(this article originally appeared at Clifford Chance and was written by Peter van Eijk)

No-Code Development: A ‘must-have’ skill for lawyers and the legal sector?

To many of us, the world of a software developer can seem like a mysterious one. From screens and keyboards these professionals work their magic, making wonderful things come to life. The fruits of their labour are often solutions that can help us save money or take less time on a task. Now, however, could no-code (or low-code) development provide the compelling opportunity for us in the legal sector to embrace some of these amazing skills – and put them to use ourselves?

After all, we have surely all met software developers at some point? They are interesting people who know their craft – just as our lawyers and legal experts know ours. But do we need to keep calling on their secrets? Or could just some of their skills and knowledge be harnessed in such a way that we, ourselves, apply them to better serve our colleagues and clients in future? With no-code development, this scenario is becoming a reality. And we must be ready to take advantage.

What is no-code development?

Low or no-code development platforms can generally be described as tools which allow programmers and non-programmers alike to create applications without the need for traditional coding language.  These kinds of platforms are designed to make the development process both faster and easier to do.

The global market for low or no-code platforms is being forecast to increase from $13.2 billion this year (2020) to $45.5 billion by 2025. Gartner, meanwhile, expects this market to be responsible for two-thirds of all app development activity within the next three or four years. And additional research from Forrester expects total spending in this discipline to reach $21.2 billion by 2022 – a compound annual growth rate of around 40%. This trend has both huge potential and traction.

Benefits of no-code development in the legal sector

The clearest benefits are the speed and lower cost at which low or no-code development can deliver positive outcomes.  Low or no-code development platforms can remove the need to engage a custom developer and puts control directly in the hands of the subject matter expert.

We should probably add in ‘ease’ to this too. One of the biggest-selling points of this as a new discipline is the way in which it is accessible to anyone as it does not require any substantial or complex coding knowledge. Interfaces of platforms are usually “drag and drop” functions that present themselves in a way that an average user can understand.

The path ahead for legal no-code apps

So it is clear that low and no-code development platforms could create significant opportunity for innovators and problem solvers.  As we asked in a Stanford Law School FutureLaw conference podcast chaired by us on the subject, does that suggest that we should provide these tools to all professionals?

The answer, we think, is one of balance.  There is more to building a successful solution than just the development tool one uses.  User experience and the real ‘job to be done’ are as, if not more, important keys to any successful solution.  And we can’t forget to consider the importance of technical integration, wider IT infrastructure and strategy as well.  So, at Clifford Chance, we do believe in empowering people with the right tools to be creative but we also believe in team work and collaboration. Low and no-code platforms do create a new world of opportunities for the citizen developer but he or she will never operate alone and will always have support from colleagues across teams and functions.