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Layered Contracts: Both Legally Functional and Human-Friendly

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Liquid Legal – Humanization and the Law

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This paper addresses a debate that frequently arises when contract simplification is discussed. For business users, a clear contract is one that helps them understand the deal, implement its terms and encourages a productive business relationship. Legal teams, on the other hand, often worry about their responsibility to protect their client against excessive risk and potential litigation. For them, a clear document is unambiguous and legally watertight, resulting in complex documents that can be hard for non-lawyers to use. In this paper we discuss a layered approach that can reconcile competing definitions of clarity, functionality and user needs, and we speculate about the role of information design and emerging technologies in the development of human-centred layers to traditional contract wording.

Robert Waller is President of the International Institute for Information Design.

Stefania Passera is CEO and Contract Designer at Passera Design, and Contract Designer in Residence at World Commerce & Contracting.

Helena Haapio is Associate Professor of Business Law at the University of Vaasa, Finland, an Adjunct Professor of Proactive Law and Contract Design at the University of Lapland and a Contract Strategist at Lexpert Ltd.

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  1. 1.

    Unlike the previous version of the Terms (effective date March 7, 2016), the new Terms begin with “Thanks for using Medium. Our mission is to deepen people’s understanding of the world and spread ideas that matter.”

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    See bolded section under the heading Disclaimers—Service is “As Is”.

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    For US law, see, e.g., American Bar Association, Business Law Section, Warranties and Online Sales

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    See e.g. Kwakkel (2018a, b) for examples.

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    The text on the top of this layer makes it clear that this is not the full license, by stating: “This is a human-readable summary of (and not a substitute for) the license.” Clicking on the word “Disclaimer” reveals more: “This deed highlights only some of the key features and terms of the actual license. It is not a license and has no legal value. You should carefully review all of the terms and conditions of the actual license before using the licensed material.”

  6. 6.

    What is and is not part of the contract and what role each layer should play in contract interpretation in our examples is beyond the scope of this brief chapter. For making the interpretation of images in contracts more predictable, see Haapio et al. (2020). See also Annola et al. (2022).

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    Apart from GPT-3, there are many other promising language models. See, e.g., 10 Leading Language Models For NLP In 2021,

  11. 11.

    For OpenAI Codex, an AI system that translates natural language to code, see

  12. 12.

    See e.g. the OneNDA initiative,


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Waller, R., Passera, S., Haapio, H. (2022). Layered Contracts: Both Legally Functional and Human-Friendly. In: Jacob, K., Schindler, D., Strathausen, R., Waltl, B. (eds) Liquid Legal – Humanization and the Law. Law for Professionals. Springer, Cham.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-031-14239-0

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-031-14240-6

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