Re: Legal review of documentation

Subject: Re: Legal review of documentation
From: Richard Lippincott <rlippincott -at- YAHOO -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 6 May 1998 08:19:21 -0700

---Suzanne Gerrior <suzanne -at- JAZZMAIL -dot- COM> wrote:
> I would like to know how many companies (or individuals) have their
> documentation reviewed by lawyers before it is released.
> If you don't have your documentation reviewed by lawyers, why not?

The last company that I worked for had one set of documents reviewed
by the legal department. It was not a pleasant experience.

The attorneys attacked the manuals with a vengeance. They openly
admitted that their concern was -not- with clear or usable procedures,
but with corporate CYA. They viewed every procedure not as a method of
communicating information to the end user, but instead as an open
opportunity for a lawsuit. Thus, they directed the re-write of
procedures into legaleese.

Probably the worst part was multiple, lengthy, repeated hazard
warnings. We ended up with multiple warnings on each page, to an
extent where the warning texts and icons outnumbered the steps. The
manual quickly became unreadable and unusable.

In the case of this company, the value of documentation wasn't really
understood, so the lawyers were able to make their case to upper
management. The writers lost that battle.

I even went so far as to present recent studies that suggested the
multiple warning formats actually made the manual -more- dangerous, by
increasing the chances that the users would simply discard the manual
and thus seen -none- of the warnings. It didn't work.

Because of this, I'm personally leery of having a legal department
review doc procedures. I don't help them in legal matters, I'd prefer
that they not try to "help" me with the documentation.


Richard Lippincott
Comverse Network Systems
Andover, Massachusetts
rlippincott -at- yahoo -dot- com
rjl -at- comverse -dot- com

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