NOVATION SERVICE AGREEMENT
We’re so proud to have been a part of Ubisoft’s white paper on legal design developments across the globe. Here’s our featured project.
What problem did our project address and who was the target?
Client: Novation Consulting
Project: Novation needed a service agreement that reflected their values and their vibe. One that showed clients that contracts don’t have to be painful and got them excited to start their own project. In addition, having a standard agreement in place would reduce their administrative load and formalise their relationship with clients. One of the biggest challenges in managing those relationships was explaining the feedback process and deadlines.
Users: The users are mostly lawyers and compliance folk but could also be the head of IT or a marketing executive. These users want to be comforted that Novation is capable and professional.
What solutions have been put in place? (Project description + visuals)
We created a standard agreement that sets the tone for Novation’s relationship with its clients, shows the client the quality of the team’s work, and reflects its challenger brand. To address the feedback deadline challenge, we added a swim lane visual to support the text. We aimed to create a contract that is easy to understand and use, and is enjoyable.
What was the methodology to put this in place? And who were the stakeholders?
Novation provided the first draft. We interrogated the brief, analysed their content, and asked all of our questions – including how the document would support their business processes, how it fits into their communication and client onboarding strategies, how they would use it, and how it would interact with other documents like their invoices and proposals.
We brainstormed some ideas, including having a manifesto instead of a service agreement, but in the end, the service agreement won.
We rearranged the content so that the boilerplate clauses (those standard legal clauses that you find in most contracts) are at the end, and the key terms and variables upfront. In addition, we created the swim lane visual, simplified the language and added humour – a key ingredient of the Novation vibe.
We decided to use a field-testing methodology to measure the success of the document. Basically, that means we set the document free and observed it in the wild to see if it could fend for itself. And it did!
What was the impact, the results of the project?
Our clients provided spontaneous feedback:
- I think I fell in love with this agreement and the way it’s written.
- I am thoroughly enjoying your innovative way of simplifying law jargon and presenting your documents in an attractive format. So I am reading everything, even the footers, to learn from you guys 😊.
- Please e-meet my colleague […], our Legal and Commercial Manager in our Operations business. Her ears perked up when she heard we were going to be working with you on the POPIA compliance. After seeing your agreement and how clear and straightforward (and fun!) it was, she would like to chat to you about part of her work that she would like to review and improve, possibly with your help.
- I just read your engagement letter. By far the most brilliant agreement that I’ve ever dealt with. It made my day!
We have met our goal! The Service Agreement has turned into a marketing tool, and clients send Novation more work because of how excited they are by the agreement!
What were the main challenges? And how we overcame them.
Even rehabilitated lawyers struggle to let go of their darlings. We have learned to defend our recommendations in a way that (usually) reassures the risk manager in every lawyer. The lawyer’s primary concern is protecting the company against risk, and when we change their agreements, we need to be sure that we don’t change the meaning of the clause. We map out every change we make in a spreadsheet and explain our reasoning. This makes it easier for the lawyers to review our changes.
What is your feedback on the project, what advice would you give for similar projects?
- Consider the context in which the contract functions – documents don’t exist in isolation.
- Spend more time with the problem. Really.
- A legal design project doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with something small (like a service agreement). It could have a significant impact on your business.
- No matter the size of the project, having the right team is crucial. We always have a designer, a language practitioner, and a lawyer on the team. We’ve since added a change manager. Best. Decision. Ever.
How has this project changed our approach to legal design?
This was one of our earlier projects, and we used it to test our design and review process and methodology. Looking back at the notes we took and the iterations we went through, we can see how we have evolved, and that’s great! We now include a stakeholder mapping phase in each of our projects – especially with large organisations. We spend more time with the problem and less time trying to come up with a solution. We’re not afraid to interrogate the brief or challenge our clients’ feedback.