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Attorney Jim Hazard is Working to Open-Source Law (Video)

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the laws-are-sort-of-a-kind-of-source-code dept.

Open Source 58

Jim Hazard is a lawyer who leans geek; since he got his law degree in 1979, he's been the guy in the office who could make sense of things technical more often than others could, and dates his interest in regularizing complex legal documents (and making them a bit *less* complex) back to the era where Wang word processors were being replaced with personal computers. Most documents -- no matter how similar to each other, and how much work was spent in re-creating similar parts -- were "pickled" in proprietary formats that didn't lend themselves to labor-saving generalization and abstraction. That didn't sit well with Jim, and (in the spirit of Larry Lessig's declaration that "law is code," Hazard has been working for years to translate some of the best practices and tools of programmers (like code re-use, version control systems, and hierarchies of variables) to the field of law, in particular to contract formation. (Think about how many contracts you're party to; in modern life, there are probably quite a few.) He calls his endeavor Common Accord, and he'd like to see it bring the benefits of open source to both lawyers and their clients.

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Spurious Interrupt (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44385281)

This video makes my front page look like the Compilers have had a go at it.

Adverts (4, Funny)

hutsell (1228828) | about 9 months ago | (#44385293)

I gave up during the third Ad. Maybe later.

Re:Adverts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44385483)

Eight. "Advertisement: Your video will resume in X amount of seconds." Then it'll move on to the next commercial with a new value for the amount of seconds to wait. It'll be 5 minutes before you'll be able to see the actual 18 minute video.

Man oh man... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44385313)

Doesn't anyone look at these posts in Chrome before they go live? Ugly and unreadable...

Mmmm.... (2)

The123king (2395060) | about 9 months ago | (#44385361)

Re:Mmmm.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44385379)

It's an Adobe Flash thing. The latest version has been locking up Safari on my MBP. Grrrrr

WHY!?!? For God's sake, why screw things up!?!? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44385493)

According to the Supreme Court of the United States, any law that is not understandable to the average 8th grader is "Unconstitutionally Vague."

According to Common Law dating back to the Code of Hammurabi, any law that is not freely published for all people to read is null and void.

As an anarchist, I love things just the way they are!

Re:WHY!?!? For God's sake, why screw things up!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44385533)

No law in the USA applies to me. They are either "not there when I look for them," or they are "vague."

If You start publishing the @#%$ laws, I'll have to live by them. That would be VERY BAD.

Re:WHY!?!? For God's sake, why screw things up!?!? (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 9 months ago | (#44386053)

You may be an 'anarchist'; but you apparently aren't an empiricist...

Outside the adorably twee world of exposing the contradictions inherent in the system, man! the track record of people actually not being subjected to laws just because they are excessively complex, deeply confusing, unbelievably vague, or thousands of pages long and buried in a filing cabinet somewhere is deeply unimpressive. If you count various zillion-page contracts of adhesion with provisions for one party(and only ever one party) to change them unilateraly as 'law', since they do tend to be enforced on behalf of the people who write them, or the whole kangaroo-court 'binding arbitration' system, the numbers just get a whole lot worse.

It's cute, sure, but unless you have exactly the resources that would make all but the most incomprehensible or classified laws open to you(eg. nigh unlimited legal resources), it's also irrelevant.

Re:WHY!?!? For God's sake, why screw things up!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44393469)

Funnyfuzzyfungus, are You a lawyer?

You say that overly complex systems have a poor track record. I do not have experience with any form of government other than (1) overly complex police states and (2) anarchy during a war. I prefer overly complex police states over civil war, at least for today.

You claim I do not have the resources to avoid punishment under unconstitutional or unpublished laws. I do not rely on lawyers, I live by my conscience, and avoid being arrested through other means. Honestly, do You think anyone lives by any law? Do the cops? Does the NSA? Does Congress? Do the big corporations? Do You? Does anyone?

Re:WHY!?!? For God's sake, why screw things up!?!? (1)

sjames (1099) | about 9 months ago | (#44401591)

Oddly enough, there's a lot of truth there. In most of the world practically no citizen actually knows the entire body of law that might apply to them. This includes lawyers.

They just try to do what seems like the right thing and hope for the best.

After software swallows the legal profession... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44385545)

Someone will notice the duality and start automatically suing software companies based on open bugs, with detailed generated legal complaints.

glad I have flashblock but (3, Interesting)

iggymanz (596061) | about 9 months ago | (#44385547)

how did an inline image for the flash link get through the slashdot submission process? hell, anything with any kind of multimedia should be blocked, only a simple link with text between tags should be allowed.

gah! that was awful. let's keep the format clean.

()? um... (1)

shentino (1139071) | about 9 months ago | (#44385611)

Am I the only one who notices TFS has an unmatched "("?

Re:()? um... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44387639)

Good catch. You are correct.

Re:()? um... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44388793)

Am I the only one who notices TFS has an unmatched "("?

You know TFS ain't lisp, right?

But here you go... )

Late since we're moving away from the rule of law? (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about 9 months ago | (#44385613)

That's cute, but isn't is a bit late since we seem to be moving away from the rule of law?

Re:Late since we're moving away from the rule of l (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44385695)

Careful there righty.... One man's "Law" is another man's "tyranny". You must be the other man...

Re:Late since we're moving away from the rule of l (5, Insightful)

iggymanz (596061) | about 9 months ago | (#44385725)

oh no, we're moving toward the rule of "police state and corporate fascist" law. Certain types of laws will be very strictly enforced, for the majority of people.

And the next logical step is described in... (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 9 months ago | (#44396549)

....my satire sent to the US to the Department of Justice in 2002: 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.

What the hell Slashdot? (5, Insightful)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 9 months ago | (#44385651)

I have been on slashdot regularly under one ID or another since day one. I even remember chips and dip. I have never been one to complain about the many things that people have complained about regarding slashdot over the years. I always thought it was campy... This is something else. First, what is up with the way this is rendering on the front page? I know I'm not the only one seeing it, per below posts. How can you screw that up? I mean really? Second, when I saw that there was a second ad before the interview, I was dismayed. When I saw the second ad had a runtime of 70 seconds, I said fuck it, stopped the video, and won't be playing it again. Multiple ads before a video, with one of them weighing in at 70 seconds? I know you have to make money, but not even CNN would try and pull that stunt (yet). Third, have you guys been screwing with the code in general lately? I've seen some rendering issues over the last few weeks that require a reload, and sometimes I click to read the comments for a story where I have not yet viewed the comments, only to find myself dumped off in the middle or even end as though it's trying to take me to where I left off on a page yet visited, but rarely at the top. What is going on? Are you about to lose funding and making desperate moves. Please explain yourself, slashdot.

Re:What the hell Slashdot? (2)

Arker (91948) | about 9 months ago | (#44386137)

So that's what it is eh?

Causes me no problem on the front page. When I loaded the article I said 'oh, what's this, they are trying to load flash, wtf now? And I was spared seeing this awful bunch of crud that everyone is complaining about because this is not one of the handful of sites I trust to run javascript, let alone flash.

I'm not surprised though. They've been publishing broken links for years now, and they get away with that, why not the next level?

Re:What the hell Slashdot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44387665)

Please explain yourself, slashdot.

One almost never hears back from the Slashdot administrators. It's hard to say what is happening behind the scenes.

It's a Losing Battle (4, Interesting)

Zordak (123132) | about 9 months ago | (#44385749)

Now that I'm semi-solo, I have a Git repository for all my client files. I wrote a bunch of LaTeX class and style files to make beautiful patents, pleadings, and contracts. I write patents in vi (well, Vim) when I can get away with it. But when I was at a big firm, I spent fruitless years trying to convince lawyers that there is a better way than using kludged, recycled Word files, or at least trying to convince them to use Word's style functionality instead of manually reformatting the same flipping document EVERY SINGLE TIME. All in vain. Heck, I'd be happy if I could finally convince other lawyers that underlining is not a legitimate typesetting operation and is an embarrassing holdover from the days of typewriters (along with two spaces after a period).

One thing I've learned about lawyers it that most old lawyers learned how to do something back in 1978 or so, and believe it is the One Right Way. Those lawyers learned the One Right Way from other lawyers who learned it in the 30s. If I were king of the world, I would force every lawyer in America to get a copy of Butterick's book Typography for Lawyers [typographyforlawyers.com] and Garner's Dictionary of Legal Usage [amazon.com], read them cover to cover, and treat them as though they were the inviolable word of God, handed down in stone from the peak of Mt. Carmel. I am so sick of looking at ugly legal documents.

Re:It's a Losing Battle (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44386867)

I'll agree underlining and other typographical crimes are worth hoping for change. But two spaces after the period isn't simply about mechanical limitation, it's about separation between sentences. As a style tool, it's incredibly useful, if divisive.

There is no non-arbitrary reason to use a single space. There is no non-arbitrary reason to insist on two spaces, either. A single space trades an arguable aesthetic advantage for an arguable functional disadvantage (looking for the holes is one visual cue when trying to skim through a document to the sentence you need). The presence of those holes is the reason both for and against the practice. Typographers/opponents have an aesthetic objection to the interruption. Proponents have an aesthetic objection to the lack of interruption when they're not present.

Any attempt at a prescriptivist rule on the matter is pointless, as it's ultimately a matter of subjective preference (like the Oxford comma).

Re:It's a Losing Battle (1)

Zordak (123132) | about 9 months ago | (#44387801)

There is no non-arbitrary reason to use a single space.

Nonsense [typographyforlawyers.com]. Butterick has a very convincing argument. And now that you've seen his graphic, I challenge you to ever look at a document with two spaces without cringing. What's more, manually inserting two of any kind of white space character is ugly and hackish.

Re:It's a Losing Battle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44388353)

There is no argument there whatsoever. Thank you for demonstrating the point.

I fault no one for choosing one space over two, but the same is true for those who choose not to.

Re:It's a Losing Battle (1)

Zordak (123132) | about 9 months ago | (#44391015)

1. It creates distracting rivers of white space. That's a non-arbitrary argument.

2. Manually inserting two consecutive whitespace characters of any kind is hackish. It is using content to approximate form. That's another non-arbitrary argument.

The fact that you remain unconvinced (presumably because you prefer two spaces) does not mean they are not arguments. Perhaps you could share with me your non-arbitrary argument on the benefit of two spaces.

Re:It's a Losing Battle (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | about 9 months ago | (#44395515)

Personally, even knowing what to look for, I still had trouble seeing any difference between those two paragraphs. But maybe it's just me....I certainly don't see any "rivers of white space" (What does that even *mean*?)

Re:It's a Losing Battle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44400019)

It creates distracting rivers of white space. That's a non-arbitrary argument.

No, it isn't. It's a conclusion with no argument that (a) the "rivers" are objectively meaningful in any way or (b) that they are distracting (especially given that they are far more pronounced in the monospaced sample, which for some reason is viewed as acceptable).

That two spaces increases the spacing between sentences is a fact, not an argument, and the conclusion that it's bad is a value judgment with no evidentiary support and again, not an argument. The fundamental disagreement is succinctly outlined in the first comment. One camp dislikes the aesthetic of the break. The other camp dislikes the reduced utility of the "smooth flow of text". Neither is wrong, and no prescriptivist rule on the matter is valid because it does not advance a legitimate linguistic function to prescribe a rule in what is purely a matter of style choice.

2. Manually inserting two consecutive whitespace characters of any kind is hackish. It is using content to approximate form. That's another non-arbitrary argument.

Again, no it isn't. With proportional spacing, a manual double-press is a clue for an expanded space, just as inserting two hyphens is a cue for an em dash in a word processing program, and three periods shortcuts to an ellipsis.

The fact that you remain unconvinced (presumably because you prefer two spaces) does not mean they are not arguments. Perhaps you could share with me your non-arbitrary argument on the benefit of two spaces.

Perhaps the lack of appropriate spacing prevented you from reading and comprehending my first comment. The answer is contained therein. And for the record, no, I do not prefer two spaces.

Re:It's a Losing Battle (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 9 months ago | (#44389125)

I challenge you to ever look at a document with two spaces without cringing.

I had a look, I very much doubt that I would have noticed the double spacing if it hadn't been pointed out.

Assume that I'm deliberately misleading you.

Ok, that explains your outrage at double spacing.

Re:It's a Losing Battle (1)

WillAdams (45638) | about 9 months ago | (#44389877)

How are you handling citations?

While there've been a few developments recently, there still doesn't seem to be a single, comprehensive reference solution which will handle all of the (idiosyncratic) Bluebook style rules.

(who always just uses \frenchspacing in his .tex documents)

Re:It's a Losing Battle (1)

Zordak (123132) | about 9 months ago | (#44391937)

How are you handling citations?

While there've been a few developments recently, there still doesn't seem to be a single, comprehensive reference solution which will handle all of the (idiosyncratic) Bluebook style rules.

William (who always just uses \frenchspacing in his .tex documents)

I did take a gander at a "bluebook.sty" file where I could do something like \case{} with some parameters or keys, but it was never very useful because it ended up making me type more than just formatting the reference manually. Someday when I'm really ambitious, I may do one that links in to some external program that automatically inserts all the extra information and also creates a link to Westlaw or something (and KeyCites it, while I'm dreaming big). But I'm nowhere near that right now. And since I don't litigate anymore, I've stopped caring much.

Re:It's a Losing Battle (1)

WillAdams (45638) | about 9 months ago | (#44393083)

There's also camel: http://www.ctan.org/tex-archive/macros/latex/contrib/camel/ [ctan.org]

I'd love to see someone manage this using biblatex --- I wonder though if the solution isn't to turn the problem around --- type the citation, then after the fact, run a tool which finds all the cites, displays them in an interactive tool and allows one to match things up and extend them w/ links as you described.

Re:It's a Losing Battle (1)

hey! (33014) | about 9 months ago | (#44390335)

It's not just lawyers. I've tried for years to get my writer friends to use some form of version control, but in vain. One of the great benefits of version control is makes it safe to try radical things with your codebase (e.g. novel or story) because even without branching you can simply recall the state of your work at any point in the past.

I myself used a literate programming tool to generate manuscripts, synopses, excerpts, and even alternate versions, but eventually I gave up because the dominant workflow task in writing, other than sitting down and banging out text, is exchanging manuscripts in MS Word format.

Re:It's a Losing Battle (1)

wattersa (629338) | about 9 months ago | (#44390717)

LaTeX to generate documents is pretty resourceful. How do you manage drafts that need to be exchanged with a client or opposing counsel when they ask for a "track changes" version? What font(s) do you use?

I hate Word and its auto formatting more than any other program, so I use InDesign. Templates, high precision, access to pro-level graphics placement and text wrapping, preflight, customizable PDF output, and more. I use Courier Final Draft (sinful, I know) because monospace makes it easy to do tables of contents and authorities. But I'm debating whether to use Century Schoolbook in the future.

Re:It's a Losing Battle (1)

Zordak (123132) | about 9 months ago | (#44390977)

LaTeX to generate documents is pretty resourceful. How do you manage drafts that need to be exchanged with a client or opposing counsel when they ask for a "track changes" version? What font(s) do you use?

Hence the "when I can get away with it." I have some clients that are okay marking up a PDF, and I actually have some clients who are university professors who are okay with just editing a .tex file. One of the things I really like is the way I can keep track of dependent claims in a patent as the claims change. I can do it in Word (kind of), but it's kind of kludgy, and I have to remember to hit "Print Preview" before I send out a document so the numbers auto-update.

Re:It's a Losing Battle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44447019)

@hazardj -- Good thoughts from all. The central point is that most (all?) legal documents put a few facts or thoughts into a context. @acme and @beta agree to an #ndaCommonInOurIndustry, Start=2013-07-31, End=2014-01-01, Dispute.*=#USA_CA_SantaClara_Court. If we organize the text correctly, that can render into our doc. Draft 2 points at Draft 1 and adds or overrides elements. Etc.

Good luck with that (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44385829)

People in power thrive on people's ignorance of the law. Think how many real estate transactions happen with the buyer usually only being told the strictest minimum (lie of omission) and then told "you should have known that" when questions arise after the transaction. An informed populace is a nightmare.

Let's fix the problems with Law School (1)

eclectro (227083) | about 9 months ago | (#44385831)

The problem is we are graduating a lot of attorneys with $150K+ school debt so they charge $300 an hour for their services. Simply, we have too many attorneys that no one can afford! [chronicle.com]

I would submit that the stranglehold on the bar exam that the ABA has be loosened and allow accredited online law schools. I know that many believe in the "socratic method", but it doesn't mean a hill of beans if no one can afford it!

Re:Let's fix the problems with Law School (1)

bondsbw (888959) | about 9 months ago | (#44386065)

The problem is we are graduating a lot of attorneys with $150K+ school debt

Reduce the graduation rate, supply and demand will increase their fees.

But I do agree with your sentiment, so far as I think law is way too complicated. We have laws that fix laws that fix laws that fix laws that fix laws, all the way back to when the first laws fixed laws. "Refactor" is a concept that needs more use in that field.

Re:Let's fix the problems with Law School (1)

eclectro (227083) | about 9 months ago | (#44387215)

>Reduce the graduation rate, supply and demand will increase their fees.

Yes, then we have a large number of $500/hr attorneys that no one can afford, except for the wealthiest among us and large corporations. Making the problem worse.

As I said, one thing that would help is getting the ABA stranglehold of the two day hazing exercise known as the bar exam. I know that most in the legal profession (and yourself) will hate this, but their emperor has no clothes.

Software is brittle (2)

trenobus (730756) | about 9 months ago | (#44386107)

As a software developer, I agree that lawyers could learn a lot from software development methodology. However, when we start talking about applying software representations to law and making it 'computable', we should remember that a fundamental property of software (at least so far) is that it is brittle. I don't think you want law to be brittle. I don't think you want legal contracts that can be subverted by a buffer overflow (although that definitely would make things interesting).

Laws as they are often implemented also have a tendency toward brittleness, often due to over-specificity. Laws should have a purpose and be based on principles, and it should be possible to challenge either a particular application of a law, or its existence, on the basis of failing to serve its purpose or violating its principles. A law is a mechanism for implementing a policy. But it is a characteristic of mechanisms that they often have edge cases that they cannot handle,and with sufficient complexity, bugs are inevitable.

One can view our court system as acting in a role that is somewhat analogous to a support organization for software. But its ability to issue patches mostly takes the form of declaring laws unconstitutional, or establishing precedents for the interpretation of a law, which they hope will have the force of law. We really need actual bug reporting and tracking for laws, and to hold our legislatures accountable for fixing them.

Re:Software is brittle (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 9 months ago | (#44388463)

However, when we start talking about applying software representations to law and making it 'computable', we should remember that a fundamental property of software (at least so far) is that it is brittle. I don't think you want law to be brittle. I don't think you want legal contracts that can be subverted by a buffer overflow (although that definitely would make things interesting).

Legal contracts are routinely subverted through bugs - sorting out those bugs is what the court system spends a good deal of it's time doing. But that's the system working exactly as intended. It's a fuzzy system by default, and the last thing you want to do is to remove that property to make it 'software like'.

Re:Software is brittle (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 9 months ago | (#44389243)

English common law is a set of books written over a period of centuries that would take about 500 man years just to read, let alone debug. In the real world the law is not a set of commandments, it's a guide to what is and isn't acceptable behavior in the society to which it is applied. Old laws are rarely thrown out they just get ignored, however as a non-american it appears the me that it is common practice for US prosecutors to trawl through old laws for no other reason than to get a "credit" on their performance review. If you give these same prosecutors a a powerful computer program to do the trawling the you will end up in Brazil, (the movie, not the country).

I don't know the US legal system that well but I do know a US is the world leader in locking people up, almost 7X the rate the China and/or the EU.

70 seconds (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44386321)

"Your video will load in 70 seconds."


I'm okay with 15-25 seconds of adds. I understand that things (tm) cost money - but you don't get 70 seconds of my time.

Law is Open Source Already (3, Insightful)

CanadianMacFan (1900244) | about 9 months ago | (#44386973)

When you go to sign a contract you are able to see the terms of the agreement (otherwise it wouldn't be binding). A closed source legal agreement example would be the statements you used to find on boxed software such as "By purchasing this software you agree to the license agreement contained within."

Linux is open source but you don't expect everyone that runs it to be able to understand the code. That's not the point. Lawyers are like exactly like developers in that they are educated to understand the code of law. The rest of us are users and when we need advice we go to see a "developer".

I do think it is important to make law understandable to a greater number of people but when you confuse the terminology used to describe your mission. It sounds more like he's trying to use software development methodologies to create legal contracts. I'd hate to be at the conference when the waterfall vs.Agile method debate breaks out between the lawyers.

Re:Law is Open Source Already (1)

sysrammer (446839) | about 9 months ago | (#44387693)

I'd hate to be at the conference when the waterfall vs.Agile method debate breaks out between the lawyers.

That's an easy one. Which is more billable?

duke boys??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44388225)

i'm gonna get those duke boys...cu...cu..cu

sorry but there was no other reference to hazard county.

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