Behavioural economics

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The psychology of legal relations

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STEVIE: (at the suggestion of golf) I’ll get the “Back in 15 minutes” sign.

JOHNNY: Oh, it’ll take more than 15 minutes. STEVIE: You have to give people hope.

—Schitt’s Creek

Landing page for BE ideas. Ask nicely.


Benefits of

  • Encourages dissent and defuses groupthink
  • Encourage healthy conflict, not unhealthy peace

(see meetings)

  • Discourages jargon, which is a shortcut to ways of thinking which can conceal embedded flaws. If you have to “spell out” accepted ideas without seeing them in their fancy buzzwords, it is easier to see the flaws.

Ways of encouraging

  • Don’t make it compulsory - that is counterproductive
  • Encourage mentoring


If people/clients/staff are continually misusing/misunderstanding a process or product, that means your product design is wrong. CF Charles Perrow: almost no catastrophic accident, at its root cause, boils down to operator error. But almost every one is blamed on operator error.

Lean manufacture

Great dogmas

  • Data will make us redundant
  • Signal to noise ratio?
  • Derivatives
  • Integrity of process is paramount: If the process is perfect, there is no risk
  • We have banished risk; and that risk is bad
  • Risk is inevitable
  • Risk is desirable: it is a condition precedent to return.
  • Understand and manage risks; don’t try to banish them.
  • This time it is different

Machines versus humans

  • Have we got the division of labour right?
  • Machine - Digital
  • Replicable, cheap, free, value -> zero.
  • Ultimate fidelity
  • Fast
  • Algorithmic: will work. Needs no supervision
  • Rules
  • Deterministic
  • Literal
  • Data-dependent
  • Human
  • Analog
  • Error-prone
  • Heuristic: might work: Needs supervision
  • Slow
  • Ambiguous
  • Metaphorical
  • Evaluation
  • Triage versus redundancy
  • You can strip a deterministic process out of a messy human one
  • You can't force the genuinely intractable analog to the digital

The role of ritual in legal practice and how that can stop common sense