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Re: Hackers and Painters and Lawyers

On Friday, May 16, 2003, at 09:47 AM, Peter J. Wasilko, Esq. wrote:

>> Perhaps a more interesting question would be "Do the best lawyers
>> draft contracts in pairs", since I imagine that a legal document *can*
>> have subtle "bugs", which would be easier to spot with two sets of
>> eyes.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they do.
> Greetings All,
>     As an attorney I'd be happy to field this one.
>     All but the richest clients would refuse to pay for two lawyers 
> drafting contracts in pairs.
>      What generally happens is that each firm has a collections of 
> prewritten contracts and chunks of contracts that it glues together 
> with "document assembly" software packages. These programs are 
> mini-expert systems that ask the lawyers questions and splice in the 
> right legal language based on the answers provided.
>     Usually these systems start with generic commercially provided 
> standared froms from legal publishers and are then customized in house 
> by expert contract consel. Then Junior associates  handle the first 
> pass of using the programs to create a draft. The draft gets handed 
> off to someone with a medium level of expertise to customize it and 
> then any questionable parts get run by a real expert. The contract is 
> then shown to the other side whose lawyers suggest additioanl changes 
> and after a period of negotiation the final document is signed off on 
> by both sides.
>     Throughout, contract clauses that have already been litigated and 
> interpreted by the courts are used whenever possible, since novelty of 
> language equals potential ambiguity that can lead to expensive 
> litigation down the road.
>     All in all, legal drafting looks a lot like software reuse.

Given the spaghetti mess that is the current state of legal code, this 
strikes me as a dubious analogy. Well, perhaps not in your offices :)

I was IMing with a friend the other day, remarking that it would be 
nice to have more programmers in Congress - perhaps they could 
mercilessly refactor the current U.S. Code.