Where does coding fit in the future of the legal profession?

Posted by Rob Walsh, community karma 1466

I just saw the free e-book Coding For Lawyers run across one of my social media feeds, and it made me wonder how coding as a practice will fit into the careers of lawyers in the future.

The author of the aforementioned e-book starts with something very practical: using regular expressions to aid in the searching of particular parts of text, like citations. This scenario he mentions "may be intuitive for many lawyers, particularly those who were on law review."

Searching for citations is only the tip of the iceberg though. Consider the article "PUNITIVE DAMAGES, REMUNERATED RESEARCH, AND THE LEGAL PROFESSION" by Shireen A. Barday with help from Aaron Swartz. In the article, a script coded with the Python programming language is used to search through 441,170 articles in the Westlaw "Journals and Law Reviews" database and helps Barday identify that "authors who receive industry funding tend to draw conclusions in line with the institutional positions of their underwriters."

As programming becomes a skill added to the lawyer's arsenal, I would expected to see this type of analysis more and more – it's far easier to script searching for keywords throughout documents than doing so by hand.

With more lawyers embrace programming I would also expect that collaboration will improve the tools they create. As Cass Sunstein identifies in "GROUP JUDGMENTS: STATISTICAL MEANS, DELIBERATION, AND INFORMATION MARKETS", open-source software, for example, provides a method by which decentralized "bits" of privately held information can be drawn together in software design, thus ensuring improvements that go far beyond the capacities of small groups of experts. You can already see this in thecomments on the Coding For Lawyers site, where the crowd is already giving the author feedback on improving the ebook.

Where do you see programming/coding developing as a practice among lawyers? What areas do you predict are ripe for the use of programming in law?

over 9 years ago

1 Comment

Andrew Plumb-Larrick, community karma 37
This is an interesting question. One answer might be that law librarians are more likely to embrace some of these tools and techniques -- the example of searching or processing text with regular expressions particularly caught my attention -- than most practicing attorneys. In academic settings and many practice settings some of the research and related text processing where this would be most useful remains heavily supported by libraries and their staffs.
over 9 years ago
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