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One Command Line Per Lawyer; The Future of the Governance and Law =
Lawyers code. We do so in the traditional sense when we contribute to legislation, to model laws or documents, to the Restatements. Transaction lawyers do that, at retail, when they draft and negotiate documents. =
Of course, software programmers also "code." =
Historically, lawyers coded using type, and until the mid-80s, using typewriters. As computers began to be used, there was a brief period when lawyers used a variety of software for legal documents. Documents were exchanged on paper and there was freedom to use whatever tool the law firm wanted. But as modems and the internet enabled digital exchanges, Microsoft Word became the common rail. Lawyers are intensely, and loosely, networked, so while each lawyer has nominal autonomy in their choice of the tools for coding, as a practical matter they must use the same format as other lawyers. =
Software coders are also intensely and loosely networked. They have much greater flexibility in their choice of tools, partly because they make and understand their own tools. Their tools have become much more efficient than those of lawyers. =
There is no reason, other than the network effects within the profession, that prevents lawyers from using these tools. If they switched to these tools, they could be much, much more efficient, better reduce risk, provide better service. =
The rise of FinTech makes this transition immediate and compulsory. FinTech is revolutionizing transacting, and will transform all aspects, from banking to property registry and dispute resolution. FinTech systems are based on open source. Ethereum, Interledger, Corda, Hyperledger, IPFS and the like. They do not work with Word. They work with plain text, JSON, HTML and CSS. This short, universal, open source, alphabet soup handles text and presentation perfectly adequately. Like the web. Data security and AI are further powerful forces pointing in the direction of a merger of the tools of law with the rest of computing. =
CommonAccord is a pathway for transition of legal to open source, from our current confused system to coding in both senses. It integrates legal coding - the systematization of legal texts - with software coding - the infrastructure of cryptography, git, plain text editors and HTML. It does so with absolute simplicity - everything is a statement or a reference. This organizational power and expressiveness is adequate for any legal task and much more robust than special purpose systems created for the "legal industry." =
"Coding" in both senses permits use of both kinds of tools - the "codification" of model documents and codes, and the iterative collaboration of open source. It gives us, the legal profession, regulators, trade groups, NGOs, publishers and activists, the possibility to get on the same page - to create standards and equivalencies - to reduce uncertainty and risk, to make best solutions available to all. =
As the banking "industry" is under threat from FinTech, the legal "industry" will be challenged by the efficiency and transparency of open source. Banks that adopt FinTech tools rapidly may be able to remake themselves by returning to a role of providing trust, security, and commercial wisdom. =
Lawyers who rapidly adopt coding may be able make a new future where they - in the trenchant words of a noted legal ethicist: "go back to practicing law." While tough on the legal "industry", open source will be good for justice and the legal "profession." As society faces the impacts of a system of production that runs with little human participation, we will need smart institutions and strong legal protections. A strong profession could support that. =