At 8/25/2009 10:11 PM, Andrew Harris wrote:
How do people get around the problem of marking up ordered lists in
legal documents, such as policies or terms and conditions?

A typical structure might look like:

1 blah blah blah
    1.1 blah blah blah
    1.2 blah blah blah
        1.2.1 blah blah blah
        1.2.2 blah blah blah
    1.3 blah blah blah
2 blah blah blah
    2.1 blah blah blah
        2.1.1 blah blah blah*

In all of the discussions of this issue I've read, the final wisdom has been to actually hard-code the numbering of contracts, bylaws, etc. in nested lists, suppressing the normal list-style-type. That might seem retro, but you can't afford to have any of the numbering change because of an editing error. The whole point behind auto-numbering is thoughtless re-numbering, something a legal document cannot tolerate. It would be better to have an accidentally-deleted item leave a hole in the numbering that a proofreader could easily catch than to have HTML automatically close up the numbering sequentially over such an elision.

Another advantage is that the numbering is manifest in the markup itself, rather than being a sequence of bare LIs. Someone can snip an excerpt from the markup with the numbering intact. (In this vein, implementing the numbering of a contract with JavaScript sounds about as smart as printing the contract on sheets of ice.)

This decision is made easier, of course, by the limited auto-numbering options of HTML!

Justification for hard-coding the numbering from a semantic perspective is that the numbering is actually integral to the content and not merely an incidental by-product of its sequence in the greater list. I believe the logic is that once the legal document is finalized, an item's number becomes part of its fixed name used in quoting and references and a great weight of legality rests on the accuracy and persistence of the numbering.

Of course, when you're drafting a contract it's handy to use auto-numbering in word processing, but once you get to the final draft stage I'd freeze it for HTML.



Paul Novitski
Juniper Webcraft Ltd.

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