Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Astute insight on the shift from transactions to litigation that AI foreshadows.

IBM Watson's legal offering is making this pitch, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2016/05/1...

"ROSS has joined the ranks of law firm BakerHostetler, which employs about 50 human lawyers just in its bankruptcy practice. The AI machine, powered by IBM’s Watson technology, will serve as a legal researcher for the firm. It will be responsible for sifting through thousands of legal documents to bolster the firm’s cases. These legal researcher jobs are typically filled by fresh-out-of-school lawyers early on in their careers."

Maybe. Maybe not. What if the model changes?

Today's model of contracting is fire-and-regret: spec out as much as you can of the next five or ten years, and when the world changes, litigate.

That's not very agile. Hart and Holstrom won the 2016 Nobel in Economics for pointing out the futility of the idea of a complete contract. http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2016/10/science-...

What's the alternative? Hirschman remarked that your voice sounds loudest when you are closest to exit. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exit,_Voice,_and_Loyalty

What if we treated contracts as an iterated stream instead of an immutable invariant? What if every contract had a maximum term of one year, one month, one day? Power imbalances might be reduced precisely because nobody's locked in: it's a lot easier to break up when you're just dating. After the marriage you might let yourself go.

Software is eating law, but "law is code" is only the first step. Just as the historic transition from proprietary to opensource informs ideas like "Github for law", the historic transition from waterfall to agile will find its analog in the legal and business domains by changing the way we develop and deploy contracts, ultimately driving changes in economic relations.

Think about how "no-contract" phone plans have made the telco market more competitive, to the benefit of the consumer.

Think about how agile development means less software project failure, and less software project failure means less litigation between client and outsourced development vendor.

That's just one example of how litigation might be reduced. If better tools and languages mean that we can better transform our intent into specification, we might be forced to be clearer about what we actually do and don't agree on, we might be more honest in our dealings, there might be an actual "meeting of minds", and when things don't turn out the way we expect, rather than blaming the other party, which seems dysfunctional, we embrace change together, and agree to consciously work on the relationship, to improve the next iteration of the contract … which is due to be revised and renewed anyway, next month, not next decade.

Short-term contracts where continuation requires renegotiation aren't a novel innovation, they are routine. Longer-term contracts don't occur because no one understands short-term contracts, they occur because interests exist that aren't well-known served by them.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact