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Songs on the Security of Networks
a blog by Michał "rysiek" Woźniak

A Weekend with lawyers

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

I just spent a Weekend with (among others) a bunch of lawyers. Great, in my humble opinion, lawyers (confirmed by their successes, position, or offices held). Also – against the stereotype – great human beings, co-operation with whom is an honour and a privilege.

And it was hard. Painful. Very disturbing. The more so the higher regard I held them in.

So what has happened?

Well, while we were more or less agreed as far as some general values and issues are concerned (or at least we were able to find common ground, understand each others’ position and respect that), the moment the discussion veered into territory of law and lawmaking – carnage ensued.

Don’t get me wrong! We were all friends; every single moment of those discussions was of highest cultural and rhetorical standard. The extremely frightening thing was that in some things they were completely unable to find any common ground!

When I discuss an issue with a fellow IT specialist, we can get to a point where we understand each others’ views and assumptions, find those we do not agree about (like what’s important, feature-richness or time-to-market) which are actually the crux of our disagreement on a higher level (like, which methodology to assume).

Getting back to the lawyers – well, the data could have been the same; the assumptions could have been the same; the conclusions would still be completely different!..

This is seriously frightening once you realise you’re supposed to be living in a State of Law, but the law itself is almost completely subject to interpretation.

Problem Genesis

That got me thinking “why”. Why all natural sciences, all engineering domains, et al, are able to arrive at concrete, tangible conclusions (and produce unequivocal doctrines, documents, procedures, etc.), yet still, lawyers (and economists, apparently) are unable to do that?

Short answer that I arrived at is: lack of scientific method and process, no possibility to execute a verifiable experiment, testing a given theory. That’s not the fault of lawyers, mind you, but simply a characteristic intrinsic to those fields.

Scientific procedure can in a timely manner verify a given theory, checking the data or executing an experiment with – that’s crucial! – as much variables set as possible, testing the theory in a very controlled environment. Even more! Others can check the experiment, check the data, re-test it all and make sure there was no error in it all.

As far as lawyers and economists are concerned – that’s simply impossible. And that, taking the influence of those two groups on our day-to-day reality into account, is the tragedy of our times.