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Re: Of Legal Language and CS Notation

I'm not sure what Mr. Wasilko had in mind, but I've talked extensively 
on this subject
with a friend who is has been both an actual practicing lawyer and an 
actual practicing
software engineer. From conversations with him, plus some with other 
lawyers, I have
tentatively concluded that:

(a) One reason that legal contracts are written in such a seemingly 
jargon-y way is that
lawyers are carefully copying language that has been used before, 
because that language
has been already tested by courts; this is a "historical accident" reason.

(b) Some contracts are much more readable than others, and often the 
less readable ones
are simply the result of lawyers who are unskilled: either they do not 
know how to express
themselves clearly, or they load up the langauge with lots of extra 
stuff in a largely-unnecessary
attempt to make sure there are no holes or flaws.

(c) Many contracts could be expressed more clearly if they could use the 
constructs of very
basic computer programming to a greater extent than they can already; 
the main reason they
can't is (a).

(d) Some contracts are written to be intentionally misleading for 
various nefarious purposes;
this is hard to prove but there are some cases that seem very compelling.

By the way, opinions of appellate courts are generally not hard to read 
and understand.
(It may be hard for one of us to know whether there are good 
counter-arguments, but
that's a different question.) You do have to learn some basic "terms of 
art" ("term of art"
is an official jargon phase that means "official jargon phase") for 
important legal concepts
like "precedent", "narrow issue", and so on, but they're mostly not 
hard.  (And if you
want to follow the references, they have something that's as technical 
as a URL to
be able write a concise pointer to a case or statute or law review 
article, but you can
hardly blame them.)

Shriram Krishnamurthi wrote:

>Hi Peter:
>>The short answer is yes, lawyers don't really talk that way other than
>>to key in on issues. And no, legal language is really more of a
>>historical accident.
>Are you sure that's what you meant to say?  Because I don't believe
>that.  I have no trouble believing that the actual structure of legal
>language is a historical accident, in just the same way that the use
>of bars to write type (and logical) judgments is probably a historical
>accident, and the use of lambda most definitely is one.  And if so, is
>all other jargon explicable as a historical accident too?