Regularly, Assas Legal Innovation meet experts to discuss about innovation and its application to the law.
Rosalie Lechat met James Hazard, founder of CommonAccord and American attorney, member of the bars of California (2008), Paris (1993), New York (1982), Massachusetts (1983), and Oregon (1979-1985). Version française ici.
Why did you get interested in codification ?
As a business lawyer who experienced the advent of word processing in legal practice, it was obvious that we lawyers were “coding” legal documents. Similarly, as a lawyer, it was obvious that codification is the most effective way to improve the quality of legal documents, transacting and relationships. That nobody connected these two thoughts seemed bizarre.
What is CommonAccord ? What are the issues that such a project raise ?
CommonAccord is the application of open source principles and tools to legal relationships. There are four principal ideas:
a) Open source : collaboration – using the same platform as other open source projects (Git and Github).
b) Modularity – making first class components that can be combined into full solutions. This idea is common in both law (“codes” are modular) and software (the “Unix” method, the nature of software “projects”).
c) Prototype inheritance – a simple way to combine modules that preserves the freedom to customize and “recursive” inclusion of modules, steps, solutions. This makes legal systems self-organizing.
d) Pure focus on “Prose“, not automation. Usable with any system of automation, smart contract, signature, payment, etc. Law needs to be independent of the implementing platform.
In your opinion, to what extent will the new technologies influence the legal field ?
Law suffered a 30 year period when automation mostly made things more complex and opaque.
We are about to experience a transition to extreme clarity, driven by many technologies, including AI/NLP, blockchain consensus mechanisms, e-commerce and e-payment systems, the GDPR/PSD2.
This will present amazing opportunities to make legal solutions better, to extend legal access much more broadly and deeply, and to improve systems (legal design). It will also present huge challenges in defining the rules of societies that we want to live in.And it will radically reduce the revenues of routine lawyering.
Maintaining social stability and humane governance defined by law under these circumstances will be a challenge.
Is it for the legal field to adapt itself to new technologies or to new technologies to adapt itself to the legal field ?
Most of the necessary technologies currently exist and indeed most are quite mature. A new generation of lawyers are needed to learn these tools and apply them.
How do you imagine the future of law ?
Law will be the defining discipline for articulating and implementing “intentional” societies. As the tools of production and distribution – in particular computing – become radically powerful, the critical issues will be ones of governing stability, democracy, and structuring to make and maintain societies and environments that are sustainable and affirming of human values. These are major challenges.
In your opinion, what role does France have to take in legal innovation ? And what about the United States ?
France is remarkably well-placed to play an important role. France is of course the home of the most influential legal “Code” – the Napoleonic Code. France is also a “peer” in the most ambitious effort at coordinated governance – the European Union. France has also taken a leading role in the greatest challenge of cooperative governance – the Paris Treaty on Climate Control.
The United States is the most “lawyered” economy and government in the world, and among the most influential. The benefits of greater efficiency in legal relations will be more important quantitatively there than any place else.