Computer Science for Lawyers

"Everyone in this country should learn to program a computer ... because it teaches you to think" -Steve Jobs

Last weekend I had the opportunity to start learning a new skill: The programing. You may wonder, why would a lawyer learn programming? Let's briefly discuss in the following lines.

A few years ago I came across an article that was titled "If you want to be a lawyer, learn to program". Basically, this article pointed out that smart contracts they would be the contracts of the future and that the work of lawyers would be reduced, unless they acquire skills that allow them to adapt to the new times.

By 2017, I was engaged in legal consulting with financial entities and some requested legal reports on the nature of the smart contracts, legal implications and others. Back then, the term Smart contract or smart contract was completely new to me. During my six years in law school, I had never heard a similar term[1]. In any case, this was not an impediment to finish the work after hours of investigation in specialized sources.

These experiences made it clear to me that traditional business models were increasingly adopting different technologies that led to a process or activity being carried out more efficiently; and not only as an instrumental support imperceptible by the consumer, but as part of the value in the offer of the product or service.

All of this allowed me to expand my horizons within the knowledge of law and the practice of law. I learned about encryption, blockchain, smart contracts, personal data, etc. However, my view on these issues has always been from a legal perspective; With which I asked myself more than once, should I go to the next level and delve deeper into the study of how technology works? In other words, learn how it works from a more engineering or computer science perspective? And maybe learn to program?

I am sure that many young lawyers and law students have asked similar questions. However, there is a big difference between learning something out of curiosity or pleasure than learning it out of necessity (eg it would allow me to give a more complete advice to startups).

Now, not only are businesses becoming more digital, but the legal profession itself is also evolving digital. In addition to the emergence of legaltech companies, today there are new roles for lawyers[2]; You can no longer only work as a legal consultant or litigator[3] after leaving the classrooms.

Indeed, following Richard Susskind[4], some of the new roles that would lead to the need to learn skills technicians would be the following:

  • Legal Knowledge Engineer: When legal services are standardized and informative, it will require a large number of talented attorneys to organize and model huge amounts of complex legal processes and materials. The right will have to be analyzed, distilled, and then captured as standard work practices to be incorporated into computer systems.[5]
  • Legal Technologist: It will no longer be enough to have mere interpreters to explain technology issues to lawyers and legal issues to technologists. We need a new group of self-reliant legal technologists whose impact on modern society will be profound: they will lay the foundations on which the legal service is built and the channels through which non-lawyers can access the law.[6]
  • Legal Data Scientist: With the increasing importance in the law of machine learning and predictive analytics, there will be a corresponding need for data experts who master the tools and techniques required to capture, analyze and manipulate large amounts of information. A solid background in math, programming or natural science will go a long way in this case.[7]

As can be seen, in the face of these new roles, learning about technology would be essential for better performance at work. However, this will not always be the case; for example, if you dedicate yourself to litigation in criminal proceedings.

For this reason, I believe that, although currently it may not be a necessity for many, law schools should give an initial space to elective subjects that deepen the teaching of topics related to technology. From personal data processing to computational thinking courses.

Returning to what was said in the first lines, either by hobby or because you want to turn your law career around, if you want to get rid of the doubt whether programming is for you, I recommend the course currently offered by Elen Irazabal through the following link: https://lawlesscodelen.github.io/curso_computacion_juridico/

Elen, whom we had the pleasure of to interview en The Crypto Legal, is a lawyer with several years dedicated to data science. Since her profile is legal, it is easier for her to identify those concerns and interests that attorneys who are seeking to innovate have through learning to code.

This 8-hour introductory course is great for curious attorneys who have many doubts about whether or not to venture into programming. The course is divided into a theoretical and practical part.

Definitely, once this course is finished, you will have more knowledge about basic aspects of computing and programming in python. However, I think the most important thing is that you will have enough elements to make the decision to deepen your knowledge of programming or seek to learn other skills that add value to your professional career in law.

 

 


[1] Of course, it is true that smart contracts became popular with Ethereum, which only came to light in 2015. However, the concept of Smart contract It was developed many years ago by Nick Szabo.

[2] In the Peruvian case, I have not yet heard job offers for these positions.

[3] Judge, notary, legal manager, etc.

[4] Susskind, Richard. (2017). Tomorrow's Lawyer: An Introduction to Your Future. Second Edition. Oxford

[5] The translation is mine.

[6] The translation is mine.

[7] The translation is mine.

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Adolfo Morán
Adolfo is Founder and Executive Director of Lawgic Tec, a non-profit association dedicated to research on law and new technologies. Lawyer from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP); Senior Legal Consultant at EY Law, specialized in Financial Law, FinTech, Financial Consumer Protection, Smart Contracts, Blockchain and Crowdfunding. Researcher accredited by the PUCP. Co-organizer of the Ethereum community from Lima, Peru. Email: contacto@lawgictec.org

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