retention periods, cookies, and so on. I had to do quite a bit of background research, while asking as many questions as I could”
Eventually, we completed the full prototype, and relied on Juro’s talented developers to bring the policy to life. When we launched it to the world, the new policy reaped a 13,000% increase in views.
- Iterated the process
“The realization that we created something that resonated with so many people and demonstrated an improvement to traditional, legal processes was really rewarding. Open-sourcing was a great idea, too - people may not have the budget or resources to outsource that work. And being in a position of sharing good resources for free is a privilege.”
We started to experience the ultimate form of flattery, when several companies just copied the patterns wholesale and rolled them out on their own policies. As a lawyer, my first instinct is to start worrying about our intellectual property (IP) rights; but as a founder on a mission to make legal documents more human, it seemed counterintuitive to stop people from implementing something we had designed to be a force for good when it came to transparency and accessibility in legal.
It became clear that our policy template was in demand, and that the small businesses trying to emulate it might not have the resources to do something similar themselves. So earlier this year we decided to open-source4 the policy and its patterns, so anyone could benefit from its approach and make privacy a more human experience for their users and site visitors.
Our developer team extracted the source code into a GitHub repository,4 and we launched the template on ProductHunt, a website for sharing new products,5 where it climbed to the front page. Almost 1000 people and companies have signed up to access the policy since we launched the policy template.
The principles we applied in creating our policy are fundamental for legal to provide a more user-friendly, design-focused, readable experience for the policy’s end users. For our part we’ve tried to implement those principles in other contract templates we’ve given away such as our Non-Disclosure Agreement, Employment Offer Letter and Master Service Agreement templates are all free to use as well.
1. Art. 12 GDPR Transparent information, communication and modalities for the exercise of the rights of the data subject -- article appearing in Intersoft Consulting DSGVO
2. Google Docs definition Wikipedia
3. It would take 14 years of education to understand all those terms and conditions -- article appearing in from the Grapevine
4. Open Source Policies Examples and Templates GitHub article (See also What Exactly is GitHub Anyway? – article appearing in TechCrunch)
5. ProductHunt – Wikipedia definition
ABOUT RICHARD MABEY
He is the CEO and co-founder of Juro, the all-in-one contract automation platform. He was previously a corporate and M&A lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. In 2019, FT Intelligent Business named Richard as one of the top ten legal technologists globally.
*ABOUT DR. STEFANIA PASSERA
She is a contract design and visualization expert based in Helsinki, Finland. Her mission is to help her clients transform their contracts and policies into user-friendly, effective tools that work for business. With 10 years of experience in the field, her work ranges over information design, service design, user research, brand design, and user experience. Stefania is considered a legal design and contract visualization pioneer: she is the initiator of Legal Design Jam, a co-founder of the Legal Design Alliance and a co-author of its Legal Design Manifesto, and a frequent keynoter on the topic. See her profile and her contribution to World Commerce & Contracting journal .
Juro was founded by lawyers and engineers, with a mission to make contracts work for everyone. In fast-growing businesses, ineffective contract workflow gets in the way of revenue growth. It's a headache not just for legal teams, but for the colleagues they support. We believe that by bringing contracts and data into a unified, browser-based platform, visionary legal counsel and the teams they enable can work better together. This means faster contract turnaround, better data visibility and improved relationships.
Content reflects views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of World Commerce & Contracting.