User-friendly Contracts
and Other Legal Documents

Services that provide safe, verified and user-friendly contracts or other legal documents to the masses, ensuring fairness in families, at work, among neighbours and between small businesses and their partners. This includes services that provide easy access to documents through online platforms.

Based on Legal Design principles

Visual contracts is one example

Support to users provided if needed

Likely to be championed by private sector, fairness certified by the public sector

*Building on LegalZoom type of platforms, scribes in villages, lawyer contracts, visual contracting.

User-friendly Contracts and Other Legal Documents

Services that provide safe, verified and user-friendly contracts or other legal documents to the masses, ensuring fairness in families, at work, among neighbours and between small businesses and their partners. This includes services that provide easy access to documents through online platforms.

 
Based on Legal Design principles
1
Support to users provided if needed
2
Visual contracts is one example
3
Likely to be championed by private sector, fairness certified by the public sector
4

*Building on LegalZoom type of platforms, scribes in villages, lawyer contracts, visual contracting.

In what setting?

User friendly contracts can be implemented in many different settings. Well balanced, written marriage contracts are more likely to be successful in settings where it is already customary or legally required to have a formal agreement. Laws on taxes may make it more (or less) likely that a contract for work or a rental contract is formalised and balanced. Although most people prefer visuals over texts, visual contracts are likely to work well in settings where the literacy rate is low.

Examples

Avodocs in Ukraine, DIYLaw LawPadi in Nigeria, Vakilsearch in India offer a range of documents useful for SMEs in their respective regions and help entrepreneurs to operate their businesses. LegalZoom in USA is a successful portal providing a range of documents for individuals and SMEs online, certified for use in every state. Creative Contracts in South Africa and Visual Contracts in Netherlands are examples of how employment contracts can be simplified using visuals to offer easier understanding.

"Creative contracts"

Creative Contracts is an innovation started in South Africa by Robert de Rooy. It uses pictures and visual narratives to make contracts simple and easy to understand for everyone. 

Scaling and adding value to contracts

Legal documents can be delivered in a scalable way.
Online platforms are now delivering wills, contracts and other legal documents for key relationships in many countries. They provide tools that give people access to opportunities in the formal economy. With the help of such documents, relationships can be structured, conflicts can be prevented and the resolution of disputes can be facilitated.
Legal documents can be delivered in a scalable way.
Value added to relationships can be defined and measured
Most contracts are sold in a single transaction. Contracts help create effective and fair relationships, as well as prevent or manage disputes. Platforms can add more value if they systematically support relationships by tools that help people to adjust and continuously improving relationships. Outcomes of contracting services are not that easy to monitor, because relationships are many faceted and develop over years. If suppliers of user-friendly contracts find a solution for this quality problem, contracts will become more valuable.
Value added to relationships can be defined and measured
Value can include fairness and legality guarantees
One of the possible ways to add value is to ensure that the contracts are fair to both parties and are legally sound. It is also important that the contract can be stored unchanged somewhere, to reduce the parties’ need for a notary to authenticate the document. Typically, a fair contracting format will include brackets for distributive issues such as minimum wage or maximum fines. Allocation of assets in a marriage contract can also be delimited.
Value can include fairness and legality guarantees
Independent certification needs to be organised
A supplier of contracts and the customers will benefit from well organised, independent certification process. The current way contracts are evaluated is burdensome. In most countries, the baseline is that contract clauses need to be interpreted by courts, applying centuries old principles of contract law. This can take decades to unfold and the costs-benefits analysis by courts may be clouded in legal interpretation instead of informed by data. Many regulators interfere with work contracts or rental agreements as well. The legal services market currently tries to solve this problem by legal opinions given by law firms. Better solutions need to be found.
Independent certification needs to be organised
Visual Contracts are particularly attractive
Visual contracts, or versions written in everyday language, can be particularly attractive. These qualities can distinguish a platform from the many free templates for contracts that are available on the internet. This is a field with a huge potential for innovation.
Visual Contracts are particularly attractive
Initially, the business model is clear
A user-friendly contract is a clear output. It can be sold effectively to one party and more easily - than conflict resolution - to two parties who want to design an effective relationship.
Initially, the business model is clear
Building a brand is a multi-million investment
Adding value requires investments, however. Similar to city law firms, reputation is king in this area, but building a reputation among millions of customers is much more costly than being noticed by a few hundreds of general counsels heading corporate law departments. LegalZoom in the USA provides a good example of how to market a firm. It now offers contracts valid in more than 50 jurisdictions, which can be tailored to individual needs. Many startups try to replicate this, struggling to find the path to sustainable growth and scale.
Building a brand is a multi-million investment
A sophisticated scaling strategy is needed
Scaling is a challenge given that prices for contracts on the internet are low. Designs of visual contracts are expensive. Setting up a portal for two parties agreeing step by step is non-standard. Doing this for different types of contracts and covering multiple jurisdictions took Legal Zoom many years. Therefore, contracting services need substantial financial investments.
A sophisticated scaling strategy is needed

User friendly contracts: building a brand and certification

Suggestions for what should be addressed in a feasibility study

A user friendly contract is a clear output. It can be sold effectively to one party and more easily – than conflict resolution – to two parties who want to design an effective relationship. Providing contracts is left to the private sector with government rules putting limits to what can be agreed. The case study on Legal Zoom explains how a national brand can be built. Similar to city law firms, reputation is king in this area, but building a reputation among millions of customers is much more costly than being noticed by a few hundreds of general counsels heading corporate law departments. Legal Zoom now offers contracts valid in more than 50 jurisdictions, which can be tailored to individual needs. Many startups try to replicate this, struggling to find the path to sustainable growth and scale.

Outcomes of contracting services are not that easy to monitor, because relationships are many faceted and develop over years. If task forces and suppliers of user friendly contracts find a solution for this quality problem, contracts will become more valuable.

Task forces may want to consider independent certification of contracting formats. Comic Contracts, a provider of visual contracts for low skilled farm workers in South Africa, is still hearing from potential clients that they want to be sure these contracts can be upheld in courts. An independent legal opinion, offered by a law firm, or a precedent set by a court, is the current way to confer this type of legitimacy. In the health care sector or in the construction sector independent certification is more easy to obtain and organised in a more transparent way.

Typically, a certified contracting format will include brackets for distributive issues such as minimum wage, maximum fines or fair sharing of assets in a marriage contract. In order to make the case for this, certification may have to be compared to the current practice. In most countries, the baseline is that contract clauses need to be interpreted by courts, applying centuries old principles of contract law. This can take decades to unfold and the costs-benefits analysis by courts may be clouded in legal interpretation instead of informed by data. Many regulators interfere with work contracts or rental agreements as well. 


Usability is a challenge, prices for contracts on the internet are low. This also explains why contracting services need substantial investments. Designs of visual contracts are expensive. Setting up a portal for two parties agreeing step by step is non-standard. Doing this for different types of contracts and covering multiple jurisdictions took Legal Zoom many years.

Towards an investable opportunity

Click below to access the Business Model Canvas to see how online contracting platforms can become sustainable and scalable.

Here we summarise how online platforms can work, quantifying activities, possible revenue streams and giving an indication of the required investments. We also give estimates of market size and potential contribution to growth of the justice sector, showing the most important assumptions for these calculations. 

Justice Dashboard

Justice Dashboard