RE:Structure vs. Substance (long)

Subject: RE:Structure vs. Substance (long)
From: "Jason A. Czekalski" <topsidefarm -at- mva -dot- net>
To: TECHWR-L digest <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 13 Jun 2000 19:19:53 -0700

Andrew Plato wrote:

<< Oh, cool. So all I have to know to be a lawyer is how to use all
those legal
CD-ROMS. Hot damn! I never knew it was so easy. All I have to do is ram
a few
processes into my head and I can pass the bar!

For that matter - I am totally going to go be a doctor now. They make
bank! Why
am I wasting time with this tech writing stuff. I can research stuff. I
know
how to fill out forms and process lab stuff. Easy as that. I can be a
doctor.
Its just processes, right?

Riiiiight. >>

Andrew, you're actually getting close. With both lawyers and doctors,
their learning centers on THEORY! Their education is dominated with
theory. Only later do they actually start to apply it to the known facts
of a case.

I'll start with lawyers. No law student ever puts a great amount of time
into learning individual laws. Why bother? Those laws will change before
he or she graduates, often quite dramatically. No, they learn huge
amounts of theory and procedure. What they are learning is how to apply
broad legal theory to specific cases, and to do the research to back up
that case.

I showed your post to a friend of mine who is a lawyer, and he got a
good laugh. He said that you were pretty close to the truth (law on a
cd-rom). His experience over the last 25 years is that common people,
with little or no legal training, can defend themselves quite well, if
they understand how to do the research. In fact, in the area of pro se
litigants (people who represent themselves in court), the success rate
has gone from less than one in ten, just twenty years ago, to about
50/50 today. If you follow the court procedures, and do the research (a
procedure) you can do quite well for yourself.

Before I leave the subject of lawyers, just one more question: Why does
it take an average of over 6 months between the time the Supreme Court
hears oral arguments and the time they release a written opinion on a
case? It takes that long to do the research required to support an
opinion. An average that was quoted to me during my paralegal training
was over 1000 hours of research for a single Supreme Court opinion. And
I won't even get started on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that
must be followed to even get a case before the Court.

Procedure, procedure, procedure!

As for doctors, it isn't that much different. They start with hugh
amounts of theory, followed by gobs and gobs of procedure. Be it a
doctor, nurse, paramedic, etc. They follow procedures. An appendectomy
is done just about the same exact way world wide. The ABC's of emergency
first are the same world wide. These, and many others, are PROCEDURES,
and they are followed religiously. Medical personnel do not "ram" their
way through anything. When these procedures are abandoned, people die.

So Andrew, the next time you're dealing with your lawyer or doctor, and
you don't like the pace they are working at, just tell them to "ram it
through". What's the worst that can happen? You might lose a lawsuit, or
end up in jail, or die. Hell that's a small price to pay for getting the
job done. So what if it wasn't done right the first time.

And before you jump in about this having nothing to do with techwriting!
We provide documentation for people to use for software, heavy
machinery, etc. If we provide information that is not useable, people
get hurt or large amounts of money get lost. Now I'm not talking about
inaccurate or incorrect information. I'm talking about information that
does not or cannot be used by the intended audience. I am talking about
manuals written at the post graduate level that are meant for paper mill
mechanics (9th grade reading level if they are lucky). Or a reference
manual being produced where a "How-to" book should have been written.
Manuals that don't get distributed to the correct user level.

These issues are addressed by procedure. Learning about the audience.
Finding out what conditions the documentation will be used under.
Finding out what the most important issues are for the end user. In
fact, it is when there are no procedures that the greatest problems
arise in getting the job done. This why I like working for ISO and
Mil-Spec companies, there are procedures. I know exactly what to expect
and who is responsible, and where to get help if tha person fails to do
their job.

Jason





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