In the age of the internet and other computer networks, the lack of graphics to simplify law, let alone public software tools, remains remarkable.
The legal sector's fixation on text alone, leads to data smog, information obesity, and information overload.
This became the case years ago in business law. Now it is commonplace in numerous fields of law, eg insolvency, corporations, and employment law.
Fighting legal information obesity
The good news is that it is inevitable that the situation will change. We've been saying this for years at out firm (see the further reading list). But the change is very slow!
For our part we're continuing to invest heavily in developing numerous graphics to accompany our legal advice. We share graphics with clients to simplify legal process and principles. A neat example is our business process and business functions Flash animation.
This investment in graphics is backed up with our much higher than average use of other practical tools such as checklists and questionnaires in easy to fill in table formats. Among their many benefits these help speed up obtaining instructions from clients and thereby reduce costs.
Turning to the "law with software" message, we're now joined by Australian High Court judge, The Hon Justice Michael Kirby. His speech at a function last month of the Internet Industry Association contains the following paragraph:
The second moral of the story is that it is an instance about which Professor Lawrence Lessig constantly teaches. We are moving to the point in the world where more and more law will be effectively expressed, not in terms of statutes, solemnly enacted by the Parliament and sent to the Governor-General for the royal assent – but in the technology itself. What Lessig calls, “Code”. Embedded in the Code, on a multinational basis and effective across borders in a way that could not have been dreamt of in the past, will be effective regulation, expressed in the technology itself.
Legal software tools lie ahead
Legal software and legal graphics will one day be an essential service and they will be commonplace.
Until then lawyers and people affected by law must accommodate themselves with a legal system fixated on text as the absolutely dominant tool.
Beyond commercial accounting programs (which contain modules useful for legal compliance), unfortunately the available automated free tools are few in number and rudimentary.
Two examples of public software exist in employment law - the New South Wales law calculators at Annual Leave Calculator and the award-specific Long Service Leave Calculator. It's a beginning.
What other public or proprietary graphics and software tools for law have impressed you?