By Chelsea Strauss
“Coding and the Law” was a breath of fresh air. There were no cases to read; no plaintiffs; no defendants; no lawsuits; no damages.
Prior to taking this course, I had no idea what to expect. Offered as a one-week 2-credit intensive class during Suffolk Law School’s January intercession, I was curious to see how this workshop would be conducted. My expectations were exceeded, to say the least, as each day was a new adventure.
The course centered on a few free software programs, which we downloaded before the course began. The first, Pingendo, is a web-design platform that we used to create our own personal website. We also downloaded Github to host our live, personalized webpage. We also learned how to use two web-based applications, QnA Markup and A2J Author to create interactive questionnaires, and HotDocs document automation software. After a week of intensive work with these programs, both on my laptop in the classroom and in the law school computer lab, I am proud to say I am proficient in the basics of all these programs.
Upon reflection, I found QnA Markup to be the most influential program to learn as a law student. QnA Markup is an interface we used to build an interactive question and answer session. The software was designed to make life easier for attorneys and their clients. The beauty of QnA Markup is that the author builds a questionnaire using an internet markup language and provides a number of answers. The user can then click on designated answers to fill out the survey, which will lead them to particular questions based on their responses.
Using QnA Markup, I integrated my interest in Family Law by building a questionnaire for clients before they hire a divorce attorney to learn whether legal representation is necessary. Clients may feel a wide range of emotions as they consider divorce, especially if the situation includes domestic violence. So, my goal was to make clients feel comfortable by creating a safe location where people can begin learning about the legal process at their convenience. After the client fills out the questionnaire, the program I built generates advice and provides further resources based on the user’s unique inputs.
Beyond the workshop-style class, we also participated in classroom discussions about how technology is changing the field of law. These discussions were not conducted using the typical law school Socratic method; they were laid back but equally productive and engaging. I found this part of the class stimulating because we discussed how the skills we developed in “Coding and the Law” will make us more marketable candidates when we begin the job application process.
This course helped me take notice of how these new technologies and the law are converging with greater frequency than ever before. I truly believe technology and law are progressing together, and I want to be a driver of this revolution.
Chelsea Strauss JD’17 is a day student and active in the Child and Family Law Student Association, Environmental Law Society and Women’s Law Association. During the summer after her first year, she worked as a judicial intern in Superior Court in Providence, R.I. For more information about Suffolk Law’s Legal Technology and Innovation programs, visit http://legaltech.suffolk.edu/