[Most of the discussion on the Debian-Lex proto-subproject has been off-list, so I'm sending this one to the list so that people can see something of our progress. These answers will be made into an article by Matt Black at some point after we get an official list and Web area.] On Sun, 2003-04-27 at 10:07, Matt Black wrote: > * Tell me a about yourself / your background. I'm from Perth, Western Australia, where I work both as a lawyer specialising in information technology law, and as the manager of an IT consultancy. Having one foot in the IT field and another in the IT world is helpful because these areas cross over in much of the work that I do. For example, I fought a prominent legal case against a spammer last year in which my IT knowledge proved useful, and my legal knowledge is often useful when my IT consultancy provides services to law firms. I've been using Debian GNU/Linux for about eight years, and both arms of my business now use it exclusively. > * What is Debian? Debian aims to be a universal operating system, that is free to distribute and develop. Debian is available for numerous types of computer system, but its most widely used variant is based around the Linux operating system kernel and runs on ordinary PC hardware. It is, if you like, an alternative for Microsoft Windows, but with the advantage of having many thousands of software packages bundled with it, all of which are free to use and to extend. > * What is Debian-Lex? Debian-Lex is project to create a subset of Debian that will provide a pre-configured operating system designed specifically for use in legal practice. Our aim is that Debian-Lex will not only sit on lawyers' desktops, but also be found in their accounts departments, on their office servers, and be used in court registries. Debian-Lex is not a competitor to Debian, as everything that goes into Debian-Lex will go straight into Debian also. It will, however, make it easier to install a Debian GNU/Linux system that is tuned to the requirements of a legal practice. > * Who are the people behind Debian and Debian-Lex? The Debian project is quite unique in that it comprises over a thousand participants from all around the world, ranging from software engineers to documentation maintainers, all of whom are unpaid for the work they contribute to the project (although some are sponsored by their employers). Debian-Lex, being a sub-project of Debian, is being developed by some of these same volunteers, so far including three qualified lawyers. Anyone is welcome to apply to join the project, so long as they share our ideals of collaboratively developing a free operating system. > * What advantages will Debian-Lex bring to lawyers and law firms? There are hundreds of proprietary software packages designed for lawyers, to fulfil their specialist needs for time recording, trust accounting, and client and matter management. Most of these packages do not interoperate with each other, and still less frequently can the packages in use by one firm exchange information seamlessly with packages in use by another firm, or those in use by a court. One of our main aims for Debian-Lex is to increase interoperability of legal software. > * What kind of specialist software will be available in Debian-Lex? We hope to provide a framework for various software packages to access and maintain a central database of client and matter information. One of these will be a sophisticated multi-user accounting package, another is a desktop time recording package, and a third is the well-renowned Microsoft Office-compatible office suite, OpenOffice.org. On a more obscure note, we will have a tool to check for conflicts of interest, and various tools to search and manipulate legal transcripts and pleadings. > * With the importance that attaches to legal proceedings, shouldn't lawyers be > willing to pay for the best rather than preferring free software? Often free software (or open source software) is the best available. This is so because it can draw on the talents of a much wider community of developers than proprietary software. Moreover, if a software tool does not meet the needs of its users, they have free access to the source code which enables them to modify it to suit their requirements, or to pay a software developer to do so. Many lawyers have been caught out when support for specialised proprietary software they are using has been withdrawn by its developer, or the developer has gone out of business. The use of free, open source software reduces this concern. > * When will Debian-Lex be 'released'? That all depends on how many contributors decide to collaborate on it! The Debian project at large does not have a fixed timeline for its releases, and Debian-Lex follows the same policy. We expect that a full, working operating system pre-configured for lawyers will be available if not by the time of the next official Debian release, then by the time of the following release. Meanwhile, components of the Debian-Lex project will be released into Debian's unstable branch in incremental stages. Regardless of whether you are a Debian developer, or a software developer of any sort, we would welcome your input into the project. -- JEREMY MALCOLM <Jeremy@Malcolm.id.au> Personal: http://www.malcolm.id.au Providing online networks of Australian lawyers (http://www.ilaw.com.au) and Linux experts (http://www.linuxconsultants.com.au) for instant help! Disclaimer: http://www.terminus.net.au/disclaimer.html. GPG key: finger.
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