ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Whiteboard and Black-Letter: Visual Communication in Commercial Contracts

Jay A. Mitchell

Stanford Law School

Date Written: October 22, 2017

Abstract

Scholars are increasingly exploring the intersections of visual expression with law and legal practice. This attention is welcome. Visual thinking and communication are unusually valuable tools for lawyers, including lawyers who plan transactions, design and draft contracts, and advise clients about their performance. Commercial relationships are often complex, the individuals involved of diverse backgrounds and roles, and the documents difficult to comprehend. Visual methods, as demonstrated through research in a number of fields, facilitate comprehension and collaboration across disciplines and social communities, and few business people will prefer contract text over timeline. That said, visual executions are not often observed in contract documents, and formal use of visual presentation by commercial lawyers faces substantial cultural and practical hurdles. This article begins taking on those hurdles. It explains why visual methods are useful in transactional work, identifies barriers to use of visual executions in contracts, and assesses recent scholarship encouraging such use in view of a characterization of contracts as managerial objects that operate across multiple inter-firm, intrafirm, and interdisciplinary communities over time. The article then examines two core questions about the use of visual presentation in contracts and related materials: treatment under contract interpretation and evidentiary principles, and characteristics of transactional situations where visual executions may be especially helpful. It concludes by suggesting a number of research streams, model creation, and other actions intended to build the case for such use. Visuals work in deal work; we should use the best tools for the job.

 

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3057075 

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/contractsprof_blog/2017/10/whiteboard-and-black-letter-visual-communication-in-commercial-contracts.html

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