I recently spent a couple of days mixing with innovative and forward thinking lawyers and legal tech providers at this year's Legal Geek event. As well as the usual push for "magic AI tech that can perform the work of a lawyer" and chat about lean process efficiencies, what else were people talking about?
There was one concept that seemed particularly prevalent - could traditional contracting approaches be out and a new way of contracting be in? 99% of the audience in our successful "Ready Steady Contract!" workshop, certainly believed so.
At the workshop participants were able to explore new styles of contracting, including "Plain English", "Visual" and "Smart" contracting. The group were then presented with 6 different working scenarios and had to choose which style of contracting would suit that particular situation. From a big retail chain dealing with consumers, to a sports agency dealing with sponsorship contracts, the groups were asked which style of contracting worked better and the overwhelming majority rejected using traditional long form contracts in most of the scenarios.
My fellow lawyers, don't be afraid - there will always be a time and a place where traditional and formal contracts should and must be used. That said, it is clear that businesses are looking for new ways to interact with customers, suppliers and employees in a more understandable, ethical, efficient, and essentially more "on brand" way.
New Styles of Contracting
So what are these new style of contracts and how are they beneficial?
Efficiency - less time is spent negotiating meaning contracts are signed quicker, work begins faster and money can be made or saved.
Better contracts mean better social and commercial relationships - with easier to understand contracts, trust is quickly built, leading to more collaborative relationships.
Ethical contracting - for the young, visually impaired, illiterate or for people with intellectual impairments, visual contracts may be easier to grasp than dense written contracts.
Brand identity - particularly "Plain English" and "Visual" contracts are able to encompass the look and feel of a businesses brand and ethos.
So if these new contracts are so great, why aren't they used more often? The truth is, traditional law firms aren't evolving as fast as their clients. It's far easier for their lawyers to continue to pick a template contract out of a pre-designed precedent bank. It takes more work, more innovation and more business nouse to create these new types of agreements. We need to work closely with our clients to be the pioneers in this new evolution of contracting, enabling those we work with to use these options when beneficial.
Please get in touch if you would like to hear more about the work Mindcrest are doing on new types of contracting.