By Harrison Lebov
I thought law school was strictly textbooks and case briefs, until I took a January intercession course called “Coding and the Law.”
“Coding and the Law” was like no other course I had ever taken in law school. Class time was predominantly spent in the school’s computer lab, or on our personal laptops in the classroom. Professors gave hands-on demonstrations of software programs and led guided discussions about their applicability to the field of law—far from the typical law school lecture. The rest of the five-day intensive course was spent writing code, building websites, developing questionnaires, and creating document templates through small projects and assignments.
I originally decided to enroll in “Coding and the Law” because I had somewhat of an interest in the budding technologies available to the legal field. I did not, however, expect the course to operate as it ultimately did.
On day one, we learned how to use a website-building application called Pingendo, where we were first introduced to HTML. I had some familiarity HTML before but was far from comfortable with markup languages. However, through trial and error, I debugged my way to HTML competency.
Then, on days two and three we tried our hands with another computer language: QnA. We learned how to use QnA Markup and A2J Author, both of which are guided-interview applications with different interfaces but similar premises. We created virtual decision trees, where a user’s previous answer determines what the following question will be, ultimately to provide a person with the legal information they sought.
Perhaps the most legally applicable tidbit of technological innovation was my introduction to document automation. I see document automation as the way of the future for preparing legal documents and delivering legal services efficiently. Practically any document that a firm or other type of business produces frequently can be made into a template and then automated by filling in fields to generate a new document in a fraction of the amount of time it would otherwise take. By integrating document automation software like HotDocs into everyday functions of a firm, drafting a motion that would normally take an hour, can now be completed in its entirely, nearly error-free, in a span of less than five minutes. By creating model templates, a savvy employee can increase the firm’s efficiency and decrease economic waste.
These are the types of skills I intend on improving, and “Coding and the Law” is certainly a class I would regret not taking.
Harrison Lebov JD’17 is a day student in the Legal Technology and Innovation concentration, a staff member on the Journal of High Technology Law, and Vice President of the Suffolk Law Intramural Basketball Association. During the summer after his first year, he was a judicial intern in Boston Municipal Court.
For more info about Suffolk Law’s Legal Technology and Innovation concentration, visit www.suffolk.edu/legaltech.