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Should Lawyers Learn Programming?

expert technology

Some knowledge of computer programming makes sense for lawyers. But if you are drawn to coding applications, be careful.

The allure of programming computers strikes a fair number of practicing attorneys. The computer opens the door to absolute control and unlimited creativity. It can also swallow up vast amounts of uncompensated time.


The illusion of building an amazing new tool for performing legal work can lead a lawyer into days of experimentation and study. Both law and coding involve working with extensive, rules-based systems. Some complex logic skills are transferrable between the two disciplines.

Be careful. You may not be aware of a cold reality of programming if you find yourself headed down this path. Programmer efficiency varies widely.

Skilled programmers with years of experience doing nothing but coding can become amazingly productive. They can write complex, interdependent modules at breakneck speed. They are like fluent linguists who have spent years attaining proficiency. Instead of translating from English into, say, Japanese, at rapid conversational speed, efficient programmers translate from concepts into code as fast as they can type.

As an attorney learning to program, you may be able to understand the concepts and acquire some proficiency, but efficiency? For a mere mortal to become competent, you are looking at years dedicated full-time to learning and coding.

If you think coding and designing may truly be your calling, look into it. Find out what it will take to make a living at it. If you are not efficient, you won't be competitive. After years devoted to becoming a lawyer, you may demote yourself to a less-satisfying, less-compensated worklife.

If you are not destined to become a truly proficient programmer, you have some excellent options to blend your legal knowledge and skills with involvement in technology.

Look for opportunities to become a member of a team that produces a new law-related application. You don't have to be a proficient coder to be a valuable contributor to software development.

Learning how to whiteboard a process? Great idea! Understanding best practices for designing a system? Yes! Becoming expert in the tweaking of existing legal applications, great! Creating a system yourself in a powerful programming language? Not so fast, or at least not without a career change.

Like to know more about this topic? Here are some resources:

What Non-Programmers Should Know About Programming [Short post]

The Philosophy of the Course [Computer Programming for Lawyers ]

Programming For Non-Programmers: Fundamentals [Udemy course - $49]

Best No-Code Development Platforms Software [List of easy-to-use development software]

Wells H. Anderson, JD, GPSolo eReport Contributing Technology Editor and CEO of SecureMyFirm, 952/922-1120,
We protect small firms from cyber threats with affordable, multiple layers of defense.
Originally published in GPSolo eReport; Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division; American Bar Association.

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