I was going to entitle this post “Learning to Code”, but then I read Jake Levine’s blog post, Don’t Learn How to Code, Learn How to Make Things. So, despite the fact that I fit the stereotypical “[JD] interested in technology”, I am going to try to remember that “[p]rogramming is a means to an end, not an end in itself.” So, instead of learning to code, I am learning to make things.
A recent article, Programming Bootcamp Turns Lawyer Into Hacker, describes one M&A lawyer’s transformation from attorney to programmer: Felix Tsai was as far from a hacker as you could get. He was a lawyer. It then goes on to detail Mr. Tsai’s dissatisfaction with the lawyer life and the joys of being a computer programmer:
I didn’t mind being a lawyer, but I don’t think I could say I woke up every day saying that I was happy doing the work,” Felix Tsai says. “Every day when I wake up I’m really happy coding.
I am neither a lawyer nor a programmer, so I am not in any position to criticize Mr. Tsai’s career change (here comes the but), but why not do both? In the words of Marc Andreessen, “[s]oftware is eating the world.” The world includes law. Whether we are talking about data-driven contracts, “mapping the legal genome,” or providing greater consumer access to legal services through technology, the landscape of law is changing, and so are clients’ needs. I think Margaret Hagan’s drawing, “What a Lawyer Should Know” sums up this changing landscape quite nicely.
But simply reading and writing about these things (as I have been) is not enough, in my opinion, to truly understand them. Therefore, I am attempting (in my free time, which law school offers very little of) to learn how to “make things” (and yes, I am using, in part, Codeacademy). I have three goals for this endeavor:
- Internalize the creation and development of websites and applications;
- Further my understanding of how existing and emerging information technologies work to improve legal practice; and
- Better understand the needs of potential clients working within this space.
These aspirations are, of course, long term. However, I think learning little by little, trying to “make things” along the way, and sticking to a plan will make this learning process both effective and enjoyable. So far, I have covered the absolute basics of HTML and CSS, but I look forward to learning more.
If anyone has any tips or good sites to learn, please let me know!