LAWYER BUILDING WEBSITES AND WHAT I LEARNED FROM ‘BEING’ A PROGRAMMER

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I am a master student in an international business law program. What do you expect to learn when you apply for this type of program? Maybe big things such as merger and acquisition transactions, banking rules, negotiation skills. Well, in my program it is almost correct, except for one thing: I have to learn how to build websites.

Yes, it is true. In one course, I had to create a website for investors of a public company to access and find information about that company. In another course, we are assigned to prepare a minimal viable product to pitch to investors. And guess which idea our group chose: it is a traveling platform, and I am in charge of creating the website again. 

I am a lawyer qualified to practice law in my home country, Vietnam. And, at first, I cannot imagine that I come to a new country to study law, and then I start being a website-builder. I initially thought: “Why I have to do this? Is there any common between lawyers and programmers?” But, when I think of that more clearly, and when I go deeply to what I am doing, I have different thoughts about the connection between lawyers and programmers and I learned more than I expected from ‘being’ a programmer. 

Building websites not only give me chances to gain new skills (I think I am confident enough to write in my CV that I have “basic web designing skill”) but also teaches me three important lessons that I can apply to my study, my future jobs and my life as well. 

Lesson 1: Don’t think too much, your solution is right in front of you

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I used Wix for building my websites. I completed my first website in my life quite smoothly. I just need to learn how to structure each site, how to design it in the ‘sexiest’ way (with graphics, photos) but still give the visitors the information they need and direct them to what they want to know. Done, piece of cake. The problem, however, came from the second website.

I needed to know how to filter the data I input to the system, then visitors of the website can choose exactly what they need on our website. I found and read lots of instructions on how to code, tried to understand the code examples, watched many instruction videos on YouTube, from the basic tutorial to the advanced one. Then I coded, by using almost exactly what I saw on YouTube. But, nothing happened. I was stuck in a week for that. I did not know what I did wrong. 

After many attempts, I decided to try my luck with a no-code solution. I used a simple tutorial on Wix, which I had thought that it might not be relevant, about how to connect the database with each field I want to filter. I just clicked, clicked, and clicked, following the instruction. And it worked, in the simplest way I can think of. I should have tried that tutorial (it is completely visible) first before thinking of using codes to solve the problem. I thought too complicated that I wasted almost a week just for a 5-minute task.

Sometimes this happens to us. We overestimate a problem, think that the problem is complicated, and try to find a top-notch solution for that. We don’t realize that we just need to stop for a while, think simply, look around our place, then we found a solution for our problem at a position where we should not miss.

Lesson 2: Jobs require common skills, and you should know how to use them

When designing the websites, I discover that I can apply many skills I learned from law school and gained from my previous job (started as a trainee and then left as an associate in a law firm) for this technical work. Let me explain how.

Research: The first thing I needed to learn when I started my job. Research is the most important skill that a legal practitioner needs to have. Then, I apply this skill in designing the websites. I did some researches on how functions of the websites work, what information public companies are providing in their investor relations site, how to code, what I have to code, to name a few. 

Analysis: Once I had sufficient information, I analyzed how I should design the website in the way I want. When I analyze clients’ requests when I worked in the law firm, I could understand what their problems were, which law should be applied, what the risks were. Similarly, analysis helped me to know what should appear where, which part of the website need to be done first, the risks if I chose this function instead of that function (it could have an impact on how visitors see the website). 

Problem-solving: One key role of lawyers is to help their clients to solve problems. After research and analysis, lawyers should come up with solutions to clients, advising clients on what they need to do. Creating websites is the same. I had to face a few problems, like the data filtering I discussed above. I had to research and analyze a ton of new things to find a solution to my problem. 

They are just very simple examples to see the links among different jobs. No matter which jobs you are doing, no matter how the job descriptions are, there are common skills that we should all know for every job. 

Lesson 3: The world changes, technology changes, so do lawyers

My professor has mentioned so many times in class about T-shaped lawyer idea in the future. Accordingly, besides having knowledge of the legal area, lawyers need to have sufficient knowledge of other sectors such as technology, risk management, business leadership, etc. Among these, technology seems to be the most important one. 

The world has been changing day by day. Although we are living in an unprecedented difficult time, we still see changes around us, and technology plays a pivotal role in those changes. Many people have to accept to cut down a part of their salaries, even to quit the job. No problem, they find another solution: online selling. They sell various products, mostly food, via social network sites. Tik Tok becomes more and more popular. Zoom is now the most frequent software used for online meetings or studying. Governments try to build a system to trace and track people who physically contacted with patients who are tested positive with the coronavirus. Everything changes with the help of technology. 

Lawyers in the digital era should not be left behind the development of technology. Lawyers can learn the new technology such as blockchain and try to understand it. Or easier, just learning basic skills and having beginner-level knowledge of designing websites. New skills can support lawyers a lot with their work, while new technologies are developing and having a large impact on our daily lives.

Learning how to build websites and how to think like a programmer is exciting. In the ‘new’ world post coronavirus crisis, with lots of consequences caused by the pandemic (e.g., unemployment), who knows that, one day, I may follow a new career path, being a web designer. Yes, who knows.

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Original post was published here: https://medium.com/@nguyentrung2509/lawyer-building-websites-and-what-i-learned-from-being-programmer-8981d42d82ba

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