The Legal Department is currently run by the Fern. Up until about mid-2006, it was either solely headed or co-headed by the Antigravity Apple,[note 1] which now heads the Department of Improbable AUs.
The departmental flash patch is the Legal Chao (pronounced "cow"). It resembles a yin-yang with order represented by the five-frond fern set in black on one side and chaos by the antigravity apple set in grey on the other. At one point, Legal's flash patch was described as "an apple hovering above a tree." Clearly, Agent Fin mistook the fern for a tree and simply didn't recognize the full symbolism.[note 2]
The location of Legal is classified, although it is known to be within the bounds of HQ. It has at least two approaches.
One is a corridor that is wallpapered with wilver paisley patterns on urple, with blello sconces. This may be a way for department employees and other agents to approach the department with mundane legal business of the kind involving loads of paperwork, since such was the case in the only visit via this corridor documented so far. In the past, Despatch also needed access to Legal to drop off apprehended author-inserts and the charge lists and other evidence brought against them.
Another approach is a cold, black corridor with the curious property of causing psychic "sound" (such as that used by the Flowers to communicate) to echo. Access the department through this corridor requires some form of portal or teleportation, in which an orb of light falls from the ceiling and engulfs the visitor. Presumably, this transports one to a more secret and secure part of the department. Visitors don't get to this stage very often at all.
The Legal Department is concerned with prosecuting the laws—all laws, including but not limited to the laws of canon, grammar, spelling, causality, physics, common sense, and reality. In the matter of canonical civil law, they are stated to be more proficient and to have more experience than the Discworld's pre-eminent lawyer, Mr. Slant.
The Fern has stated that the purpose of Legal is to maintain the balance between order and chaos, as represented by their departmental logo. As far as most agents are concerned, Legal's sole purpose is to make their lives miserable by enforcing the Narrative Laws, especially those of Comedy and Irony, especially when it is least convenient. Precisely how Legal does this is unknown, but it is certain that they do. BEEPs always come just when an agent is trying to relax; puns are automatically taken literally; there is always a fruit cart in a chase scene; there is always a flaming wheel to roll away from any crash; and so on, and so forth. At least until a trope becomes so predictable it's no longer funny. Then all bets are off.
They are ubiquitously believed to be ever-vigilant and capable of pretty much anything—which has led some agents to view them in an almost religious light, establishing a room for them in the Temple of All Faiths and making the sign of the Legal Chao to ward them off. (This doesn't work. Try knocking on wood.)
At times when the PPC had dealings with self-inserted authors, Despatchers would refer their charges to Legal, who would deal with the literary and reality-based ones themselves and refer any criminal ones on to World One law enforcement agencies if necessary. If an author persistently violated reality, the author would be arrested. They have likely not continued in this function (at least in HQ) since the PPC stopped dealing with real writers altogether c. 2008, when the Department of Author Correspondence closed.
Status Within the PPC
Legal enjoys a peculiar position within the PPC, both an integral part of its daily function and yet aloof from it. The Fern has indicated that they would be willing to leave entirely should something happen to HQ, and in one dystopian AU it is confirmed that Legal goes on doing its thing long after the rest of Headquarters has fallen.
Legal does its best to remain neutral in the affairs of the PPC and other organisations and keep all parties subject to the Narrative (and possibly mundane) Laws, the Fern stating that openly taking sides would destroy everything the PPC works for, but they are willing to bend the rules a little when an existential threat reveals itself.
In 2005, Agent Fin Sharkley (DMS) was partnered with Agent Aspen Green, a "field operative in the Legal Department" who specialized in the laws of physics, in an experimental team. Fin may well be the only non-Legal agent who has ever seen the inside of the department.
In 2006, during the Crashing Down crisis, the Sub Rosa appealed to the Fern for aid from Legal in the conflict. The Fern was unable to commit to much, but did agree to "bend the odds" to allow the forces of HQ a few slim opportunities that, if seized, would allow them to win. That instance might or might not have been influenced by Agent Aspen nearly having been murdered by the DIS before the Reorganisation.
The known divisions of Legal are:
- The Arbitrary Censorship Division
- This division once delivered a rather strange message to the Department of WhatThe. They may also be responsible for the sort of timely interruptions and fades to black that prevent agents from exceeding the rating of their story—or at least make it look like they were going to even if they weren't. Arbitrary, after all.
- The Canon Laws Division
- This is the division of lawyers that can out-lawyer the Discworld's Mr. Slant. If Upstairs needs to make an air-tight contract with a canonical entity or get an agent out of legal trouble in a Word World, these are the people they call.
- The Cosmic Irony Division
- Likely the division responsible for maintaining appropriate levels of irony in HQ. May or may not be affiliated or synonymous with the Ironic Overpower.
- The Physics Division
- More or less what it says on the tin, this division monitors the laws of physics as applied to HQ, the Real World, and the various canon worlds. Violations of these laws in fanfiction are quite serious. Agents who are unfamiliar with the subject may refer to the Legal Department Physics Handbook by Agent Aspen Green.
- The Trans-Normal Accountancy Division
- It seems this division monitors and possibly influences the forces of chance, probability, luck, "the odds," or whatever you want to call it. If million-to-one chances really do crop up nine times out of ten, these are the entities to thank for it.
An unnamed female lawyer appears in the AU Catastrophe Theory story "Bound and Gagged," but her existence in the prime timeline is unconfirmed.
Agent Meg contemplating that a "Murphy from Legal" might claim responsibility for an event that looked like an application of Murphy's Law was probably just a joke. There is no evidence that an agent named Murphy works in the Legal Department.
None of Legal's internal records are currently available for public view. As the wind is seen in the blowing of the leaves, the actions of Legal are known through other people's dealings with them.
- "Sleepover!!! - A Girl Called Bob," Agent Meg (Despatch)
- Meg works closely with Legal to bring author-inserts to justice.
- "Tales from Response Center #6.022*10^23," Agents Aspen (LD) and Fin (DMS)
- Aspen of the Legal Department is experimentally partnered with Fin of the Department of Mary Sues. They give us our first look inside the department.
- Crashing Down, Chapter 12 by Huinesoron
- Features the only other known visit to the Legal Department and a conversation with the Fern.
- "Arbitrary" (interlude), Agents Elanor Laison and Mortic Wentway (DW)
- The Antigravity Apple and the Fern are concurrently listed as Legal's department head in the PPC Handbook, the former on the Departments page and the latter on the Flowers page. The Apple is acknowledged in chem_nerd's spin-off, written from March 2005 to March 2006. The Fern is acknowledged as of Crashing Down by Huinesoron, set June 2006.
- More likely, Neshomeh just didn't realize Legal already had a flash patch when she suggested the Legal Chao into being in a now-lost Board discussion. Funny how it works, though...
- "Sleepover!!! - A Girl Called Bob" by Meg Thornton, Jun 2002
- "Tales from Response Center #6.022*10^23 - Part 1" by chem_nerd, Mar 19, 2005
- "Notes on Despatch" by Meg Thornton; archived at the PPC LiveJournal Community by Araeph on Sep 12, 2005
- Crashing Down, Chapter 4 by Huinesoron, c. 2007
- Crashing Down, Chapter 12 by Huinesoron, c. 2008
- "Tales from Response Center #6.022*10^23 - Part 4" by chem_nerd, Apr 6, 2005
- Crashing Down, Chapter 7 by Huinesoron, c. 2007
- "Cosmic Love" by Neshomeh and Phobos, Jan 26, 2012
- "The Dark Side - Epilogue" by Neshomeh et al., Aug 11, 2010
- The Room of Legal in the Temple of All Faiths, maintained by Huinesoron. Accessed Jan 8, 2019.
- "Greetings and Hello" by Huinesoron
- "Catastrophe Theory: Bound and Gagged" by Phobos, Jul 3, 2013
- "Arbitrary" by Huinesoron
- "Tales from Response Center #6.022*10^23 - Part 7" by chem_nerd, Mar 7, 2006
- "TeddyBear - Celeste" by Meg and Will, May 2002