Using “Visualizations” in Contracts

I was recently contacted by Nancy Hupp. She’s a lawyer who’s director of practicelaw.org, a legal-practice resources website for members of the Minnesota State Bar Association. She’s also enrolled in a graduate class at the University of Minnesota, for which she’s writing a paper on visual representation of legal information.

She was wearing her graduate-student hat when she contacted me. Here’s what she asked:

Law schools use visualizations of legal concepts and legally relevant information, and, of course, trial lawyers utilize visualizations. By visualizations, I mean charts, diagrams, images, layout, timelines, geographic maps, process maps, mind maps, and decision trees. I am wondering what your experience has been with use of visualization in legal documents:

  • Have you come across effective use of visualizations in litigation or transactional documents?
  • Have you come across them in documents intended for the non-legal audience?
  • What is your opinion about the use of visualizations?
  • What problems do you see presented by their use?
  • What kinds of legal information do you think would be well-suited to visualizations?

And here’s what she said in a follow-up email:

Visuals are used routinely in litigation, but I can see how they could be useful in transactional settings. For example, I used to draft transactional real-estate documents; sometimes they would have attached a sketch or map of the property showing a shared easement or other relevant information. And visuals could conceivably be used to depict relationships between parties. Even how an entity signature line is set up serves to convey visually information regarding relationship and authority. And you could use timelines to illustrate notice provisions.

I could imagine charts, graphics, and the like being used in different contexts in contracts, but I haven’t seen any examples recently, so I turn the court over to you: Do do you use “visualizations” of any sort? Have you seen others use them? What do you think of the idea generally?

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.