Coding and law: how coding made me a better paralegal
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Learning to code can be daunting for someone like me, with a humanities-based background who hasn’t studied maths or computing since they were 16. Fortunately, undertaking a course to build my own website showed me the skills required for coding and law are not wholly different, and can complement each other in a lot of ways.
Unfortunately, for me and my course partner, when it came to the final presentation of the websites there was a fault in our code. We were faced with a room of 30 people ready to present only to find the landing page, which had worked perfectly only a few hours ago, was completely distorted. We spent the next two hours poring over every line of code we had written trying to rectify the error before the presentations were over. Thankfully, we found the problem and fixed it just in time to present. The work I put in to fix our website reminded me starkly of reviewing and rewording commercial documents. Just how one tiny error can ruin your code, one badly worded clause can ruin a contract. Attention to detail is always important in all fields.
Developers have a few methods of managing projects which are simplistic and could be applied in the legal sector. They have a well-defined process of catching mistakes called “code reviews”. In code reviews, you work with a partner to consistently and systematically check each other’s code before posting it in the final version. Learning how to review my partner’s code made it easier for me to evaluate large legal documents and spot when individual clauses were inconsistent with the document. The process of continually reviewing each other’s work gave us both a strong sense of joint ownership, something which could be mutually beneficial to projects in all fields, including law.
I enjoyed attending Code First: Girls because it was an insight into how technology works and gave me the knowledge to be more involved in the area. Other than being hugely enjoyable and meeting like-minded people, I found that the skills I developed on the course are directly relevant to my role as a paralegal in a law firm, specialising in commercial technology.
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Caroline Chalk is a commercial technology paralegal
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