Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lawyers and software engineers

I'm preparing a lecture about computing and the law, and using as a resource the encyclopaedic Computer Law (7th ed.), C. Reed (ed.) OUP, 2011. It's accessible and clear, even for a non-lawyer,  but this quote from one section on contracts (section took me aback:
“Many IT projects fail precisely because the parties do not exercise sufficient
care to ensure that the supplier’s and the customer’s expectations match. Ensuring
that these do … is the key role of the legal adviser in the contract process.”
While I guess that is a key role for the legal adviser, I wonder how much she can manage to achieve this, in the absence of having strong technical skills. She can certainly ensure that the process is sound: terminology is agreed, all relevant points are discussed one by one, and so on, but when it comes to a discussion of technical issues like feasibility, efficiency, scalability etc. it's not clear that a legal adviser alone can deliver what's needed. Maybe I'm missing the point, but don't we need software engineers (or other technical experts) to be part of the conversation too?

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