Why every lawyer should learn how to code

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The world has never seen industries evolve faster than the present day. We’re seeing industries such as healthcare, finance, transportation, and tourism embrace the opportunities that come with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

However, there is one cornerstone field that is lagging behind: Law. 

The legal profession’s basic toolset hasn’t changed much since the quill and inkpot. While many firms remain behind the times, it is inevitable that change is on the horizon.

New technologies and increased competition are forcing the legal industry to slowly remake itself. While traditional law firms have been slow to adapt, it is these more overt inefficiencies that a new crop of start-ups and law firms are aiming to exploit.

Are you a legal professional interested in learning to code? Get in touch here.

Where tech and law unite, progress is inevitable

In the past decade, Legal Tech has slowly become a lucrative investment domain of its own. Legal Tech has gradually moved toward offering holistic technology solutions instead of focusing on hype and buzzwords. Many investors are choosing to focus on automation, productivity and orchestration-oriented software products. 

Private equity and venture capital investors have been very active when it comes to Legal Tech. The top three areas of Legal Tech investment were contracts management (with 44% of firms investing), matter management (42%), and governance, risk, and compliance technologies (37%).

The global Legal Tech market generated revenues of USD 17.32 billion in 2019, with incumbents generating USD 16.75 billion of the total. The Legal Tech startup market generated USD 570 million in 2019 and is forecasted to reach USD 2.49 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 27.82 per cent from 2020 to 2025.

Legal Tech startups

Internationally, Legal Tech startups such as Clio, a cloud-based practice management platform designed to provide legal client management remedies are taking off. The company’s platform accelerates the process of tracking, billing, administration, client communication and facilitates day-to-day operations, enabling clients to manage cases in a hassle-free manner.

Locally, two innovative Legal Tech startups,  Legal Lens and BriefCo, held by Cycad Group have received an undisclosed amount of funding from Imvelo Ventures, a local venture capital firm founded by Capitec Bank and Empowerment Capital Investment Partners. 

Why lawyers are actually well suited to coding

On the surface, coding and law seem to be worlds apart. But the core of being a lawyer is actually quite similar to the core of being a programmer. If you have the skills and mindset to be a great lawyer, you’re likely already equipped with the tools you’ll need to learn to program. 

Like law, coding is based on logic and reasoning, and is about finding solutions to practical problems. While the long-running debate on whether lawyers should learn to code and whether it should be taught in law schools continues, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that having at least some knowledge of coding is useful as a lawyer. While you don’t need to become a full-on programmer, having some coding skills might give you a competitive advantage in the legal field. What’s more, many lawyers are more suited to it than they realise.

Why learning to code is invaluable as a lawyer

Learning to code can help lawyers to better understand the realm of the possible when it comes to tools that can help their practice. By knowing what you can do with the tools you have and knowing what kind of tools are available to you, you can be a better member of interdisciplinary teams. And, if you’re hiring actual coders to customise programs for your firm, you’ll have the language to be able to ask for (and get) what you want. 

As a lawyer, you have the opportunity to upgrade yourself and further develop your repertoire by learning new skills which complement your logical thinking and improve your legal skills. Coding can drive your career to the next level and make you a formidable force in the world of law. For instance, lawyers involved in the world of tech, responsible for roles that include Patent Prosecution, IP Licensing and IP Litigation can benefit massively from having a coding context so as not to be on the outside looking in.

In an increasingly data- and tech-driven legal industry, embracing innovation is key to future-proofing your legal capabilities. Digital technology has changed law in the same ways that other technologies have, which is to say that it’s streamlined aspects of law such as automation as well as making the ability to scale your work easier.

Computer science skills that could be particularly valuable include:

  • Coding languages to help you mine data, like Python or SQL
  • Algorithms for problem solving
  • Privacy and cybersecurity
  • Cloud computing to better understand the cloud and how it can help your practice
  • Scalability to allow solutions to handle different loads of work
  • Database design for information organization

How to approach learning to code

Learning to code as a lawyer doesn’t mean dropping out of your practice to devote yourself full-time to building complex software. It shouldn’t be an all-or-nothing focus (i.e. being either a complete coding Luddite or an advanced lawyer computer programmer). Most lawyers should approach programming with the goal of at least becoming “coding literate” – becoming fluent in the language of coding, to the extent that best serves them.

Preparing for the future

Tomorrow’s lawyers will be the people who develop the systems that will solve clients’ problems. These legal professionals will be legal knowledge engineers, legal risk managers, experts in design thinking, and more. You too can develop new ways of solving legal problems with the support of technology. In many ways, the legal sector is undergoing the digitisation that other industries have gone through, and because it’s very document-intensive, it’s actually an industry poised to benefit greatly from what technology can offer.

If you’re looking to explore coding as a lawyer, there are courses that can help make the process easier and more effective. If you want to start by building your Legal Technology knowledge base, HyperionDev can get you there with part-time coding bootcamps that can be done remotely and will allow you to continue to do what you do best. Evolve your skills here.