We’ve all seen articles and blog posts suggesting that lawyers should learn to program. Some contend that this knowledge will allow litigators to remain relevant, especially as artificial intelligence’s purview widens. Others say this learning will help lawyers meet their professional conduct responsibility to understand technology.
Curious what legal technologists thought, we asked them: Do lawyers need to be able to code in order to really succeed in the industry long term? Here’s what they said:
I think lawyers would be better served by a tailored “Intro to programming for lawyers” course, which could cover:
- Query logic and regular expressions, to help with constructing search queries
- Technologically, how computers and the Internet work at a high level
- What programs are good at, to help recognize repetitive tasks that could be automated
- What programs are bad at, to set realistic expectations of what software is capable of
Assuming a lawyer is not interested in becoming a programmer, I think that time would be better spent learning topics like these, that focus specifically on how computer science can be applied in the legal industry. Otherwise, programming to become a better lawyer would be like fishing to become a better lawyer — the latter might teach you important lessons about patience, persistence, and so on that carry over to legal, but there are more time effective ways to do that, unless you happen to like fishing!
Adding to what Brandon said, an understanding of computing and technology will also help lawyers as cases more often center around technical complexities, like the FBI vs. Apple encryption battle. In general, if the narrative of a case hinges on a programming decision, it might be hard to approach without prior exposure. Volkswagen claimed (at least for awhile) that some engineers decided to program devices in their cars to rig emissions tests. It’s easier to evaluate that claim if you can follow the engineering process.
I don’t think it’s necessary for lawyers to be able to code in order to succeed in the legal industry. Having a strong background in any academic subject can surely help hone skills for success, but that doesn’t make the ability to code a requirement. A general understanding of when and how to use technology seems more important for success in the industry than knowing how to write code.
What do you think? Should lawyers learn to program?