Computational Contract Collaboration and Construction
In: Erich Schweighofer et al. (Eds.) Co-operation. Proceedings of the 18th International Legal Informatics Symposium IRIS 2015. Österreichische Computer Gesellschaft OCG, Wien 2015, pp. 505–512 (ISBN 978-3-85403-309-7)
8 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2015 Last revised: 9 Aug 2015
Date Written: February 26, 2015
In recent years, technology investors have published templates for investment deals, with the aim of reducing the costs and delays of startup financings by standardising common agreements and summarising complex contracts into shorter term sheets. These practices allow experienced investors and entrepreneurs to efficiently negotiate high-level business terms, involving counsel only later to review the expanded agreements.
In previous research, we have explored contract visualisation – the use of charts, images, and interactive interfaces to help non-lawyers quickly grasp contract essentials. This paper proposes a family of complementary approaches informed by computer science, which offers methods and practices relevant to, but presently little adopted in, legal drafting. Tools and techniques familiar to software engineers offer opportunities to simplify negotiation, automate document assembly, visualise scenarios, verify correctness, and transform the way contracts are shared and edited.
We review recent efforts to marry computing with “do-it-yourself” law, including Internet repositories of model contracts, document assembly wizard workflows, and opensource-style sharing of templates. We analyse these efforts using a four-part framework of automation, visualisation, collaboration, and formalisation. We then present our proof-of-concept prototype of an automated contract generation toolkit. It includes a collaborative online interface, a compiler which expands term sheets into long forms, and a document assembler which circulates signature-ready contracts, all without human involvement. We extrapolate a future where computational techniques are ubiquitous in contracting and in law, as they already are in entertainment, telecommunications, and finance.
Keywords: automated contract generation toolkit, contract visualisation, do-it-yourself law, document assembly, computational law, term sheets, venture financing
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