‘Coding The Law’ Online Course Launches

Flinders University in Australia is launching a six-month course to teach lawyers how to code. It will be open to practitioners around the world due to its online nature.

It’s aimed at all lawyers, but the ‘Coding the Law’ course organisers said that it would be of particular interest to professionals working in the access to justice (A2J) field. In part this is because of the course’s origins, which stem from a previous student-level course that was a great success and led to the creation of several working applications in the A2J area.

Leading the course is a barrister in the Supreme Court of South Australia, Mark Ferraretto, who also has a degree in Computer Science. He said of the course: ‘It is possible to acquire adequate coding skills for developing useful applications in a relatively short period of time.’

‘Our experience is that we have been able to teach law students useful coding skills over a single 12-week semester. We have students across all age ranges, with the only commonality their complete lack of coding skills and knowledge. Nonetheless, all have successfully developed practical applications,’ he added.

One example that came out of the earlier student course was the SACAT Homelessness Advisor app, that helps tenants quickly find emergency accommodation suited to their circumstances. The university is now liaising with the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to commission this app for real-world use.

The course developers added that: ‘The prospect of legal proceedings can strike fear in the hearts and wallets of many, but technology is alleviating some of the stress and making justice more accessible.

‘Online delivery of legal services is increasingly employed for simple applications, with its value coming to the fore this year amid COVID-19 isolation.’

And one way to build these online legal services is to get lawyers learning to code, or at least that is how the university sees things.

Which leads us to the inevitable question: should lawyers learn to code? To which the answer is always: no, of course you don’t have to feel like you should, no more than all lawyers should learn to windsurf. But, if you change the question to: would it be a handy extra skill for certain lawyers to learn who want to spend time building applications rather than getting someone else to make one for them? Then the answer is: yes, go for it.

Where lawyers are in smaller firms and may not have a tech team to lean on, nor perhaps have the spare cash to commission a group of professional devs to build exactly what they want, then it does make sense to Do-It-Yourself – if – and this an important caveat – you have the time to devote to such a project to get it to a level that is good enough for real-world use by potential clients, who naturally won’t be too happy if the app doesn’t work well. In short, if this is your passion, or you think it might be, and you want to put the time into this, then this is for you.

If you fancy doing the course, which costs A$3,000 or US$2,170, here is some more info:

Mode of delivery – 100% online

Duration – Self-paced to be completed over 6 months

Who should attend?

Members of the legal profession, including practising lawyers, who have an interest in legal technology and are looking to adapt technology into their practices. Mid, senior and top-level professionals working in the ‘access to justice community’ can benefit from this opportunity to learn new skills and engage with fellow industry professionals. Discounts are available, including for former Flinders University alumni.

Course content

Topic 1: Coding

Learn the coding skills required to write your application. Follow examples and work on exercises to hone your coding skills. Learn to code in Docassemble using Python

Topic 2: Project Management

Organise your own project group and decide on your own software project, or be assigned to a software project and a group. It’s up to you.

Prepare a software design document for your application and a project plan for implementing your software project.

Topic 3: Software Development

Implement your project plan, and write your software application. Learn how to package and deploy your software into your own organisation.

Learning outcomes

You’ll walk away with: a completed legal software application industry-standard coding and web design skills greater insight to potential opportunities for transforming your organisation’s processes expert feedback on your legal software application to help digitise your business, and the opportunity to engage with industry professionals.

Assessment

The course includes milestone activities which are designed to develop your skills and knowledge in each topic. Your facilitator will review each milestone activity with you as you progress through the course. To achieve mastery of the course you must adequately demonstrate completion of all milestone activities as specified in the Topic Guide. Students that demonstrate completion of all milestone activities are eligible to receive a certificate for this course.

If you’d like to apply you can email: mark.ferraretto@flinders.edu.au

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