Tuesday, April 07, 2015

A Lawyer and a Computer Geek Walk Into Disbar

April 7, 2015, 11:45 a.m.

Based on a Computer-Savvy Lawyer Friend's Actual Experience

I was getting my ducks in a row for a meeting in forty minutes when I got a call out of the blue from Jerry. “Do you have time?”

“Not really. I’ve got a meeting in forty minutes and . . .”

“I’ve got court in an hour," he interrupted. "I have fifteen minutes, tops, to get this finished.”

I grimaced. People always bother me at the worst times for their emergencies. “Fine. Interest me.”

“Short version: the judge issued a discovery order. We have to come up with, and I quote, ‘a computer-readable set of search terms which may be automatically applied to discover relevant data.’ The problem is it’s all relevant. The judge is going to approve this set of search terms and order the other side to cough up the results. So I need a set of terms that will match everything, literally everything, and say that everything’s relevant.”

“Right. And this isn’t abuse of process because . . .?”

“Because the judge is the one who’s going to be approving my recommendation.”



“The search term you want. Caret-dot-plus-dollar. ^.+$. It’s a Perl regular expression. Computer-readable and matches everything. Nice and clear, nothing’s hidden from anyone.”

“No, man, that’s too easy. The other side will take one look at it and know something’s up. It has to look like it’s really fastidious, but it has to really match everything.”

I let out a sigh and started typing up a block of code. I wasn’t going to complicate things by hand when computers can complicate things far better than any human being. While I was typing out the instructions I kept talking with Jerry. “So you’re asking me to cooperate with you in an abuse of process.” [Photo credit: Krasner Law Offices -- in no way related to this story.]

“Not if the judge looks at it, agrees to it, and opposing counsel looks over it, their eyes glaze over, and they agree to it because clearly something so complicated can’t be objected to.”

“You’re a jerk, Jerry.”

“Oh, stop the moralizing. The entire process is bullshit. All I want to do is keep my job and maybe, maybe, hold on to the hope that someday I’ll make partner. That only happens if you get things done.”

“By abusing process.”

“You keep harping on that.”

“Because when the ethics committee hauls you in on it, I want to be able to tell them I warned you.”

“Work product. Confidentiality. Stuff like that.”

“I’m not your employee, privilege doesn’t apply, and you should know that already.”

“Jesus, you’re a downer.”

“Just saying.”

“So, uh — how long will it take? I’m running out of time here, man.”

I copied-and-pasted the output of the program I wrote into an email window and hit SEND. “Just sent it to you.”

“So after all that abusing-process stuff you’re going to cooperate?”

“Cooperated. Past-tense. If you want to call it that, then yeah.”


“Because I want to see if you’re stupid enough to submit to a judge a piece of code you don’t understand, haven’t vetted, and have no idea what it really does. For all you know I gave you something that prints out HIS HONOR WEARS HIS MOTHER’S CLOTHES. Should make your next court appearance real exciting, though, not knowing what’s going to happen to you, right?”

"You wouldn’t do that.”

“Yeah, well. It’s differences of opinion that make horse races interesting.”

“Jesus, Bill, I . . .”

I hung up on him.

I have no idea whether he submitted my code to the judge.

And he has no idea whether I was kidding.

# # #


Nick said...

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