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Meet Andrew Parsons: Computer Science Intern

At its inception, LexPredict consisted of Mike and Dan working closely together on strategies, projects, and consulting. Over the years, these initial efforts have bloomed into a full-fledged legal technology company with a whole suite of products and services.

As a growing company, LexPredict has thoughtfully expanded its team in order to seize market opportunities. To that end, we’ve hired a range of experienced and unique team members, and in a continuing effort to show how law and technology are becoming increasingly symbiotic, we will periodically profile members of our deep bench of highly-trained legal technologists.

This week, we’d like to introduce Andrew Parsons. Andrew is a computer science student at Kalamazoo College, and became heavily involved in the development of ContraxSuite and other project work as a summer intern at LexPredict.

andrew parsons software developer computer science intern

Andrew Parsons

At Kalamazoo College

Andrew spent the summer at LexPredict after finishing his penultimate year at Kalamazoo College. Years ago, when looking into which school to attend, Andrew toured several different colleges and universities. He ultimately decided on Kalamazoo College because he wanted to go to school somewhere with a small, close-knit community; at larger institutions, he feared becoming lost in the crowd. Kalamazoo College is a small private school, and he saw the potential to interact more with his professors, and be able to merge various opportunities to create a unique experience for himself.

Small Group Dynamics

At Kalamazoo College, Andrew combines two majors – computer science and economics – and participates in multiple extracurricular activities. He also studied abroad in Germany for a year. “I wanted to explore all the non-prescribed routes. It was a much more flexible education.”

Andrew found that a smaller educational community encouraged his desire to combine multiple interest areas. He has found new ways of learning, and new ways of applying skills. Among other extracurriculars, Andrew has tutored a wide age range of individuals studying for the GED, and also works as the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

All of the activities Andrew participates in at Kalamazoo College have the advantage of dealing with people in small groups. “Communication is much smoother and efficient … because you get to know people over the course of time a lot better than you would in a larger group.”

In addition, his experience studying computer science, tutoring, working on a newspaper, and researching various aspects of the law has made it easy for him to tackle problems in legal tech from multiple angles:

The stereotype would be that those developing software don’t have a good grasp on … document analysis, the legal world, but I think I’ve developed a skill set where I can consider a number of different perspectives, whether it’s academic, on social issues, or in this case it’s the client perspective versus the developer perspective versus the marketing perspective. So I’m definitely thinking about how the client might interface with our product or our service and how that then forms the work that we do on the development side.
 
I think there’s a lot of value in bringing together people from different backgrounds who also have interdisciplinary experience. Even if they’re not absolute experts in each field, the fact that they’re able to blend skill sets provides immeasurable benefits to a team.

– Andrew Parsons

Project Management

His experiences as a student have made it easy for Andrew to adapt well to the agile project management style employed at LexPredict by leaders like Eric Detterman and Kelly Marsh. It’s important for a development team to think about not only how to achieve something, but also how to compartmentalize a project into manageable, useful groups of work tasks. LexPredict’s usage of Atlassian’s Jira has been vital to the success of projects like ContraxSuite.

Agile project management, and the tools that empower it, leads to iterative and incremental product development. Rather than aiming for a “perfect” product from start to finish, iteration allows for the discovery and swift correction of unforeseen difficulties, implementation problems, and design flaws. Starting with a basic form for a software tool, though – a “rough draft” – and then expanding its features and functions with each iteration, is more stable and flexible, and ultimately saves time.

Andrew has taken what he’s learned from LexPredict’s project management efforts and applied some of those lessons to his role as editor-in-chief of Kalamazoo College’s student newspaper. He plans to begin using Trello project management to improve the planning and workflow of the newspaper.

Political Science and Network Science

LexPredict onboarded Andrew as an intern because of his computer science and data science expertise, but also because of Andrew’s growing interest in constitutional law. This interest began when Andrew enrolled in a constitutional law class and noticed the intricate network of citations that connects Supreme Court cases to those of the Circuit Courts and other courts. While conducting his research on the Supreme Court, he stumbled on Dan Katz’s “Computational Legal Studies”, and found the work that Dan, Mike, and Josh have done on the Supreme Court.

Andrew’s educational program encourages students to explore areas they are not familiar with, and besides constitutional law, he has also chosen to explore network science. Network science is the study of complex networks – be they telecommunications networks, computer networks, social networks – and how the individual elements, or nodes, interact with one another. Nodes can be connected by edges, and these edges represent some sort of relationship between two nodes. Two people, for example, represent two nodes – each person is a node. A conversation, or other interaction, between those people represents the edge that connects them. “These kinds of graphs are used in sociology, epidemiology … Network science has really grown to be able to model biology, computer networks, social networks – social networks are one of the most common, easy-to-understand examples.”

The confluence of computer science, data science, network science, and constitutional law makes Andrew a natural fit for a whole host of projects at LexPredict. When it comes to law, Andrew seeks to use network science principles to map the connections between Supreme Court cases. Citations are one of the easiest, from a data perspective, to use as network nodes. “The goal is to see the shape and flow of the American legal corpus,” he says. And based on the citations, “you can presumably determine which cases are the most influential … Let’s say you have a more liberal or more conservative Court. Do they look to older bodies of law, or younger bodies of law, in their citations? How does the Warren Court differ from the [Roberts] Court, in what they cite?”

There are well over 10,000 SCOTUS opinions, providing a large and valuable data corpus. Andrew is pulling from this corpus in order to construct a citation network of Supreme Court decisions. He intends to build visualization components into the network that show cases as nodes, with outbound and inbound citations. Legal research would be greatly enhanced by a citation network like this.

Bringing Interdisciplinary Perspectives to LexPredict

The nature of Andrew’s various studies has carved out a unique niche of expertise: a computer science and economics student who also takes an interest in constitutional law and in delving into building networks.

I chose LexPredict for an internship because it was relevant to my future, in that I’ve always been interested in the convergence between law and technology … and it’s very interesting work, it’s niche, and it doesn’t seem to have been fully explored yet, like other areas. There are a million technology companies trying to launch a new social platform, there are a million groups trying to perfect commerce apps, ride-sharing apps, smart appliances, and autonomous vehicles … LexPredict operates in an area with a lot of value, and one that is very much still emerging in the market, and there’s a lot of excitement and anticipation for what the future holds.

 

About LexPredict

LexPredict is an enterprise legal technology and consulting firm. Our consulting teams specialize in legal analytics, legal data science and training, risk management, and legal data strategy consulting. We work with corporate legal departments and law firms to empower better organizational decision-making by improving processes, technology, and the ways people interact with both. We develop software and data tools, and also offer execution and education services.

LexPredict has a number of software and data products, including LexSemble, ContraxSuite, CounselTracker, and LexReserve. These products assist organizations with early case assessment and decision trees, contract analytics and workflows, outside counsel spend management, and case valuation. LexPredict also offers advisory and capital services for legal tech startups through its LexGen Ventures arm.

Contact LexPredict today to receive more information about our products and services.

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