It’s very easy to ask and answer the question ‘Do lawyers need to learn to code?’ with a no. The rise of ‘no-code’ platforms in recent years is almost a self-fulfilling confirmation bias that you don’t need to code as a lawyer. Each no-code platform is different in its features and functionality, but there are underlying similarities that underpin a way of thinking and a form of logic, which forms a pre-requisite to any of these platforms. Here are 5 skills that lawyers should learn and fall pretty close to ‘coding without coding’:
1. Process mapping
Quite often legal teams don’t have a process map and don’t understand the benefit of having one. Think about the start of a process, which should be marked by an oval shape. Understand that the start of one process is usually the end of another – for instance, ‘legal team receives a request for instructions’ is the output of another process such as the procurement team’s selection of a vendor.
The benefit of process mapping is not just the output of the process map itself but also the resulting activities that facilitate improvements. You start to think about:
- Data flow – Understand where the data comes from and where the data goes to.
- Wasted time – Unnecessary steps, circular processes and overly complicated approvals waste time.
- Process improvements – Measure process improvements to have something to anchor back to when you need to make subsequent decisions.
- Cross-team collaboration – Collaboration with other teams encourages engagement with stakeholders and a multidisciplinary approach to legal work.
Process mapping can be done online or using software like Microsoft Visio. However, it’s a lot easier to do this on a whiteboard in a face-to-face team meeting. All you really need for process mapping is a pencil, paper and a thorough understanding of the 6 core shapes.
2. Form design
There is an art in succinctly asking end users a series of questions, which could form a standalone article. Structuring your questions makes you think about the:
- Order and flow of the questions (grouping relevant questions together whilst maintaining the correct point to diverge into different question sets)
- Desired data sought as output (for instance, structured data or free text)
- User experience in terms of question types (radio buttons versus checkboxes)
- Ideal length of the form (matter intake forms with more than 10 questions being broken up into sections)
Here’s a tip: Microsoft or Google Forms are a great place to start learning form design skills.
3. Conditional logic
Conditional logic is ultimately a series of ‘if-then’ statements. Commonly featured in Excel formulas, the rise of ‘if-then’ logic underpins:
- Form designing – If the answer is yes, then ask this as a follow-up. Else, ask the next question.
- Process mapping – The decision triangle for example routes the question. If approval = yes, then proceed to execution. Else, do Y.
- Document automation – If party is a company, insert this execution block. Else, insert this execution block.
The key to mastering conditional logic is being able to articulate IF THEN logic in terms of structured data and ordering the statements in a logical flow, so nested statements don’t wind up in a dead end.
4. And/Or Logic
This reminds me of the basics of electrical circuits and some basic BODMAS. The challenge here is translating a complicated matrix (such as Delegation of Authority) into a series of grouped AND/OR statements. This skill comes into play mainly in the context of any rule-based trigger such as approvals or notifications, and there is an art in grouping brackets in a way that leaves nothing in a dead end. Thankfully, a lot of rule designers spare you the dread of manually adding brackets to group conditions together, like the Rule Designer in this example, which escalates a Design and Construct contract if it’s between a certain value range or very risky.
5. Data analysis
The first question you ask when you start to collect the data is ‘So what?’ The humble Excel pivot table is a good enabler of the thinking process you need to analyse your data and answer the question ‘How can I best visualise data and convey it in a digestible format?’ Depending on your audience, you may be interested in:
Reporting a statistic – Take a simple count over time as an example. What was the total number of requests we received in the last year?
- Measuring two axes in a bar chart – Compare an x-axis (such as a business unit) against a y-axis (such as a matter type).
- Presenting historical data in a pie chart – Use descriptive analysis to report on the percentage of work being done by each team member.
- Establishing trends – Lay out predications using a line graph on a time axis.
- Using Power BI reporting – Power BI gives you the ability to slice and dice data by different metrics and data points. However, you have to know who your audience is and what you are trying to convey.
As the adoption of no-code platforms – and legal technology solutions built on these same platforms – accelerates in the legal sector, it’s important that lawyers have the skills to use them effectively. For updates on legal technology and industry trends, subscribe to our Consensus newsletter or follow us on LinkedIn.
About the Author
Amanda is Barhead’s Engagement Manager for Legal Technology Solutions. She is a Geeky Guru for CLI’s Legalpreneurs Lab and Committee member Woman of Australian Legal Technology (WALTA). Amanda thrives on the opportunity to create technology solutions for legal teams. She brings 15 years of experience in legal and consulting roles and has a focus in knowledge management, change management, transformation, legal operations and innovation, automation and a variety of no-code legal technology platforms.