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Software practices law without a license

by Paul Jay, CBC News Online

While here in Canada we're still learning to use tax software to file online, over in the United States even more advanced online software applications are practising law.

Which, in the case of the Ziinet Bankruptcy Engine, may not be a good thing. A judgement against Ziinet's owner was upheld after a court ruled the software made too many decisions to be considered a clerical tool.

The Wired blog 27B Stroke 6 has a copy of the judgment, which said, in part:

The software did, indeed, go far beyond providing clerical services. It determined where (particularly, in which schedule) to place information provided by the debtor, selected exemptions for the debtor and supplied relevant legal citations. Providing such personalized guidance has been held to constitute the practice of law. ... (The) system touted its offering of legal advice and projected an aura of expertise concerning bankruptcy petitions; and, in that context, it offered personalized -- albeit automated -- counsel. ... We find that because this was the conduct of a non-attorney, it constituted the unauthorized practice of law.

It seems you can indeed get anything on the Internet these days, though as wired pointed out, the defendant retained a human lawyer for his defence.

Thanks to BoingBoing and Futurismic for the link.

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