Launch a startup or fail a course! (Part 1)
It was the autumn of 2018 when we started studying at the best master’s program in Ukraine. In the list of subjects, there was “Legal Technologies” (in Ukrainian it sounds rather strange, a much more common and mainstream version is English one).
The course involves (attention!) project-based learning! While in Ukraine few people know what is this, our masters’ students have already managed to plunge into their the work.
The idea is that by the end of the semester, we have to develop a product (or a demo version of the product) that solves a certain problem in the field of jurisprudence and is useful to potential users.
As Paul Graham once said: “You need three things to create a successful startup: start with nice people, do something that customers really need, and spend as little money as possible.”
The first point is the simplest because you will not find nicer people, than in the UCU (the information sounded on the rights of the advertisement). Particularly nice are those with whom you have been friends for the last four years. Within the course, we were supposed to be divided into groups of 2–3 people. There were no doubts that we three had to be together.
As for the requirement to spend as little money as possible, there will be no problems also. If there is no money, there is nothing to spend.
But as for the requirement to come up with something useful for people and something, that would be connected with jurisprudence, it is more difficult. Our day began and ended with a brainstorm, but a good idea never came.
At the same time, we did assignments for other courses, including reading court decisions on the Legal Writing course and commenting on the mistakes we had found and ways in which we could fix them. When making notes I noticed that this work is mostly mechanical. Problems are similar — paragraphs are too large, sentences are too long, there are too many subordinate parts of the sentence, that makes it difficult to understand … During the lesson, there were examples of phrases on the slide, such as “including, but not limited to” and variants by which they may they be replaced. And here it came! Our idea. The idea to create a resource that would help to write simple and clear texts would suggest where it is better to change the phrase and by what to change it and drow attention to the length of paragraphs and sentences, etc.
How does it solve the problem and why do people want to use it? One by one:
1) The problem (two of them)
- High level of complexity of Ukrainian legal texts (both scientific and procedural), up to the non-understanding of its content by potential readers.
- Low level of interest of the legal community in writing quality and plaintexts.
Of course, it is simpler to write two sentences, add an introduction about the level of scientific research, subject and method, wrap everything with “clever” words and turns, add inappropriate references to history (better before the time of the Roman Empire) and fill in the conclusion, which does not sum up what is said. The less reader understands, the cleverer is the author.
That is why there is now an urgent need to start developing a plain legal Ukrainian movement.
2) Why would people use our resource? The answer is simple. When you write something, you certainly plan that the reader will understand what you want to convey. However, if you have a sentence in the length of the Milky Way, and every second word in an impersonal form, then the time you spend on writing is just a bit meaningless. When the text is incomprehensible to the reader:
a) he becomes bored and stops reading
b) he reads several times to grasp the essence, cursing the author in thoughts, because he could spend this time on something more useful.
Well, you understand, right? Three law students want to do something like Grammarly, but for lawyers. And we do it with the aim that lawyers, in their turn, will start paying attention to what they write and will be able to easily improve it.
To be continued…