Teaching Lawyers to code? A Lawyer learns programming for data analysis/communication

Amy works as a Lawyer and environmental sustainability consultant. She wanted to know some programming for data analysis/communication to help uncover and share useful environmental sustainability insights. I work as a Data Scientist so taught her some of my trade’s tools to help set up her own github account and then learn the R, Git and *nix commands necessary for her to:

  1. pull environmental data from a google sheets URL,
  2. process it,
  3. visualise it,
  4. knit the results to markdown format
  5. and publish the results on her own github pages blog.

This was a satisfying and educational process for us both:

  • Amy learnt the data processing/visualisation skills needed to uncover and communicate environmental sustainability insights (more on those below).

  • I learnt about some fascinating ideas about how Project Drawdown’s solutions apply to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

And it led to publishing an excellent and thought provoking post: Project Drawdown solutions meet many Sustainable Development Goals. Certainly worth a read!

On reflection, I encourage all data scientists to spend a little time teaching others (who want to learn) some of the basic tools of our trade. This can empower people (especially those from more “traditional” fields such as law) with new tools to explore and communicate data. It can only be a good thing if the ever increasing volumes of digital data are more often explored through multiple lenses of diverse areas of domain expertise.

Amy said that “for me, programming for data analysis and communication was such an unknown area that it was hard to know where to start. So to have somebody who can walk you through some of the basics to get you started is really empowering!”