Do coders need to learn to law?
I have been following the Centre of Computational Law at SMU with keen interest. They're the guys who illustrated the history of Singapore law with pretty graphs.
Phang Goh and Soh “THE DEVELOPMENT OF SINGAPORE LAW: A BICENTENNIAL RETROSPECTIVE” at paragraph 62/page 32. (From Celebrate 200 Years of Singapore law with pretty graphs)
They've also been involved in a pretty nifty combination of “Rules as Code” and docassemble.
✅ Open Source
✅ Runs on #RulesAsCode
✅ Understands exceptions
✅ Answers legal questions
✅ Gives explanations in English
✅ Gives all valid explanations for each answer
✅ Integrated with @Docassemblehttps://t.co/XQ5jIXH1ck
— Jason Morris💻⚖️🇨🇦 (@RoundTableLaw) June 3, 2021
I've heard a lot about Rules as a Code and I am curious how it could apply to real world applications. So I am definitely going to give this a run and see how far I can go with it.
As such, I was pretty curious to see the Centre in the news. Unfortunately, it's not really about those cool applications of computers and law I mentioned, but something dearer to every Singaporean's heart — jobs. It features SMU's new four year Computing and Law undergraduate course.
This excerpt from the news article tells you most of what you need to know about the course.
Students take modules from both the university's law and computing faculties, with an even split of modules across the two fields. The course starts off focusing on areas where there is significant overlap such as intellectual property. Prof Lim said that when they graduate, students will be able to work in various places like tech or legal firms, in roles that may not exist yet.
There are some interesting things written between the lines, so let me extract them here for you.
First, Students graduate with a Bachelor of Science (BSc), not a Bachelor of Laws (LLB). This means they can't apply for admission to the bar when they graduate. It's possible to progress to a JD in SMU Law, which would allow you to practice, but that would mean 6 years of studies instead of the usual 4.
Second, the article appears to concede that graduates might not be able to find work which takes full advantage of their skills.
If you would like to know what jobs exist in LegalTech in Singapore right now, you can take a look at Legal Tech Jobs:
Legal Tech Jobs filtered for jobs with location “Singapore”. By the way, that single job does not require a computer science degree.
In all, a course combining law and computers like this is going to require (1) bold students, and (2) students who have bold and supportive parents.
But maybe we are looking at this the wrong way. This isn't for lawyers who want to code. They are for coders who want to law. And if you want to look at it from that perspective, many things start to make sense. Take a look at the mix of subjects in the compulsory part of the degree:
Screenshot from https://scis.smu.edu.sg/bsc-computing-law/curriculum (as of June 2021)
Some knowledge of intellectual property law is going to be helpful for someone building solutions. Contract law, company law and the like are going to be beneficial for someone who is going to start a company, even if it isn't strictly in LegalTech. Torts, data protection, criminal law? Good to know, and will be very useful if you were thinking about Access to Justice. I am less familiar with the Computing Core section, but they seem more focused on creating products and running software development than I expected. Throw in some project management experience, and you have a unique candidate who can hit the ground running.
Would I take a course like this when I was 18? I don't think so. Students would generally expect to follow a well-trodden path to a career they already know. As a law student, it would be a lawyer. Maybe, as a backup plan, an in-house lawyer.
This is still an alternative career, but in an age of disruption, being able to think outside of your silo would be excellent preparation for a long and fruitful career. If I could speak to my 18-year-old self, I would tell him to carefully look at this.
Love.Law.Robots. – A blog by Ang Hou Fu