Patroon Wins Gouden Zandloper 2020 for best legal design project

Patroon Wins Gouden Zandloper 2020 for best legal design project

For the second year in a row, Patroon Legal Design (previously Fornier Legal Design) wins the Gouden Zandloper for best legal design. Lawyer-designers Maurits Fornier, Sera Ashton and team impressed the judges by making a classic form of contract - a term sheet - ready for the future.

The innovative end result is reason for the jury to declare Fornier Legal Design the winner of the Gouden Zandloper for best legal design. 'Lawyers who design themselves, that alone is worth an award,' the jury said. This agency employs two lawyers who do legal design themselves: namesake Maurits Fornier and Sera Visser. The winning entry consists of animations that Fornier Legal Design created for the subject Goods Law of the Law Firm School. In his own words, Fornier developed "a visual language that connects to the topics of personal security, recourse, subrogation and mutual support obligation. We opted for a modular system of building blocks that could be adapted according to the legal topic. We then animated this visual language. Nor was the development easy, by the way, Fornier admits in the submission. "In practice, it proved difficult to create legal animations. In particular, the interaction between designers and legal experts was not always smooth, and was therefore time-consuming. However, the final results are playful yet businesslike, and also suitable for the millennial generation: they are easy to view on smartphones. Both head teachers and students have responded enthusiastically.

Last year, the Amsterdam-Noord-based agency won the Legal Design Gouden Zandloper with a series of inventive animations for the Goods Law course at the Law Firm School. This year Patroon Legal Design is once again claiming the prize thanks to a special assignment for the Dutch development bank FMO. See below how the jury surprised Maurits Fornier with a second Gouden Zandloper for the design studio.

The Netherlands Finance Company for Developing Countries (FMO) invests in business in developing countries. For this client, Patroon Legal Design designed a visual model for a term sheet, which sets out the principles of a potential loan. The purpose of modernizing this contract is primarily to make transaction processes more transparent and efficient, so that it is clearer what is expected from both FMO and the recipient of the loan. This should lead to shorter turnaround times and more efficient processes.

The Golden Hourglass jury praised this piece of legal design because - more than a visual used once in the courtroom - it has the potential to become something lasting, with a major impact on the legal field.

Immediately usable in practice

This also turned out to be one of Patroon Legal Design's reasons for submitting the term sheet for the Golden Hourglasses. "We very deliberately made this so that the business can use it directly in daily practice," says Maurits Fornier. "The help of a legal designer or other specialist is no longer needed to deploy this model. The user immediately sees: 'this helps to make my job easier'."

Fornier and Sera Ashton, both lawyers and designers, see how legal design has been increasingly embraced in recent years. "In litigation cases, the urgency of legal design is pretty clear now," Ashton says. "Just a few years ago, we often had to explain why lawyers should use visuals in court. Meanwhile, they no longer ask us why, but how to use legal design."

The firm obviously enjoys working on designs to strengthen arguments in the courtroom, but a project that ends up having full impact, like this term sheet, is even more satisfying. Fornier noticed how the FMO wanted its legal documentation to be more in line with the DNA of the organization. So one of the wishes for the term sheet was to visually incorporate the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) into the contract. Ashton: "That way FMO underlines why it invests in certain projects."


For Patroon Legal Design, every assignment begins with a central question: where are the bottlenecks in the existing contractual structure? "We take stock of those, see what infographics should be included, what text is or is not relevant, and get to work on first drafts," Ashton explains. "Then the comments from the feedback rounds by the lawyers involved follow, which we then incorporate."

The design is also thoroughly considered from the point of view of future users, Fornier adds. "They also get the space to give feedback. Once the creation is finished, we give a workshop to the future users. How do you deploy it and when do you send it? What was actually wrong with the old version? That way, users also hear immediately what we did with their feedback. Actually, this way we go beyond legal design alone. We focus on improving a legal process; a clear document is only part of that."

Collaboration with lawyers

In the case of this assignment for FMO, the client even encouraged Fornier and Ashton to make things even simpler, and to cut back even harder on the amount of text. "That was encouraging, often lawyers actually want more text in there," laughs Fornier, based on the many conversations about their legal designs with lawyers and jurists.

Even if persuasion is sometimes needed, as a rule, collaborations between the legal designers and lawyers in litigation cases, for example, go smoothly, according to Fornier and Ashton. "The type of lawyer who knows how to find us is already familiar with the effect of a good visual. It helps that we are lawyers ourselves, so we know how to get to the heart of a dispute quickly. Occasionally we have to put the brakes on something when we think lawyers want to use too many visuals. Sometimes it is actually powerful to underline one or two important points with an illustration, and suffice with text for the rest. Because text never disappears, thankfully. Don't get it wrong, we're big fans of text!"