Diagramming Contracts, from a computer science perspective

Program for Legal Tech and Design - A CNL for Contract Diagramming 1

Three computer scientists from Chalmers Univ. of Technology & the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have released a short paper presenting a possible diagramming scheme for legal documents.  John Camilleri, Gabriele Paganelli, and Gerardo Schneider published “A CNL for for Contract-Oriented Diagrams” to explain how it may be possible to visually represent a contract’s text.  The visualization is not just for explaining purposes, but to better codify the parties’ obligations, permissions, and prohibitions — as well as the timing & consequences of these rules.

The paper tries to convert a typical text-based document into a systematized, machine-readable, and visual form.  The authors have thought of this framework as a way to build a future platform in which professionals could produce Diagrammed, Visual Contracts that are created interactively, in this visual manner — and perhaps also feeding them into a machine that can read them and enforce them.

Here are some of the visualizations that they’ve made to demonstrate some basic examples of contract diagramming.

Program for Legal Tech and Design - A CNL for Contract Diagramming 3 Program for Legal Tech and Design - A CNL for Contract Diagramming 2

Here is the paper’s abstract:

We present a first step towards a framework for defining and manipulating normative documents or contracts described as Contract-Oriented (C-O) Diagrams. These diagrams provide a visual representation for such texts, giving the possibility to express a signatory’s obligations, permissions and prohibitions, with or without timing constraints, as well as the penalties resulting from the non-fulfilment of a contract. This work presents a CNL for verbalising C-O Diagrams, a web-based tool allowing editing in this CNL, and another for visualising and manipulating the diagrams interactively. We then show how these proof-of-concept tools can be used by applying them to a small example.

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