June 14, 2021
Legal Explainer Sitesone-page URLs for common concepts and conundrums
Culling through my domain names, I noticed a handful one-page legal “explainer” sites built up over the years. I’ve never set out to build a “portfolio” like this. Frankly, I never really thought of these sites as of a kind.
Here’s the roster today:
I use flippedform.com to help set expectations around published, plain-language legal forms and policies. It’s nice to have legal terms that people can actually read and reason about. But that’s so uncommon that many people won’t even think to try reading for themselves in the first place. The Flipped Form concept serves to invite people—clients, readers, and potential collaborators—to read confidently, speak openly, and make edits independently.
I link to notlegaladvice.law to give people a sense of the reason and meaning behind lawyers’ disclaimers. This came about by accident, when I started listing out the phrases lawyers use to abbreviate disclaimers before public presentations on an index card. Asking around taught me that even very literate, highly educated people mostly have no idea what magic those spells invoke, only a vague sense that the results must be good for the lawyer.
patentpotato.com gets sent around largely by e-mail, to accelerate tech contract negotiations when patent-infringement risk becomes an issue. The site doesn’t offer any definitive solution to the problem. I rack my brains and poll my colleagues for one annually, so far to no avail. But a tongue-in-check one-pager listing all the usual, general arguments and compromises often fast-forwards through the usual rote posturing to the frank discussion that needs to happen to get a deal.
reviewersedition.org explains a scheme for numbering versions of legal documents, so they can change over time. I personally use this scheme for a number of forms. When working with technology-focused clients, who are much more used to software-style versions numbers, I often use essentially this scheme, with dots instead of abbreviations.
These sites came about because I explain a lot of things over and over again, and because I’m a grown-up web kid. It takes me all of about fifteen minutes to find and register a domain name, configure a server, slap together a webpage, and publish to the Internet. The ongoing cost is mostly just the domain—less than $20 for .com and .org, $50 for a .law. If I get excited about a concept for my own use—like Reviewer’s Editions—or get annoyed and need to blow off steam—Patent Potato—I can take it out in the form of a website, without scheduling or budgeting. So I do.
Most of them don’t last. For example, I had a site—I believe I called it “Lemming Law”—that listed out common misconceptions in contract drafting. I spent a little time adding items to that list, as I was reminded of them. But there wasn’t much of a use case for that page. It was fun to put down daft inertia with cartoon lemmings. But sending such a page to opposing counsel to explain a rejected edit or a markup could only infuriate them. So I let the domain expire. No big loss.
There are obvious parallels between what I’m doing here with legal information and what I do with legal forms and terms. The Waypoint NDA came out of my frustration reviewing nondisclosure agreements. It took a bit more work to create a whole legal forms, rather than just a webpage. And it took more than just one lawyer, with input from a number of clients and colleagues. But the result is a $14 annual bill that saves me, my clients, and my colleagues hours and hours of time, frustration, and misgivings about careers in law.
When we do enough time on a problem to come up with a confident solution, we put it on the Web and give it a memorable address. When the problem comes around again, we point there. If the problem is really the problem—and not cover for some other need or desire—that can actually do it.
Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome by e-mail.
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