Policy Practicum: Exploding the Fine Print: Designing More Effective Legal Disclosures


Course Code:
LAW 414W
Law Honors/Pass/Restrd Cr/Fail


The government uses mandated disclosure as a central way to regulate companies' relationships with consumers. They set standards for how companies present terms, conditions, and other legal information to people, in the hope that communicating these terms will educate people sufficiently to make wise decisions. But are these disclosures actually comprehensible, engaging, or effective? Anecdotally, we all know that most people ignore the fine print, click through online disclosures without reading them, and trash the paperwork that come along with products or account statements. In this Policy Lab, we will experiment with how these very important disclosures could be improved, with better designs that could make the information more understandable, more engaging, and more actionable for normal people. We will partner with the financial regulator FINRA, as they grapple with a specific disclosure use case: when financial companies advertise their products to people via print, web, mobile, and television, how can they effectively communicate the terms and risks of these financial products? What kind of disclosure design — with more visuals, with more interactivity, or with tech-enabled communication — could be a new standard for helping people make smart decisions about financial products? During the Policy Lab, our team of students will work with FINRA leaders to understand their current disclosure design requirements for financial companies and their rule-making process as they set new regulations for advertising disclosures. We will understand the needs and requirements of the regulators, the financial companies, and the different target users, and then use the design process to generate new proposed models for disclosures and then test them with qualitative and quantitative evaluation. We will submit this research and these new models to FINRA to be used as they define standards for securities firms communicating with the general public. Elements used in grading: Class Participation, Final Paper. NOTE: Students may not count more than a combined total of eight units of directed research projects and policy lab practica toward graduation unless the additional counted units are approved in advance by the Petitions Committee. Such approval will be granted only for good cause shown. Even in the case of a successful petition for additional units, a student cannot receive a letter grade for more than eight units of independent research (Policy Lab practicum, Directed Research, Senior Thesis, and/or Research Track). Any units taken in excess of eight will be graded on a mandatory pass basis. For detailed information, see "Directed Research/Policy Labs" in the SLS Student Handbook. 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 and Selection of Classes for Stanford Law Students) to the instructors. See Consent Application Form for submission deadline.

Past Offerings

2015-2016 Winter

Policy Practicum: Exploding the Fine Print: Designing More Effective Legal Disclosures LAW 414W Section 01 Class #51845

  • 2 Units
  • Enrollment Limitations: Consent 12

Notes: Law Unit Limitation.

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