Peppercorn, the first (?) B2C contract automation platform in Europe

Peppercorn, the first B2C contract automation startup with a EU focus, was the place where you could create your own contract, legally binding in all the EU, in a few steps and in multiple languages. For the price of a peppercorn. The platform was very similar to RocketLawyer or LegalZoom, but in many languages.

My work at Peppercorn focused on 4 main areas.

Conducting User Research – with a focus on how non-lawyers look and navigate legal information. This is a topic very dear to my heart, that I developed further at WildcatBeta and NosLegal. At Peppercorn, we were focusing on making our library of contracts easily findable from non-lawyers, so it involved an information architecture focus. Our user research efforts culminated in a giant card sorting excercise, involving 300 users, from 3 language groups, benchmarking non-lawyers vs lawyers. We appropriately called it “What’s on a Lawyer’s Mind” and we made the results freely available for other companies, researchers and users to download. The University of Cardiff published our findings.

Supervising the end-to-end development of the platform – we were remote before remote was cool. The dev team was in Turin, I was in Mantua, the rest of the team in Milan. I coordinated the team of developers and UX designer to make sure the platform was usable, easy to navigate and removing all friction points.

Automating the library of contracts – being a lawyer, I also developed and maintained the library of contracts, marked it up and creating the user questionnaires.

Taking care of product marketing – a lot of time was spent on removing the “boring” label associated with legal products, making sure that non-lawyers felt attracted to the idea of making their own contracts. Lot of efforts on demand generation and evangelization. Lot of good press too. (ABA Journal, The Lawyer, Slaw.ca, The Lawyerist).

The Card sorting research

After developing a library of contracts, we needed to organise them and make them easy to retrieve from our users: designers, developers, small business owners. In other words, we needed to organise legal content in categories and create an information architecture for the platform that was easy to navigate for non-lawyers.

After a great deal of research on legal information design, we decided to organise a card sorting involving our users (non lawyers) and benchmarking them against lawyers. This was an open card sorting.

Card sorting is a user experience (UX) research method used to understand how people categorize and organize information. In simple terms, it involves asking participants to organize a set of cards, each representing a piece of information or content, into groups that make sense to them. This helps designers and researchers gain insights into how users mentally structure and relate different concepts or items, informing the design of user interfaces, websites, or other information systems to better match users’ mental models and expectations.

I organised an online card sorting involving around 300 participants, divided between users with and without legal backgrounds and from 3 language groups: Italian, English and French.

We got some surprising findings, a number of insights that proved useful to structure our database of contracts. In short:

  • In order to be able to place contracts into categories, users need to understand what they are about. Non-lawyers do not necessarily understand the “label” of each contract. Sales, franchising, distribution, promissory notes are labels that do not make sense to them.
  • Non-lawyers reason in terms of use case or need, when applying a certain label to a contract.
  • Non-lawyers on the other hand, understand the terms “license” and “copyright” as related to Intellectual Property. In the end we decided to use the “Intellectual Property” category as one of the categories.

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