Legal Design Lab: Consumer Contracts


Course Code:
LAW 719
Law Honors/Pass/Restrd Cr/Fail


A persistent and central challenge in consumer contracts remains the fact that consumers enter into contracts without reading or being otherwise aware of the terms to which they are agreeing. This problem is exacerbated in the current world of increasingly smart, small and interconnected devices, where it has become even more difficult and annoying for consumers to read the terms and conditions before downloading software, using a new piece of hardware, or accessing a new web service. Moreover, consumer relationships over the internet often require individuals to disclose and relinquish control over personal data (about health, finances, and location), making the problem of informed consent even more consequential. It has become increasingly clear that simply mandating more textual disclosure is not a solution, particularly in a world where individuals struggle to sift, sort and process the vast amounts of information now available at low or zero cost. This presents a challenge that we address in this legal design lab: how can we present the complex and important information in a contract to lay people, so that they engage with it, comprehend and act on it in their own best interests? In this class, students will tackle this consumer-contract design challenge. In the first half of the course, they will study and discuss principles of contract design, theories of consumer consent, communication design, privacy scholarship, and behavioral economics to understand the dynamics of how lay people interact with legal text and choices, particularly in digital environments. In the second half, they will work in teams to address a specific design challenge, engage knowledgeable experts from industry and generate new strategies and interfaces. They will engage in a design process beginning with discovery, to prototype, to testing their designs of consumer-facing contracts. Elements used in grading: The course grade will be based on the instructors' evaluation of: 1) individual responses to short-answer assignments based on the class readings, 2) class and team participation 3) the contract design, report and end-of-quarter presentation. CONSENT APPLICATION: To apply for this course, students must complete and e-mail the Consent Application Form available on the SLS Registrar's Office website (see Registration) to the instructors. See Consent Application Form for submission deadline.

Past Offerings

2015-2016 Autumn

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