Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 :::

Roger Parloff asks, “can software practice law?”

He discusses class litigation over whether the web service is illegally practicing law in Missouri by helping users prepare legal documents by posing questions and then providing a customized document based on the user’s answers. The class plaintiffs don’t claim any injury other than the price they paid for the service, for which they seek triple recovery under Missouri law for all LegalZoom customers since 2004.
This was inevitable.

If you suppose the point of these laws is to protect consumers, I think this sort of software is better than an actual lawyer. A lawyer, even one who specializes, could eventually come in after a poor night of sleep with distractions from his personal life and forget a step of a process that he's performed thousands of times. I doubt this sort of software has much in the way of concurrency issues or randomization, so if it gets the same inputs as it got a thousand times before, it will produce the same outputs the 1001st time. Unless the law changes out from underneath it, if I know that a lot of other people have used it successfully in my jurisdiction, I can have a fair amount of confidence that it will work for me. That might be less true if my case is really unusual and likely to be untested, but if I'm doing something pretty routine, I'd be happier with the software than with the lawyer - especially if I don't get to know about the lawyer's misdeeds.

If you suppose that a more important reason behind these laws is to protect the legal cartel, then of course the software is a threat. And, regardless of the reason behind the law, anything but the most basic software is presumably in conflict with the law. Whether this software (which is pretty basic) is basic enough is something neither I nor the software is qualified to answer.

::: posted by Steven at 1:49 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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