View Full Version : Request for a legal professionals forum

Bill Day
February 14th, 2009, 09:37 PM
[I apologize for accidentally posting this in the wrong location, and am reposting it in the correct place. BD]

I am writing to propose the creation of a forum section for legal professionals, as discussed in http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=888749. At present, Linux appears to be seriously underrepresented in the legal community, and conversely, the legal community is generally underserved. Of all the major distributions, Ubuntu is in the best position to begin to turn this situation around, since it is the most user-friendly and the most committed to the desktop.

Making inroads into the legal community is important for reasons beyond simply introducing Ubuntu and Linux to a wider user base among professionals who are heavily and increasingly dependent on computers. (Most court filings in federal courts in the United States are now electronic.) More importantly, enforcement and interpretation of the GPL and the legal underpinnings of free and open source software depend upon lawyers and the legal community. At present, the legal community is highly conservative and very Windows-centric. Even the notion of using a Mac is regarded as a bit outre, and most lawyers of my acquaintance, particularly older ones, either have never heard of Linux or derisively consider it a "home-made" operating system. When the core assumptions of the legal community regarding software are that the only "real" software is proprietary, commercial software produced by Microsoft or for Windows, this is not a healthy environment in which Free Software will receive the legal protection it needs to flourish. We need to bring lawyers and judges into the fold.

In addition, while Linux has the same advantages for the legal professional as for any other user -- including stability, versatility, and power -- there are relatively few applications currently developed specifically for the legal market, and there is a dearth of knowledge in the legal profession regarding ways to adapt existing GNU/Linux technology to the needs of the legal profession. For example, I suspect that LaTeX could be readily adapted to the complex formatting and strict outlining needs of legal pleadings, motions, and briefs so as to deliver a superior work product, but I am not aware of anyone who has experimented in this area.

While the initial membership of a legal section in the forums might be small, creating a section would offer the following advantages: 1) it would create a highly visible rallying point for the small number of lawyers actively committed to Ubuntu and Linux, 2) it would provide a visible place for curious legal professionals to obtain information about Ubuntu and Linux, 3) it would allow lawyers and legal professionals to discuss and exchange information about adapting Ubuntu and Linux to the needs of the legal profession, 4) it would signal the developer community that lawyers are interested in ways to use Linux to practice law, and 5) it would hopefully contribute raising Ubuntu and Linux's profile among legal professionals.

Especially in the current economic climate, where law firms, like other businesses, are looking for more cost-effective ways to do business, there is a window of opportunity to educate the legal profession about Ubuntu and Linux as never before. The first step, however, is enabling legal professionals interested in Ubuntu and Linux to organize themselves before they can reach out. The Ubuntu Forums represent an ideal venue to bring legal professionals together, and I hope that the Forum Council will take advantage of the opportunity.

I have requested that this issue be made an agenda item at the next Forum Council Meeting on February 16, 2009 at 21:00 GMT.

February 15th, 2009, 06:48 PM
New Thread: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1070000