Innovating Contract Practices: Merging Contract Design with Information Design

Stefania Passera
Helena Haapio
Thomas D. Barton, California Western School of Law


The work and expertise of contracts professionals are vital to the operations of modern organizations and the global economy. Strategic planning as well as everyday transactions can be conceived, developed, secured, and implemented through contractual relationships. This accelerating importance and functionality of contracts is not matched, however, by their traditional format or drafting process. Indeed, their mission-critical value is not fully appreciated by decision makers. Many opportunities offered by contracts remain unexplored if contracts are seen merely as legal tools needed only in case a dispute arises. A fresh approach to contracts and contracting is called for.

Drawing on the Authors’ research into user-centered contract design, contract visualization, and proactive contracting, this paper explores how contract practices can be innovated. The early results of our work in progress indicate that information design, embedded into contract design, has the potential to change fundamentally the way organizations define, shape and manage their trading relationships, offering unexplored opportunities for both research and practice.