FAQ: Should I Consider Data Science as a Lawyer/Law Student ?

The popularity of data science in the media makes the combination of established areas of study more accessible and interesting to everyone.

Main Points from my Conversion with Law Student Roommates

  • The popularity of data science in the media makes the combination of established areas of study more accessible and interesting to everyone.
  • People interested in data science view the field as a mix of computer science, math, and business. Yet, businesses have not mixed technical and data positions in the same way. For instance, data engineering and data science are bifurcated job families at some companies. Data engineering is part of data science but on the job, data engineers often are not asked to conduct analysis on data. This makes it more difficult to find your way into the profession after exploration or a bootcamp.

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  • For law students, one knowledge is difficult to master, let alone two simultaneously. If you want both data science and law squarely on your resume, learn one before the other. Technical masters have less expensive options and start from 2 years of study, which is one year less than law school.
  • Only go and finish law school if you want to BE A LAWYER. . .at least for a little bit.

General Questions to Start the Conversation

Lawyers are inherently inquisitive and studious people so it is only natural to explore different applications and directions of your career, given the current trends. I pose additional questions for those considering the pursuit of data science.

  • Do you have understanding of programming, science, and/or math? This is often the biggest hurdle for anyone interested in data science. You’ll need some excitement to learn these things because programming and algorithms are quite tedious and time consuming.
  • What is your ideal data science role? What kind of questions will you be answering in the long and short term? For example, analysis of X in Y industry.  It is often more effective to use these questions as a guide versus the generically wanting to become a data scientist. Dive deep into these questions to figure out the necessary skill set required to find solutions.
  • Are you already an expert in one substantive or technical area? Theoretically, one person is able to practice both law AND data science. In practice, it would be difficult to become an individual contributor in both areas equally. There will be times that you’ll have to choose to either hone your legal or data science skills. If you’re able to layer onto already existing skills or experience then the data science pivot will be more fluid.
  • The job market is challenging when you do not have a higher level technical degree. I have been successful at transitioning between legal and data science roles because (1) an entrepreneur spirit or hacking/resourcefulness skills, (2) background in programming, and (3) dedication to mastering tedious things. Data science jobs are now more and more requiring at least a Masters in a technical subject area and may often give preference to PhD candidates.
  • Why are you transitioning to data science in the midst of your legal education? This question is to address underlying issues of why you are deviating from law. If you don’t like law now then are you also considering dropping out of law school. Legal education is way too expensive not to be serious about it, at least in the current moment.

Discussion Portion: Question and Answer

Question 1:  My roommate and I are currently 1L’s at *** Law School concentrating in cyber security and data privacy. Should we consider a Data Science courses? What are the opportunities for those with both a law degree and a background in data science?

Answer 1: Cyber security and data privacy are technical areas traditionally in the realm of computer science. There are data scientists in cyber security who leverage data to answer questions and make recommendation to system changes. Data science will not teach methods for preventing DDOS attacks or building an adequate firewalls. Policy decisions related to cyber security and data privacy are relevant places for lawyers with computer science background.

Questions 2: I studied economics and journalism. What do you think a part-time data science course could offer someone like me and in what ways could it enhance my resume? How hard would it be to pick up? I’m trying to gauge it’s usefulness / if it’s worth pursuing

Answer 2: The main conundrum for you is time. It may be very difficult to master two disparate fields simultaneously. In the law, it is said that “the law is a jealous mistress and request a long and constant courtship…”

You will need to dedicate significant amounts of time to studying and implementing what law and data science. The number of skills required to be a data science is extremely broad so consider honing one at this time, especially while in law school. Gauging the usefulness of a program is a personal decision. You should consider some online data science certificate programs to test your interest and time management for both disciplines.
Also, look to the places that would potentially provide opportunities for that interests you. Law firms are increasing interested in candidates with technical, data science, and legal backgrounds. These job posting ask for PhD candidates and 5+ years of experiences. If you already don’t know, lawyers are quite attached to rankings and school affiliation. Hybrid positions that ask for  someone to practice law and implement data science are rare.
Only you can decide whether your time, money, and energy are worth it.
Question 3: Our school recently opened up a new data privacy and information concentration to appeal to cyber security roles. How will data science help enhance our interests in cyber security.
Answer 3:  The foundation of cyber security is computer science, so if cyber security is the goal then take more computer science classes, i.e. networking, internet of things, and databases. Cyber security does not necessarily require knowledge of data science, although it can be helpful with analysis and problem soliving. Understanding the architecture of computers and networks will greatly bolster your appeal to cyber security firms.

Dmitrij Paskevic

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