Law School Takes A Long Time for a Reason

Kasei: The Importance of Fudgability, discovers that the life of the law is not logic, and that lawyers are hard to replace with expert systems:

A team of adjudicators spent a lot of their time reading application forms, deciding whether relevant criteria had been met, and then writing a response letter containing their decision. This seemed to be a straightforward rules-based system that could automated away, so we interviewed some staff, watched them do their job for a while, and implemented our replacement system. …

In hindsight, we had made several major mistakes – mistakes that seem to be repeated again and again throughout the software industry.

Part of the problem was how arrogant we were. We believed that we could spend a couple of days watching trained lawyers perform a highly-skilled job, talk briefly to them, and then make their jobs completely obsolete.

Worse, we made the job completely non-fudgable. In any human process there's always a degree to which the outcome can be fudged by the person performing the task. Even when the rules are simple or well-understood, there are always cases when someone will have a compelling reason to do things differently. In this case we didn't even know all the rules, and discovered to our horror that there were many more edge-cases than we'd imagined.

My students will be the next-to-last to be outsourced, right before the pizza delivery guys. (spotted via the blog with the great name, 0xDECAFBAD)

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6 Responses to Law School Takes A Long Time for a Reason

  1. MP says:

    Outsourced by technology, perhaps not. Outsourced by lawyers in India, perhaps?!
    Ahh…the joys of free trade. And why shouldn’t a lawless country profit from our investment in a rule of law? After all, they’re already making worthless the tens of thousands of dollars our Computer Science students spend on their educations–since Indians will do the work at our minimum wage. Why not let them flush the 3 years and 100K in tuition UM Law students (US citizens) down the crapper as well?

    “About a week ago, West, the best-known name in legal publishing in the U.S., began publicly ruminating about joining the stampede to India. For the past few months, West has been running a pilot program in Mumbai, India, where several Indian lawyers are preparing summaries of unpublished U.S. court decisions.”
    Neal St. Anthony,
    Star Tribune
    January 16, 2004

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  4. Ben Hyde says:

    On the otherhand…

    Sometimes I ponder that I’m probably failing to get with the times because I haven’t found a way to leverage the labor pool of the planet in doing my job. Certainly I should be able to delegate elements of the job I do to other people paying them to make me (appear to be) more productive.

    I would love to pay somebody a few dollars to proofread all my longer emails!


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