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Is It Time to Give Up Law and Learn to Code?

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 08, 2015 12:58 PM

Have you seen FindLaw's 99 Things to Do With Your JD, Besides Practice Law? Though it's six years old now, it's still incredibly popular -- thanks, Google! It might be time to tip the list over into the triple digits with the addition of the newest ex-lawyer trend: lawyers leaving practice to become coders.

Can lawyers make the switch from the United States Code to computer code? Probably. Should they give up the law for programming? Well ... it depends.

Follow the Money

Sure, partners certainly rake it in and BigLaw associates are hardly starving, but it might make more economic sense to pursue a career as a programmer rather than law. Many law students are struggling to find employment, but there's a huge demand for programmers and other tech professionals -- who often achieve high, if not BigLaw-level, salaries.

Over the span of a career, programmers might actually make more than most lawyers. William Ha, former lawyer, current programmer and author of Quit Law and Code, argues that professionals can earn almost $1 million more over their careers by pursuing a degree in software development instead of a law.

Future Proofing Your Professional Skills

While the legal market is slowly recovering from the 2008 recession, tech has been booming -- and law still hasn't fully adjusted to technological developments. Some techno-futurists argue that advances in tech are posed to displace lawyers when it comes to certain routine legal tasks, from discovery to brief writing.

Someone will need to program those robot lawyers. Why not former lawyers? If the tech boom isn't just a bubble -- and that's a big if -- learning to code and program can be a way for lawyers to "future proof" their skills, preparing them for coming market changes.

Then There's the Code

Some programmers claim that learning code is easy enough that most anyone with decent intelligence can do it. Perhaps. There are certainly plenty of programming boot camps that promise to teach you to code, and help you land a job, in a matter of months.

But it takes a certain mind to want to stare at computer code all day. Programming can be tedious and isolating. If you're a lawyer who enjoys the social, inter-personal aspect of the law, that can be hard to find as a programmer. After all, tech is the industry that invented Soylent, a tasteless nutritional mix, as an alternative to eating with others. That is to say, coding might not be for everyone.

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