Language, Deals and Standards: The Future of Xml Contracts

Washington University Law Review, Forthcoming

Boston College Law School Research Paper No. 93

56 Pages Posted: 5 May 2006

See all articles by Lawrence A. Cunningham

Lawrence A. Cunningham

George Washington University; Quality Shareholders Group; Mayer Brown


eXtensible Markup Language (XML) structures information in documentary systems ranging from financial reports to medical records and business contracts. XML standards for specific applications are developed spontaneously by self-appointed technologists or entrepreneurs. XML's social and economic stakes are considerable, especially when developed for the private law of contracts. XML can reduce transaction costs but also limit the range of contractual expression and redefine the nature of law practice. So reliance on spontaneous development may be sub-optimal and identification of a more formal public standard setting model necessary. To exploit XML's advantages while minimizing risks, this Article envisions creating a publicly oriented foundation to set XML-based standards for the private law of corporate contracts. The Article's specific inquiry concerning corporate contracts illuminates XML's broader implications, making the standard-setting model it contributes adaptable to other contexts.

Keywords: eXtensible Markup Languag (XML), contract law, spontaneous development, corporate contracts, private law, public-private standard setting, corporate law, technological innovation

Suggested Citation

Cunningham, Lawrence A., Language, Deals and Standards: The Future of Xml Contracts. Washington University Law Review, Forthcoming, Boston College Law School Research Paper No. 93, Available at SSRN:

Lawrence A. Cunningham (Contact Author)

George Washington University ( email )

Quality Shareholders Group ( email )

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Mayer Brown ( email )


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