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Open Source For Lawyers?

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the open-and-shut dept.

Open Source 67

An anonymous reader writes "Law Technology News is reporting that FOSS for large law firms and corporate counsel is starting to gain traction. There's a project called FreeEed, for the electronic discovery step in lawsuits, and there's software for the document page numbering process known as Bates stamping — affectionately called 'Bates Master' by the programmers. Are big law firms ready to accept open-source code?"

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67 comments

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bates master... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37073604)

am I the only one?

Re:bates master... (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 3 years ago | (#37073712)

This is Slashdot so I doubt it.

Wait, did you mean are you the only one who noticed that?

Re:bates master... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37073780)

am I the only one?

The story does say "unfortunately named" so at least the reporter got it.

Re:bates master... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37073910)

Actually, it says "affectionately named" ... nothing unfortunate about it.

Re:bates master... (1)

wozzinator (1079319) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074584)

Just in case someone doesn't get it: Bates master is a play on the word "masturbate"

Re:bates master... (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37077440)

no shit

Re:bates master... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074660)

Well, the tagline is "Open Source - Because the best experience is the one you control." I would say it's a double entendre.

Better Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37073612)

Are [INSERT ANY DOMAIN HERE] ready to accept open-source code?"

Free OSS for lawyers? (3, Insightful)

JeffSh (71237) | more than 3 years ago | (#37073658)

Just what lawyers need, free software because they don't bill enough to pay for software and the jobs it supplies.

Typical lawyers, want to charge you $$$ (250+ an hour) and yet spend NOTHING on the backend. They do not know the value of other people's time while over-valuing their own.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#37073730)

I don't get it; you're saying it's fundamentally immoral for a company to use FOSS?

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37073808)

It's fundamentally immoral for liars to use FOSS.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074160)

sweet sweet jealousy

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074354)

It is fundamentally immoral to use lawyers.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074432)

It is lawyers to use fundamentally immoral.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37076408)

It's fundamentally immoral for lawyers to exist, whether they use FOSS in the process or not.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 3 years ago | (#37073836)

Last time I checked, the majority of FOSS programmers and maintainers were paid for their efforts - including myself a couple of jobs back. Just because the software is free, doesn't mean the guy/gal working on it is unpaid.

Plus FOSS software doesn't maintain itself. They pay for the maintenance contract.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37073862)

EVERY law firm I've ever done work for used at least some pirated software. (Granted, the largest was only 4 lawyers.) But given this was in 100% of the offices I've worked for, they really don't care if someone tries to sue them...their court time is free. Now for the big firms, that's probably different. The only other non-home customers who routinely use pirated software were...churches. Evidently they feel god gives them an exemption. Personally, I'm against piracy...if you don't want to pay for someone's software, use free software. Many of us do.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (1)

SeximusMaximus (1207526) | more than 3 years ago | (#37073926)

You like to generalize, don't you. Are you discounting and support contracts that would be generated through FOSS support companies. Just because the license is free doesn't mean it doesn't generate jobs, or cost money on the bottom line. Would you feel the same way if any other industry making a move? Are you just irrationally biased against lawyers?

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37073952)

Heh, my lawyer ($400/hr), bills in 5 minute increments which is nice. Last thing I need is some clunky OSS solution that takes him another 5 minutes or more to enter in his time spent with me. Every 5 minutes is $33 to billed me.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (1)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074040)

Depends largely on the quality of the OSS software, when you are talking specialized applications for specific jobs, they are all grab bags of varying quality, whether FOSS or proprietary. Last 3 different jobs in a row I've worked at have had some major application necessary that was unstable, randomly crashed, slow or all of the above. Neither FOSS nor Proprietary applications inherently have a good interface, documentation nor stability.

Think of it this way (3, Interesting)

lavagolemking (1352431) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074268)

Just imagine how the lawyers will respond when some patent troll or monopolistic company tries to sue their favorite software out of existence.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074290)

Just what lawyers need, free software because they don't bill enough to pay for software and the jobs it supplies.

Typical lawyers, want to charge you $$$ (250+ an hour) and yet spend NOTHING on the backend. They do not know the value of other people's time while over-valuing their own.

The market values their time. They can't sell it at $250/hr unless someone is willing to pay that. The only way to fix the problem would be up-front costs, which would help both the lawyers and the clients, but even those would need caveats in them, as work can take more time and money than expected.

Lawyers have to keep track of their time in six-minute intervals. The billable hour is not fun for them either.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074408)

Many lawyers would absolutely love to move away from billable hours; they are soul destroying. They are, however, fairly profitable for the partners.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074668)

Lawyers have to keep track of their time in six-minute intervals. The billable hour is not fun for them either.

As a private pilot, I took have to keep track of times in 6 minute intervals.

You see, the reason is we track times in hours, with a precision of 1/10th of an hour (i.e., 6 minutes).

All that means is that lawyers too have to keep track of their billable hours to a tenth of an hour. And given the number of apps out there for every platform for keeping track of time, I don't think keeping track of billable hours is a huge deal.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074664)

Hello all!

I have a computer science degree and a law degree. For many years, I have been a practicing litigation lawyer. I also develop software on the side for fun. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of free time to do the latter.

First of all, a charge out rate of $250 an hour = cheap. My charge out rate is $330 per hour and there are plenty more experienced lawyers that charge out more than me (i.e. $500+ an hour). I agree that the charge out rate is too high! But guess what, if I were to charge too little everyone will think that I am no good or there are hidden catches! Weird... I am making this comment from experience.

Second, I am not aware of any FOSS eDiscovery packages which work well.

Third, the "Bates Master" software referred to in the article above assumes that you have everything in PDF.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to convert everything to PDF? The other day I was trying to convert 100 PDFs and their attachments to PDF in reverse chronological order. This trying to work on a solution!

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37076582)

Do you have any idea how hard it is to convert everything to PDF?

You buy some software to print to PDF. This will create a 'printer' on your machine that creates PDF files. You make it your default printer. You select all the documents you want converted to PDF, right-click, and choose "Print...".

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 3 years ago | (#37103878)

Yup, Adobe Acrobat shouldn't set you back too much. Install it, and it installs a 'distiller', which is what it uses to convert any viewable document to a PDF. For the thing the GP was trying to do, go to document, import files and select all the files to be imported. I've used it for such requirements (although I'm by no means a lawyer) to great effect!

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37089022)

Hello, lawyer with a computer science degree. I am the author of FreeEed, and I have published it only a few months ago. I will grant that it is under development, but under fast development. That's because it is my third eDiscovery system, and also because I use very powerful open source components that I bake into it. So just watch the progress. In about a month, it will work on any platform, with the computations done on Amazon cloud.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37089076)

I am the author of FreeEed, and I invite you to watch is progress.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074716)

They do not know the value of other people's time while over-valuing their own.

If the services of attorney's were more expensive than the alternative, they wouldn't have any business (unless you're arguing that the laws of supply and demand are invalid).

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (1)

Trogre (513942) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075214)

Or, you know, they can spend more on hardware with the money they would have spent unnecessarily on software.

Plus in the fight against software patents, the BSA, et al, I think we should have as many lawyers on our side, don't you?

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (2)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075500)

Lawyers spend lots and lots of money on their IT, at least here in Scotland they do.

The medium-sized (5-10 partners) firms I deal with (as their accountant) all hire specialist firms to provide the software, support and hardware. The hardware, installation and initial software is billed and-and-when. The ongoing software + support costs are usually the second biggest expense on the P&L.

From memory the total legal software costs (i.e. everything but hardware, installations, MS Office etc, even though their costs appear inflated) probably equate to around 20% of payroll.

Probably some of the high cost is due to the compliance [lawsociety.org.uk] with the Law Society. That page doesn't seem to give the half of it though, I gather they do a lot of poking about since the software providers suddenly change things like lock nominal accounts at their request.

I imagine open sourced software would be popular with all and sundry but any ideas about free is... Well, irrelevant, at least to the customer. Fundamentally they buy software as a service. They are quite content to pay for good service and ensured compliance.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (2)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075660)

Just to be clear, that $250 pays not only for their incomes but overheads and non-billed time like training/update, managing and so on.

The (very broad) general rule for all industry is a chargeout rate should be approx double their payroll cost, but more than that for the learned professions due to the large amount of non-billable time.

I'm of another profession and my rate is 3x my pay, if I get promoted it will be about 4x.

Due to the multiple clients and the public generally do tend to assume pay is much higher than it is. I've had managers at clients bemoan that they "wish [she] received the kind of salary [I] must be on, but [she's] glad [she's] not made to work as hard". I just replied "no you don't", since I'd done the payroll and noticed she gets paid almost double what I do.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (1)

gshegosh (1587463) | more than 3 years ago | (#37078034)

Sure, lawyers are the only ones who must train/update, manage and have other overheads. No other occupation has it as uphill as them. If only lawyers would be treated specially by the law, if number of lawyers was artificially limited, and if the law would force other people to use their services every time they sell a damn house... oh wait.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37077548)

Free software, as we typically think of it (GPL/BSD/MIT/etc) isn't about low/no cost. It's about Freedom. As in, Freedom to do with it as you choose (*), freedom to modify it, sometimes even freedom to sell it to others.

Stop thinking about the money. If it were about the money, then freeware/shareware/trials would be the equivalent to those licenses. Clearly, they're not.

(*) - There may be some limits to that, such as advertising clauses or not being permitted to sell binaries. But the limits are generally pretty light.

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37080970)

Is it the lawyers' fault that free-software authors give their software away without charge?

Re:Free OSS for lawyers? (1)

dupeisdead (711704) | more than 3 years ago | (#37081862)

Just what lawyers need, free software because they don't bill enough to pay for software and the jobs it supplies.

Typical lawyers, want to charge you $$$ (250+ an hour) and yet spend NOTHING on the backend. They do not know the value of other people's time while over-valuing their own.

I do consulting for several lawyer firms, from 1 person to assisting 40 person firms. They do have specialiazed software programs that are $$$$$. Not to mention the online access to case history and trials is a yearly subscription. Say what you want about lawyers themselves, but the firms do have a lot of backend costs. Same as most industries really.

hmm (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#37073702)

Doubt large law firms will move towards it, the same way other types of large companies tend to be resistant to FOSS. If your client has $100 million riding on a case, do you really want to use something new and unproven without a robust support system?

Re:hmm (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 3 years ago | (#37073876)

do you really want to use something new and unproven without a robust support system?

The only one of those adjectives that doesn't usually apply to specialty commercial software is "new". The support is sometimes better, but you'll usually pay an arm and a leg for it. Better to have an employee or contractor who's familiar with the OSS.

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074058)

Well, if the free software is better than the paid software, they'd definitely want to use the free software. I'm not familiar with most lawyer specific software, however.

Re:hmm (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074464)

It tends to be clunky and annoying to use, actually, though it's getting better. The problem is the software frequently has to work with large datasets; millions of documents, with a great deal of data to be worked with in each document. It's like Oracle; I remember hearing way back when I worked in IT that in those days if you needed a really huge database you were pretty much stuck with Oracle, despite the fact that it was hard to administer, the company would blatantly try to rip you off in their cost estimates, it was complicated and clunky, etc. The current large-scale e-discovery programs are the same way now.

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074122)

FOSS has a better more robust support system than proprietary solutions ever have. Your company can actually FIX the code they are running on and submit those fixes for inclusion upstream. This notion FOSS is unproven or not robust is complete propaganda and totally unsubstantiated.

Re:hmm (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074364)

Most law firms do not have professional-grade coders working for them.

Re:hmm (1)

petit_robert (1220082) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075496)

who says they need one? they only have to pay for a contractor instead of licence fees. And they can also replace him, if need be.

Ask the EFF (1)

mrflash818 (226638) | more than 3 years ago | (#37073928)

Perhaps ask the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) what they are using.

Re:Ask the EFF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074280)

OS X?

Re:Ask the EFF (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37077450)

dells with windows

Makes sense (3)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 3 years ago | (#37073938)

Lawyers have one of the biggest and oldest free culture ecosystems. They reuse existing arguments made by other lawyers and judges, and if necessary, modify them to fit their case.

Re:Makes sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37076196)

And since these are called sources of justice, and they are openly available..

Re:Makes sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37078054)

Lawyers have one of the oldest and most despised closed cultures in history. Roman citizens violently protested the inaccessibility of the legal system due to obscure and unnecessary esoterica that also sheltered corruption.

Open source software for lawyers seems fine to me.~~~~
 

Re:Makes sense (1)

rdnetto (955205) | more than 3 years ago | (#37078156)

Except that all the authoritative versions of cases can only be accessed through the publishers of the big law reports. Since each publisher has a monopoly on a subset of cases (e.g. Thomson Reuters publishes the Commonwealth Law Reports, the authoritative source for Australian High Court judgments), the subscription fees are fairly large.

archives (1)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074038)

For years, the legal profession was a major user of WordPerfect, because, regardless of newer versions, documents, such as depositions, could be read with the latest version. I personally loaded documents from the Amiga version (WP4 on a big endian CPU) to the Linux version (WP 8 on a little endian CPU). Seems to me that a similar case (yeah, I know) could be made for using Libre Office. It's native document format is open, so, even if it completely goes away, creating a reader and/or translator would be possible.

Re:archives (2)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#37077162)

Wordperfect was originally written for a DataGeneral minicomputer back in 1979. It was hugely popular on minicomputers and Unix long before there was an Amiga. It was popular in the legal profession even back then.

For many years WordPerfect 5.1 was the most portable word processing document in the world.

Wordperfect fell from popularity many believe mainly because Microsoft engineered Windows beginning with W95 to prevent it from functioning correctly, particularly with printing. Novell sued in 2004, and seven years later the case is still winding through the courts. [arstechnica.com] It's suspected that Novell's new owner Attachmate will accept a quiet settlement and let the WordPerfect lawsuit die. Attachmate is a privately held corporation and no information about the composition of their ownership is available.

Though Novell/Attachmate still own the lawsuit, Novell sold the product on to Corel in 1996. WordPerfect is still available in WordPerfect Office X5 from Corel [corel.com] , who bought the app in 1996. Microsoft invested in Corel in October of 2000 [linuxtoday.com] . The last native Linux version, 8.1 released in 2004, didn't sell well as Linux adoption at that time was still very low. The last Linux version, 9.0, was released in 2000. Relying on Wine, performance was unsat. Some diehards still use the application. Novell also retained rights and merged the product into their own productivity suite, GroupWise, which is widely regarded as best avoided.

Way back when WordPerfect was good for its day. Since 1995 it's been an application that is uniformly rejected by its main host OS. To this day printing in WordPerfect in Windows is unreliable and quirky. Despite this, it's no longer a cross-platform application. Current versions run only on Windows now. Some think that Microsoft's investment of $135M in 2000 in a nearly-bankrupt Corel in October of 2000 might have influenced this decision somewhat. At that time Corel's founder Michael Cowpland [wikipedia.org] was accused of insider trading and theft in August of 2000, an issue that was later disproved and settled when his trades were proved to be extremely ill-advised. A suspicious person might even think the accusation were an application of extreme leverage, given a decade of hindsight.

Michael Cowpland deserves his own post - an alumni of precursors to Bell Labs, Nortel Networks and others he cofounded Mitel Networks, founded Corel (which originally stood for COwpland REsearch Labs) and bought control of ZIM Labs. He did a lot of cool stuff.

I don't know what this has to do with the fine article though. WordPerfect was always a commercial application and is still. Source code has never been available, or it would have been fixed long ago.

Lawyers Are The Lowest Of The Lowest Scum (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074076)

in the universe.

99% are simply fill-in-the-blankers with no interest in clients except the extraction of funds for themselves.
Primates have more class.

Next client, please.

Give them some Easter eggs.

My name is Kilgore Trout and I approve open sores for lawyers.

Yours In Osh,
Kilgore Trout [youtube.com]

Better yet: Open Source Boilerplate .... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37074232)

Much of the legal profession is simply copying and pasting from books and CDs of boilerplate contracts / wills / leases / etc. They then charge $200/hr as if they typed it up themselves. Quite frankly, prior to software, a good place where Open Source would fit is with boilerplate agreements such as this.

Re:Better yet: Open Source Boilerplate .... (3, Insightful)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074358)

Much of the legal profession is simply copying and pasting from books and CDs of boilerplate contracts / wills / leases / etc. They then charge $200/hr as if they typed it up themselves. Quite frankly, prior to software, a good place where Open Source would fit is with boilerplate agreements such as this.

No, they don't. That is not the legal profession; that is most likely malpractice and fraud. They charge a rate for their time, but their time is spent taking that form and customizing it to your situation, correcting the boilerplate (most boilerplates are not done incredibly well), analyzing your situation, and maybe researching a little of the relevant law if they don't know something arcane. A mother's will may need to be protected from a future divorce--the boilerplate needs changing. The law may have changed on the enforcability of covenants not to compete--the boilerplate needs changing. The lease you are writing might have an unusual term in it--the boilerplate needs changing. Anyone who uses a boilerplate for an agreement without at least re-reading it and making careful, studious changes where appropriate is not doing their job, except in some unilateral contracts where you have zero bargaining power. Anyone who charges $200/hr for the time it would have taken them to write an agreement from scratch when they did not do that is not being a professional and in all probability is breaking the law of the jurisdiction he is in in a way that can have serious consequences if he is found out.

Re:Better yet: Open Source Boilerplate .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37076392)

My pre-nup was basically a boilerplate. But the Lawyer only charged 60 bucks for it. Another lawyer wanted to charge 300 for basically the same terms.

Master your Bates (2)

foregather (578505) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074310)

The "Bates Master" program mentioned in the original post can be found here: http://www.batesmaster.com/ [batesmaster.com] Their tag line? "Open Source - Because the best experience is the one you control."

E-Discovery Software Roundup (1)

flyboy974 (624054) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074370)

I was a software development manager for a few years in this very industry working for one of the top companies.

Doing things like Bates stamping is pretty straight forward. That's really so that when you exchange documents, and versions of those documents, you can refer to them in your filings. The real issue is conversion of the documents. These days most people are OK with PDF files. Amazingly, most law firms also use TIF files (FAX type encoding, 100dpi) for most of their work. Bates numbering will just stamp a number onto each page/image. Bates comes from the Bates Stamper that was invented in 1891. It was a mechanical hand stamper that incremented by one digit each time you stamped.

Law firms are actually pretty particular about their software. One of the reasons is that if your discovery process is challenged, you have to be able to defend it. This is where having a company represent their product and be able to have it be defensible. How did you convert the word doc to a PDF? How did you index it to identify it as responsive/privileged/etc? Also, most of the time they are under a time crunch to produce documents. When you are under a time crunch, you can't afford to wait for an open source patch. You would be laughed out of court and sanctioned. So you depend on companies to provide support for this.

I can see FOSS being used by companies (we used some), but, it's not a solution that you can take to court.

Re:E-Discovery Software Roundup (1)

Tenareth (17013) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074678)

I happen to work in the industry and yes, that is the biggest problem. The Law Firm would have nobody to blame but themselves, and anyone that has worked with Lawyers knows that taking on that much risk for things outside of their core competency (Technology) is not something they are jumping to get into.

Don't get me started on the continued love of TIFF...

Microslaw and the General Public Lawyers (GPL) (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074494)

http://www.pdfernhout.net/microslaw.html [pdfernhout.net]

This was originally posted to Slashdot on May 25 2002:
        http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=33107&cid=3582999 [slashdot.org]
It was in relation to an article: "MPAA to Senate: Plug the Analog Hole!" about the MPAA wanting copyright protection built into all computer hardware. I sent a copy to Richard Stallman back then and he said it made him laugh. :-) My comments to the Department of Justice request for comments were in the form of this satire:

Transcript of April 1, 2016 MicroSlaw Presidential Speech (Before final editing prior to release under standard U.S. Government for-fee licensing under 2011 Fee Requirements Law)

My fellow Americans. There has been some recent talk of free law by the General Public Lawyers (the GPL) who we all know hold un-American views. I speak to you today from the Oval Office in the White House to assure you how much better off you are now that all law is proprietary. The value of proprietary law should be obvious. Software is essentially just a form of law governing how computers operate, and all software and media content has long been privatized to great economic success. Economic analysts have proven conclusively that if we hadn't passed laws banning all free software like GNU/Linux and OpenOffice after our economy began its current recession, which started, how many times must I remind everyone, only coincidentally with the shutdown of Napster, that we would be in far worse shape then we are today. RIAA has confidently assured me that if independent artists were allowed to release works without using their compensation system and royalty rates, music CD sales would be even lower than their recent inexplicably low levels. The MPAA has also detailed how historically the movie industry was nearly destroyed in the 1980s by the VCR until that too was banned and all so called fair use exemptions eliminated. So clearly, these successes with software, content, and hardware indicate the value of a similar approach to law.

There are many reasons for the value of proprietary law. You all know them since you have been taught them in school since kindergarten as part of your standardized education. They are reflected in our most fundamental beliefs, such as sharing denies the delight of payment and cookies can only be brought into the classroom if you bring enough to sell to everyone. But you are always free to eat them all yourself of course! [audience chuckles knowingly]. But I think it important to repeat such fundamental truths now as they form the core of all we hold dear in this great land.

First off, we all know our current set of laws requires a micropayment each time a U.S. law is discussed, referenced, or applied by any person anywhere in the world. This financial incentive has produced a large amount of new law over the last decade. This body of law is all based on a core legal code owned by that fine example of American corporate capitalism at its best, the MicroSlaw Corporation.

MicroSlaw's core code defines a legal operating standard or OS we can all rely on. While I know some GPL supporters may be painting a rosy view of free law to the general public, it is obvious that any so called free alternative to MicroSlaw's legal code fails at the start because it would require great costs for learning about new so-called free laws, plus additional costs to switch all legal forms and court procedures to the new so called free standard. So free laws are really more expensive, especially as we are talking here about free as in cost, not free as in freedom.

In any case, why would you want to pay public servants like those old time -- what were they called? -- Senators? Representatives? -- around $145K a year out of public funds just to make free laws? Laws are made far more efficiently, inexpensively and, I assure you, justly, by large corporations like MicroSlaw. Such organizations need the motivation of micropayments for application, discussion or reference of their laws to stay competitive. MicroSlaw needs to know who discusses what law and when they do so, each and every time, so they can charge fairly for their services and thus retain their financial freedom to innovate. And America is all about financial freedom, right! [Audience applause].

And why should your hard earned tax dollars go to pay public citizens to sit on juries and render open justice when things could be done so much more quickly and cheaply by commercial organizations working behind closed doors? Why, with free law each and every one of you might have to take time out of your busy schedules to sit in a court room and decide the guilt or innocence of a peer!

And why pay a judge's salary out of taxes, such has been proposed? Judges clearly should be compensated on a royalty basis by anyone referencing decisions a judge produces. This encourages judges to swiftly produce more decisions as well as decisions that big legal corporations like MicroSlaw want to cite more often, which is good for the economy.

Top law schools would have to shut their doors if most law was not proprietary, as who would pay $100,000 up front to join a profession where initiates release their work mainly into the public domain? Obviously there would no longer be any legal innovation without private laws requiring royalties when discussed, since who would spend their time writing new laws when there is no direct financial return on their investment?

And of course, lawyers will not be paid well without earning royalties on private laws, since if they can't sell all royalty rights to their legal work directly to large corporations, how will they make a decent living? Why, even if public money is spent on developing laws, say, at universities, it is clear such laws will not be respected, further developed, or widely distributed unless somebody owns those laws too and so can make money from selling access to them. It's beyond me why people sometimes act like there could be a spirit of volunteerism in this great land of ours after all the effort we have put into stamping that out, such as by making it illegal to help someone for free. Also, since the Internet had to be shut down early in this administration to prevent children from viewing pornography without paying, distribution of new information will always be expensive.

Each lawyer out there should remember to uphold the current proprietary legal system, because you too may win the law lottery and become as rich and famous as the founder of MicroSlaw -- but only if you start with a trust fund! [Indulgent audience laughter]

I know some lawyers out there are concerned about being replaced by the lawyers most major law corporations are now importing from India and China. Let me assure you, this does not threaten your livelihood, because there is currently a lawyer shortage restricting our economic growth, and those Indian and Chinese lawyers have extensive resumes indicating years of experience developing U.S. laws. For you business people out there, it is also my understanding those imported lawyers make model workers because they can't easily change jobs. Thus I have supported removing all restrictions on bringing over such imported lawyers, in an effort to stimulate economic growth in this fair land of ours.

[Inaudible shouted question] Citizenship? Naturally we would not want to offer such imported lawyers any form of citizenship when they come over because they are not Americans -- that should be obvious enough. We're hoping they go back to where they came from after we are done with them, since there are always eager workers in another country we can later exploit at lower wages, I mean provide economic enhancement opportunities for. Besides, dammit, have you seen the color of their skin?

[Inaudible shouted question] Ageism? I remind everyone here that, obviously, as has been conclusively shown by studies MicroSlaw itself has so charitably funded, older American lawyers can not be retrained to know about new laws, so I implore all lawyers as patriots to plan to learn a new profession after age thirty-five so you do not become a burden on your beloved country.

[Inaudible shouted question] Prisons? There are only a million Americans behind bars for copyright infringement so far. No one complained about the million plus non-violent drug offenders we've had there for years. No one complained about the million plus terrorists we've got there now, thanks in no small part to a patriotic Supreme Court which after being privatized upheld that anyone who criticizes government policy in public or private is a criminal terrorist. Oops, I shouldn't have said that, as those terrorists aren't technically criminals or subject to the due process of law are they? Well it's true these days you go to prison if you complain about the drug war, or the war on terrorism, or the war on infringers of copyrights and software patents -- so don't complain! [nervous audience laughter] After all, without security, what is the good of American Freedoms? Benjamin Franklin himself said it best, those who don't have security will trade in their freedoms.

I'm proud to say that the U.S. is now the undisputed world leader in per capita imprisonment, another example of how my administration is keeping us on top. Why just the other day I had the U.N. building in New York City locked down when delegates there started talking about prisoner civil rights. Such trash talk should not be permitted on our soil. It should be obvious that anyone found smoking marijuana, copying CDs, or talking about the law without paying should face a death penalty from AIDS contracted through prison rapes -- that extra deterrent make the system function more smoothly and helps keep honest people honest. That's also why I support the initiative to triple the standard law author's royalty which criminals pay for each law they violate, because the longer we keep such criminals behind bars, especially now that bankruptcy is also a crime, the better for all of us. That's also why I support the new initiative to make all crimes related to discussing laws in private have a mandatory life sentence without parole. Mandatory lifetime imprisonment is good for the economy as it will help keep AIDS for spreading out of the prison system and will keep felons like those so called fair users from competing with honest royalty paying Americans for an inexplicably ever shrinking number of jobs.

Building more prisons... [Aside to aid who just walked up and whispered in the president's ear: What's that? She's been arrested for what again? Well get her off again, dammit. I don't care how it looks; MicroSlaw owes me big time.]

Sorry about that distraction, ladies and gentlemen. Now, as I was saying, building more prisons is good for the economy. It's good for the GNP. It's good for rural areas. Everyone who matters wins when we increase the prison population. People who share are thieves plain and simple, just like people who take a bathroom break without pausing their television feed and thus miss some commercials are thieves. Such people break the fundamental social compact between advertisers and consumers which all young children are made to sign. And let me take this opportunity to underscore my administration's strong record on being tough on crime. MicroSlaw's system for efficient production of digitized legal evidence on demand is a key part of that success. So is the recent initiative of having a camera in every living room to catch and imprison those not paying attention when advertising is on television, say by making love or even talking. Why without such initiatives, economic analysts at MicroSlaw assure me that the GNP would have decreased much more than it has already. Always remember that ditty you learned in kindergarten, Only criminals want privacy, because a need for privacy means you have something evil to hide.

[Inaudible shouted question] Monopolies? Look, nothing is wrong with being a monopoly. It's our favorite game, isn't it? Sure, we might slap somebody on the wrist now and then [winks] but everyone in America aspires to be a monopolist, so why not just have more of them? Why not let every creative lawyer be their own little monopolist permanently on some small piece of the law. It's the American way; it's the will of the people.

Look, these questions are getting annoying. The next person who asks a question will have their universal digital passport suspended immediately via video face recognition! [Hush from crowd.] Or at least, someone who looks like you will! [General relieved laughter.]

Here is the bottom line. If all law was not proprietary, lawmaking corporations like MicroSlaw wouldn't be able to make as much money as they do the way they are currently doing it. So the economy would further collapse, plunging the U.S. into an even worse recession than the one we are in now, which, as experts have shown, is the legacy of all the illegal software and media copying in the late 1990s. Look, we've already cut all nonessential government programs like Head Start, monitoring water quality, researching alternate energy, and improving public health. Free law would mean a further reduction of tax revenues and we would have to make tough choices about reducing spending on essential things like developing better weapons of mass destruction, imprisoning marijuana users, propping up oppressive regimes, and promoting unfunded mandates like higher school testing standards. I assure you, these priorities will never change as long as I am president, and I will always make sure we have money for such essential government functions, whatever that takes. So I urge you to never support the creation of free law, which might undermine such basic government operations ensuring your security, and further, to turn in anyone found advocating such.

By the way, I am proud to announce government homeland security troops are successfully retaking Vermont even as we speak. Troops will soon be enforcing federal school standards there with all necessary force. Their number one priority will be improving the curriculum to help kids understand why sharing is morally wrong. Too bad we had to nuke Burlington before they would see the light, har, har, [weak audience laughter] but you can see how messed up their education system must have been to force us to have to do that. And have no fear, any state that threatens the American way of life in a similar fashion will be dealt with in a similar way. I give you my word as an American and as your president sworn to uphold your freedom to live the American lifestyle we have all grown accustomed to recently, and MicroSlaw's freedom to define what that lifestyle is to their own profit.

So, in conclusion, a body of legal knowledge free for all to review and discuss would be the death of the American dream. Remember, people who discuss law in private without paying royalties are pirates, not friends. Thus I encourage you all to report to MicroSlaw or your nearest homeland security office anyone talking about laws or sharing legal knowledge in other than an approved fashion and for a fee. Always remember that nursery school rhyme, there is money for you in turning in your friends too.

God Bless! This is a great country! [Wild audience applause.]

Addendum -- March 4, 2132 -- Freeweb article 2239091390298329372384 Archivists have just now recovered the above historic document from an antique hard disk platter (only 10 TB capacity!) recently discovered in the undersea exploration of a coastal city that before global warming had been called Washingtoon, D.C.. It is hard for a modern sentient to imagine what life must have been like in those dark times of the early 21st Century before the transition from a scarcity worldview to a universal material abundance worldview. It is unclear if that document was an actual presidential speech or was intended as satire, since most digital records from that time were lost, and the Burlington crater has historically been attributed to a Cold Fusion experiment gone wrong. In any case, this document gives an idea of what humans of that age had to endure until liberty prevailed.

Copyright 2002 Paul D. Fernhout Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.

This is one of my Itches (2)

gpmanrpi (548447) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074630)

I am an attorney, and I have made several internal stupid systems to deal with the lack of good free software for management of legal practices. There is one Italian piece of software last time I checked, but otherwise it is basically a bunch of companies that take their pound of flesh. Legal fees are expensive because in a grand sense of irony, lawyers create a parasitic culture that takes advantage of them. Look at West and Lexis. They resell government documents, and charge around 50 dollars per month for minimal access. You have to sign multi year contracts with "cost of living adjustments" of 2-7% depending. I could go on and on. I want to do something for this and if anyone is interested in making something let me know.

Re:This is one of my Itches (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#37077092)

Loislaw and Fastcase are competing on the bottom end. Bloomberg has some new competitor, too. The value of Westlaw and Lexis aren't in the cases alone, a big part of their value are the keycites/Shepharding. That is an incredibly labor-intensive process to come up with those.

Damm, (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075436)

I read that as "Open Season on Lawyers!"

if they can fire 'the help' (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#37079140)

they will adopt it in a second.

No lawyers for clients. Not nice people. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37080018)

That acid knot your stomach. The dread. The constant mental might pissing contest. The perpetual distrust. The bigotry. The arrogance. Forget that you never get paid the full amount. Lawyers are miserable people to work for. They are the worst clients.

Yes. All you lawyers are like this. You just THINK you are an exception. That is part of your disease.

Doubt me?

Then riddle me this. After all these years, Why, are there not 3 - 5 mainstream lawyer packages?

There are 3 or so word processors. There are 3 - 5 major search engines. There are even 3 major smartphone platforms. The cycle does not take long anymore. All these spaces went from none, to many, to consolidation to oligopoly. Lawyer software never started the cycle. That is a FACT.

lawyer open source license (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37080118)

same as gnu, except when used by a government, insurance company, lawyer, or any lawyer driven industry (riaa,etc) and then $$$$ charge high prices, with a $250,000 fine per executable for violations.

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