Back in School

by Jinryu

Looking at the way that law has developed in Australia, there is no way to describe the process other than evolution. Normally, I’d use “evolution” pretty interchangeably with other words like “progress” or “development,” but in the strictess sense, law does evolve in the ways that Darwin talked about.

 

By that, I mean that if you look at the text of caselaw, you really do get to see how some creatures of law are trying to develop to effectively compete and gain popularity. Those that don’t adapt through iteration and reiteration? Dominance one day may be so affected by a single change in environment that the creature dies off suddenly.

 

The strengths of law are the precedents and reasoning used– but of course, the finesse is about coming out with the winning interpretation and focus, because there’s always more than one answer to the question. Whether or not we even arrive at the preferable view is itself up for debate– the important thing is to arrive at a convincing view. There’s a slight difference there that leads to an application of the law that doesn’t always set quite right with our inherent moral judgments.

 

Sometimes, you end up an evolutionary decision– those so called “landmark” cases that decide which evolutionary branches will persist, and which will be pruned.

 

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Monday was the first day of school. I found the Law Society office for the first time. It’s basically a giant storage closet with a table at the centre, and a telephone. The telephone, I might add, is a huge ressource, because I don’t have a landline and paying by the minute is akin to giving a blood transfusion.

 

As the IT Director for Law Soc, you’d think that I have a lot of in depth programming knowledge about all things computer. The truth is, I don’t– I was originally applying for an editor’s position for one of the Law Society’s publications. When the administration reviewed my resume, they thought I’d be more suited for the IT position because nobody else had comparable experience (read: the one eyed man is king among the blind) so here I am.

 

On Monday, it came to my attention by word of mouth that the Law Society’s email system had broken somehow. Which, really, for a first day back to school, is quite the disaster. LawSoc deals with a lot of sponsorships and events, which for the purposes of record keeping means we rely on electronic mail for 99% of our communications. LawSoc has something like 10 divisions cheifs with another 5-10 people under each devision as well, and they’re all trying to coordinate electronically. Throw out email?

 

Ironically, I didn’t know there was a problem– because nobody emailed me. (And there I was, thinking that it was just a quiet weekend for once.)

 

The main challenge of the position is that there is no documentation from my predecessors. This is problematic for three reasons. The first is that any coding that was done for the website, specifically javascript bits, is a bit hard to follow. Some of the code gets pretty long (there are no comments in the code anywhere!) Secondly, especially when you’re using pre-programed websites with a lot of modular functions, there are often more built in functions than you actually need to use. This means that when it comes time to get something done, you have more than one way of getting it done, which is a problem– if you don’t know what specific methods your predecessors have been using, chosing the “wrong” method may lead you into problems with consistency and backwards compatibility with old data, because those procedures might not handle the information in the same way. And finally, no handover means that things such as administrator passwords and stuff are just not there. This is probably one of the biggest fundamental problems.

 

Solution? How do you fix a broken communications network without being trained to do your job? Well, it’s not perfect, but from access to one senior account, I’ve had to break into other administrator accounts and do a document discovery of sorts– basically, trawling old emails for any information. I’m basically reverse engineering policies based on evidence of practice. It’s not perfect, and it’s time consuming, but this is what’s taking my time lately.

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