In their article Contract as Automaton: The Computational Representation of Financial Agreements, Mark Flood and Oliver Goodenough argue that not only can contracts be conceptualized as "finite machine states" that can be automated, but that conceptualizing the legal structure of a contract this way is helpful for determining whether a contract is internally coherent and complete. Messrs. Flood and Goodenough are moving beyond computer assisted "document assembly"---where guided questions lead word-processor-based document template libraries to a traditional natural-language contract--and exploring an analytical process of turning (at least certain types of) contracts into computer automated "smart contracts". Building off of Harry Surden's Computable Contracts, Flood and Goodenough apply computational theory to the various states, inputs and transitions of a loan agreement to make the contract a "deterministic finite automaton" (DFA).
This course covers the basic practical skills in contract drafting through written drafting exercises while exploring how legal practice and contract drafting will change. While working with the course materials, we will inquire as to whether or not the contract elements can be formalized into a smart contract or DFA. We will also explore Flood and Goodenough's proposition that "The exercise of representing contracts as DFAs can help us better understand how contracts work."
|Course Areas of Practice|
Knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law
Legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem-solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context
Other professional skills needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession