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Five Reasons Lawyers Should Answer the Call to Code

Patents. Mergers and acquisitions. Legal history. Copyright. Income tax. Securities regulation. Coding. Insert record-scratching sound here. Coding? While understanding the ins and outs of building computer software might not make the list of things you expect to learn in law school, the fact is that the ability to code -- or at least to understand the fundamentals of coding -- has great value for lawyers in today’s technologically-driven world. Let’s take a closer at five reasons why law students should add coding to their list of must-learn subjects.

Sep 6, 2023
  • Education

Patents. Mergers and acquisitions. Legal history. Copyright. Income tax. Securities regulation. Coding. Insert record-scratching sound here. Coding? While understanding the ins and outs of building computer software might not make the list of things you expect to learn in law school, the fact is that the ability to code -- or at least to understand the fundamentals of coding -- has great value for lawyers in today’s technologically-driven world. Let’s take a closer at five reasons why law students should add coding to their list of must-learn subjects. 1. Technology-savvy lawyers are in great demand. You’d be hard-pressed to find a company today which doesn’t have technology at its core. Not to mention that the most significant challenges and opportunities facing society today -- from network neutrality to self-driving cars -- hinge largely upon matters of technology law. While lawyers won’t be called upon to solve math’s greatest challenges, they will need an understanding of mathematical and computer principles in order to navigate many of today’s most relevant issues. How can you expect to give accurate legal advice on matters involving technology if you don’t have a true understanding of the big picture? 2. It offers brain training. After devoting a year to learning to code, New York Times journalist Juliet Waters wrote about her experiences. Comparing programming to writing, she discovered that both processes involve a mix of frustration and enjoyment. Her ultimate conclusion? “The elegant loops of logic, the attention to detail, the mission of getting the maximum amount of impact from the fewest possible lines, the feeling of making something engaging from a few wispy, abstract ideas — these challenges were familiar to me as a critic. By my third month, I had internalized a new logic, a different way of looking at information.” In other words, not only did Waters complete her course of study with a new understanding of computer operating systems, but she also developing a newfound view of technology, its workings, and her place within a techno-centric society. In doing so, she grew in both competency and confidence. These same benefits carry over to the field of law. 3. Because Steve Jobs Said So. It’s not so surprising that Steve Jobs thought everyone should know how to code. What’s more surprising? The Apple luminary’s view of computer science as a liberal art. Jobs proposed that just as going to law school teaches people to think a certain way whether they ultimately become lawyers or not, learning to code offers the same rich insights. In law as in life, the ability to experiment with various problem-solving strategies has great value. And while lawyers who learn to code may never actually program a computer or create software, they’ll derive ongoing benefits from learning to think in the way that coding requires. So while Jobs was no fan of lawyers in general, he was a huge supporter of lawyers learning to code. 4. It’s a fun and fulfilling outlet. While the coding world may initially seem completely foreign and inaccessible to novices, learning to code is like learning a foreign language. The more you learn, the more satisfying it becomes. Factor in that most lawyers spend their careers mired in words, the different kind of outlet offered by coding can be a refreshing change of pace. And while you the words “creative” and “coding” may not seem to go together, coding is actually all about creating. Coding also offers something else often lacking from the practice of law: Closure. While court cases can drag on for years without growing closer to resolution, coding promises an end result. 5. You’ve already got a head start. If you’re like most lawyers, you didn’t choose to go to law school because you love math and science. But this doesn’t mean you’re not suited to learning code. In fact, many lawyers are predisposed for coding success due to a combination of natural abilities and skills learned in law school. Logic and reasoning, in particular, are essential parts of surviving law school, the bar, and the practice of law. They’re also very much part of the coding process. While building a computer from scratch may not be in your future, proficiency in coding has potential beyond that. Whether you’re interested in focusing your practice in the area of science and technology law or you’re simply looking to be conversant in technology-related topics should they arise -- and they most likely will -- during the course of your law career, studying coding is a promising path to competency at the increasingly happened-upon juncture of law and technology.

Joanna Hughes

Author

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.