Professional lawyers already know this material. They might want however to use it as a handy reference to give to those who, lacking their professional expertise, could still benefit from accessing background information on their own time, as long as it is easily found.

The intended target audience is all those whose occupation is anything but law. It includes students, the activists who fight for their cause without the benefit of a law degree, and people engaged in business, especially those whose responsibilities face the liabilities and vulnerabilities of the information age, be they for example managers, computer engineers or human resources experts.

Sooner or later such a layman will need, in the ordinary course of business, to speak to a lawyer to verify whether some action is either mandated or forbidden by law or to work with a lawyer in multi-disciplinary team assignments. One approach is to consider law and lawyers as some consider their car engines, i.e. black boxes best dealt with by expert mechanics. It pays however to be able to speak the language of the expert, either to discuss the symptoms or to understand the nature of the work proposed and eventually billed.

Becoming able to communicate intelligently with a lawyer has a downside. By robbing the law of part of its mystery, some laymen might be tempted to play the lawyer. Having a loaded firearm in one’s hands does not make one a good hunter, however, and can lead to very unfortunate consequences to self and neighbor. Self-lawyering is strongly discouraged for the same reason.

Another important argument for learning more about the law is to be able to weave its threads into the very fabric of business planning. In the healthcare industry for example, an executive who ignores privacy mandates as he or she contemplates or specifies a new process involving patient data might waste significant resources until reminded of the requirements needed to ensure HIPAA compliance.

Finally it is imperative to understand that law is dynamic. Businesses may be subject to the law but the law is subject to lobbying. It has been said that as MCI battled the AT&T monopoly, it created more economic value by leading to the deregulation of the telephone industry than in deploying new services. One may conclude that it pays to pick a lawyer for CEO but lawyers are not necessarily the best at managing a business. Yet it behooves all CEO’s to understand how laws are enacted and enforced if part of the business strategy aims at changing them.

What follows applies to the United States. Although many concepts carry to other countries, one must realize actual sources and examples lose most of their validity. Examples have been taken from the lectures on Liabilities and Vulnerabilities in the Information Age. At the elementary level adopted here, there is however a strong consistency within the law of a given country and the reader will have no difficulty to apply this to other areas as long as the objective is to understand how it may be affected by law in the United States. This ability to extrapolate also justifies the emphasis here given to US law over State law.

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