Parag Shah on "The Code"
Parag Shah, author of “The Code,” begins the introduction of his book by telling a story of his youth when he needed a book such as the one he wrote.
“I dashed back to the defense table where my client was looking up at me with distrust,” Parag wrote “I started sifting through the thousand-page volume of the Georgia criminal codebook, along with the other thousand-page supplemental books that crowded around the table. I was overwhelmed by the wealth of information and was struggling to quickly and succinctly make sense of it all.”
This event began his journey to find a more direct way to navigate books such as those and make the law more accessible. He started with notecards, for his more common cases, and as time went on, fellow lawyers such as Renee Rockwell and many more asked for copies of the notecards.
When asking about the cost of copying all of the notecards, a Kinkos employee suggested he make a book out of them. He took that comment in stride and attempted to get publishing firms such as LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters to understand the concept of his book, (which they didn’t). He then realized that he would be the only person to know how exactly it needed to look and feel for the people who were going to be using it.
Since then, Parag dedicated his time to figuring out the best way to complete and create the fastest way to find the law within his books. He spent time at Emory learning how to self publish on Adobe InDesign, a program that helps design books and page layouts. His books’ covers reflect the hornbooks that lawyers use religiously. He did this in hopes that it would cause a subliminal trust of what is inside the books.
Once he completed the books (which range in topics: Civil, criminal, and Evidentiary law), he sold books out of the back of his car. Later he upgraded to a website where people can buy his publications, book seminars, and even book Parag himself for events.
When asked about what he learned while writing these books, Parag confessed, “You know, what I learned from writing this book is that I like the law. I really like it. I’m kind of a nerd.”
Parag continues to update the books every year, and a large community use the books, as the law continually changes to acclimate to new types of crime. Parag is working on a pocket-sized handbook for municipal court judges so that they make sure to ask the right questions and follow protocol to a tee.
“I write the books simply because you cannot have a fair justice system unless everybody’s on the same page, and so it makes me feel that we’ve moved one step closer to that goal when everybody’s reading from the same set of rules.”
These small guides make it easier for lawyers to be more prepared during trial. Lawyers can also use these books to help them switch between specialties in the future. They will have all the information in one book, which has been updated within the year so that they can flip through and know that the law inside of it is correct.
These books are small but essential. Parag has marked the fore-edge of the pages in a way for easy access to chapters, the same way a dictionary marks letter chapters. The index is on the back of the book with different chapters titles, for quickly finding laws within that section.
Parag was adamant about one point in specific. Everyone in the courtroom should start on the same playing field. Everyone should have the same information so that once in the trial, all players can focus on the actual details of the case instead of disputing the law.
“The law should be accessible to everybody. Everybody should have access to it. And it shouldn’t be hard, shouldn’t be complicated.” Parag states.
Parag Shah is changing the way that the courtroom literature is perceived, instead of tedious, it is fast and direct. His book levels the playing field per se and shows that the law can be easy to understand.
“I titled the book The Code because what I envisioned is ten years later, as someone said, pass me the code. They would pass my book and not that big statute book form.”