Code Red: Why Lawyers Don’t Need to Code

I mean, don’t get me wrong, lawyers can code, if they want to; but, they don’t have to. 

There’s a prevailing argument in legal tech circles over whether lawyers should be coders.  This argument is often misconstrued to mean that lawyers should be developing their own software.  And, that’s an entirely different thing.  It’s sort of like making the assumption that the guy who tinkers with an old Corvette on the weekend should launch an automotive corporation.  And, the same argument applies for lawyers that applies to that weekend warrior: he shouldn’t do that because he can make more money in his day job, which also carries with it far less risk.  The point is: if you want to be a lawyer, be a lawyer; if you want to start a software company, start a software company.  But, don’t do both. 

The math works, too. 

Solo, small and large law firms waste money and resources when they develop their own software, rather than using off-the-shelf software that can be customized for far less than it costs to build software from scratch.  The situation is even worse when lawyers become involved in a software build, because lawyers charge far more money than the average software developer or consultant, which means that lawyers are leaving money on the table when they do anything but lawyer.  Those attorneys who stick to substantive practice and farm out lower leverage activities make money; those lawyers who abandon those activities lose money.  That’s why it’s so important to practice at the top of your law license if you’re an attorney, and to effectively delegate work.

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