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One thing that makes our company and our litigation software different is our priorities. We put good engineering first, and we owe much to the talent of our software developers. Every day, they build and improve the Everlaw platform to meet the needs of users. Curious about the secret lives of our coders? Here’s more about one of them: Software Engineer Victor Huang.
Q: How does a software feature go from being an abstract idea to a live tool?
Our Accounts and User Advocacy teams spend a lot of time talking to clients about what they need. This input is then turned into a prioritized list of features. Devs pick from this list based on expertise and interest. Then, we sit down with the relevant team members to hash out the finer-grain details of what is needed (e.g. What is the desired end product? How can we generalize specific needs to be useful to all users?).
After that, it’s crunch time. The devs will churn out a working prototype and will continue to iterate on it until all the kinks are hammered out and all the design specs are fleshed out. I can usually tell when I’m in this part of the development cycle when I start forgetting what day of the week it is and saying, “Oh, it’s already X PM?” a lot.
Once iteration is done, we enter QA, where we pressure test the new functionality. We aim to find and fix as many bugs as we can, and then we release. But it doesn’t end there! Our users are very good about offering feedback on our features. We keep track of all of the requests and ideas, and try to integrate them into our next versions of those features. It’s a wonderful cycle that starts and ends with meeting users’ needs.
Q: If you were an expert witness on any topic, what would it be?
Pop songs that have been on the radio since 2002. I spend a good half hour or so a week making sure I’m up-to-date with the Billboard Hot 100. And yes, I begrudgingly admit that Justin Bieber’s newest album is… pretty good.
Q: What’s your favorite lawyer movie or TV show?
Not sure if this counts, but Community. One of the main characters is a former lawyer who was disbarred because his degree was less than legitimate. (“I thought you got your degree from Columbia?”, “Well, now I have to get it from America.” That joke works better spoken than in writing).
Q: What is the hardest part of developing a legal tool?
To no one’s surprise, lawyers are smart people whose time is very valuable. If they’re going to use a tool or feature, it had better improve their workflow significantly. With that in mind, we try to get things correct from the get-go and to continuously solicit feedback.
A great example of this is the “flip it 90 degrees” discussion during development of last year’s homepage redesign. Our original design for the dashboard had the cards laid out horizontally. We felt that having horizontal scrolling would be very intuitive for touch devices: you could flip back and forth between binders with the flick of a finger! As we were getting ready to release it, someone pointed out that scrolling vertically felt better on a desktop and that scanning cards felt easier when laid out vertically than when laid out horizontally. We looked into it and found that a much higher percent of our users logged in from a desktop than from a touch device. So, we did a last-minute rotation (which is much harder than it sounds), and the result has yielded a better user experience.
Q: If you weren’t a developer, you would have been:
A teacher. Teaching is one of my passions, since I believe that you don’t truly understand something unless you can get someone else to understand it too. I teach a class for first time Computer Science TAs at UC Berkeley over the summer after work, and it’s always a lot of fun. (And yes, it’s very meta to teach how to teach.)
Q: Do you ever get asked for IT and hardware help by friends or family members?
I think confusion between being a dev and being in IT can best be summed up by a date I went on last year. When I told her that I studied computer science, she responded, “Oh, so you do IT work.” I explained that IT is usually client-facing, doing things like support or maintenance, while development was engineering a product and creating software. “Oh… so like, IT stuff.” Needless to say, there was no second date.
It’s a common misconception that modern software design and development is all about the product....