Side Effects May Include...

Now that I have presented the goals for this course–making lawyers more efficient by teaching them how to code–let me distinguish other goals that are not my central goals for this course but may be pleasant side effects of becoming a computer programmer.

To be clear, I don’t have any problem with these admirable goals. Deep down, I hope many of my students will achieve these goals as a side-effect of this course, or because this course spurs future study. But I am of the firm opinion that it is extremely challenging to teach a law student how to become a coder in just one, three-credit, semester-long course if all one does is stick closely to the modest goal of teaching basic programming competency. I think it distracts from the laser focus one should have on this challenging goal to confuse things with other goals like these:

  • This course is not designed to teach you how to think like a techie. This is not my goal, because I don’t really know how I would begin to do that. Knowledge of basic computer programming is neither necessary nor sufficient for being a credentialed or capable techie. The acquisition of such knowledge might be a great first step toward becoming a techie, but I’m not interested nor necessarily well-positioned to teach you how to get to that point.

  • This course is not a course about technology policy. You will almost never hear me trying to connect the skills I am teaching to the Crypto Wars, or information privacy, or intellectual property, or net neutrality, even though I think about topics like these in my research, writing, and other courses.

  • This course is not deisgned to teach you how to talk to techies. This might be a pleasant side effect of the course, but we will not fold in lessons on technological translation in this course. Again, I do this in my other courses, but there simply is no time for it in programming.

This is a skills course, plain and simple. I hope someday this course will be seen as a supplement to legal research and writing rather than a parallel to doctrinal courses. Like LRW, this course is meant to be transsubstantive, to teach you how to be a better lawyer, irrespective of your specialty or style of practice.