tisdag 16 juni 2015

When ever you start a sentence with “I am not a lawyer but…”

Just stop talking. Nothing you say after that point will be any good for you or your company.
These words of wisdom were shared with me by Donald (@DonaldOJDK), and I get constant reminders about how correct they are.

My favorite foot-in-mouth story is a thread with, what I though, were two sales reps that were in conversation with a customer about the BCL. I keep replying “I can not interpret contracts for you since I do not have a law degree”, but they keep asking and asking and asking. Finally, in frustration, I reply, “I am not a lawyer, but it’s perfectly obvious to me that XYZ is the correct interpretation, and I’m sure that your local legal rep will back the obvious interpretation up”. Somewhat happy about closing the conversation that would not stop I go for a coffee. When I come back I have an email from one of the sales reps who, as it turns out, was not a sales rep at all – “I AM the local legal rep, and it’s far from obvious to me…”.

This leads to a note to self – Do not comment on legal matters. It’s surprising how hard that is. That and realizing that I need to learn to live with that fact that there are people on the Internet that are wrong, are difficult things.

But why, people ask, can you not summarize how license X works?
Let me start to answer by showing two examples of code.

Version 1.
printf(“Hello World!”);

Version 2.
String res = new String();
LanguageStuff ls = new LanguageStuff();

res = “World”;
res = “ “ + res;
res = “Hello” + res;
res = res + ls.puncuation(LanguageStuff.EXCLAMATION_MARK);
res = “” // Help with GC

They both work, somewhat. But it’s obvious that one of them is unnecessarily complex, not to mention verbose. If you saw a fellow developer writing Version 2 code you would likely correct him and send him to a beginners coding training.

So as developers we try to write code that is as clear and concise as possible. As long as every case is covered a reasonable rule is – shorter and more readable code is better code.

So why is it that we seem to believe that lawyers always write contracts using Version 2? I think it’s safe to assume that the 10x theory of developers also apply to lawyers and that some of them are brilliant and some of them will be not as great. Same as with developers and just about every other profession.  So when in doubt I always assume that the contract or license is written as short and as clear as possible, while still containing all the parts needed for it to be legally complete. So the reason that I will not try to summarize a license is that I do believe that the person with the law degree that wrote it is a better lawyer than I am. If she could have written it shorter and clearer, I will have to assume that she would have.

That being said, I am still to understand why something is MORE LEGALLY BINDING IF WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS. (YES, I’M LOOKING AT YOU BCL)

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