How I Went from Writing Case Briefs to Writing Code

Matt Pitts
Published in
6 min readNov 3, 2019

It’s all about logic, organization, and extreme attention to detail.

Many people are interested in the software development industry nowadays, and I often wonder about the path folks will take to reach their ultimate destination. For existing developers, I’m usually interested in the non-traditional path they took to become developers. We tend to identify most with our own life experience, so I’ve never been drawn to conversations about dorm rooms and classes on computer science.

As I thought about my own experience, I started to notice striking similarities between the process of becoming proficient in law and becoming proficient as a developer.

The Early Days

I stumbled into the legal profession over 20 years ago. I started by taking a certificate course to become a paralegal. From there, I furthered my education and obtained an AAS degree and started working toward my bachelor’s degree. I was laser-focused on law, and my final destination was to become a judge.

I quickly became enthralled with various legal topics, and the sophistication and eloquence of the judges who wrote the opinions for published cases. Their words flowed like water in a stream. I considered it poetry. I didn’t have much money, so I would walk down to the local law library and spend hours learning about all kinds of topics. It was my escape from what I believe was poverty.

The Big Idea

After finishing my certificate program, I did an internship in a paralegal office. It was there I first had an idea to start my own business helping low-income individuals complete family court paperwork. I got my first taste of being the “smartest guy in the room” when I cleaned up a messy Conservatorship case with a single trip to the law library. They asked in amazement how I was able to fix the problem, and I replied “by reading a book”. I’m highlighting this story because this was a pivotal moment in my thought process and overall world view. I realized, in that instant, that knowledge was power. I also realized that I would need a more sophisticated skill set to do something really disruptive in the legal world.

The Transformation

In the years that followed, I pitched my idea of a traditional paralegal business to help low-income individuals with legal paperwork to several family members. I knew I would need investment dollars to pay office rent, marketing, etc. Those efforts turned out to be fruitless. As I think back to all that work I did to prepare and plan that business, I’m actually OK with the fact that it never came to fruition.

One day, I was at the computer lab in Cal State University (San Bernardino), and it was one of the first times I actually used the internet. I was playing around with a website builder and I knew, at that moment, my passion for technology was as strong as my passion for law. Naturally, I wanted to combine the two.

Recognizing My Talent

Fast forward a few years and I had continued to take my legal skills to higher levels. I had a fulfilling job in the Washington State Attorney General’s office as a paralegal, working in the juvenile dependency unit. At that time, I started to get further into technology, but I didn’t know anything about development. I was good at my job, and won awards at the Attorney General’s Office for performance. During my time there, I realized I had a secret weapon. Technology. I learned Microsoft Access inside and out. I went beyond the basics and learned how to write custom SQL statements. I built out a custom trial management database with Access that allowed me to handle a large amount of cases, with extreme organization. I used the shared tables feature to allow the attorneys to look up case information and updates. I used the data produced from the trial database to automate routine correspondence in Microsoft Word, using mail merge.

My new technology skills combined with my raw talent for legal research and writing was a powerful (not very profitable) combination. I had a taste of the basics, but I wanted more.

Necessary Struggles

As you know, I lived in poverty during the early days. I was not blessed into a family where people actually went to college and encouraged younger generations to do the same. With that said, I had used financial aid and loans to obtain what little formal education I had. I was balancing work and basic life responsibilities, so going back to school was not an option. I decided to start teaching myself software development. I struggled for a few years to get what more fortunate people get from a few semesters of Computer Science classes. However, I’m happy I did it the hard way. You see, I employed the same tactics I used when mastering legal research and writing.

It’s all about logic, organization, and extreme attention to detail.

Much like the judges I admired in my earlier years, I began to voraciously consume multitudes of technology books from accomplished tech authors. These tech authors were my new heroes. Their words were my new poetry.

Moving on Up

Fast forward many more years, and I found myself with a temporary position in the legal department of a popular company I greatly admired, and still admire to this day. Within a month or so, I secured a permanent role as a legal assistant. In no time, I had already won an award for innovation. I was still in the legal department, but I began to build custom HTML/Javascript applications using SharePoint. Again, my secret weapon was the application of technology to the legal field.

After a couple of years, the powers that be created a new technology team within our legal sub team, of which I was the only programmer. At this time I was promoted to my first professional, technical role as a Programmer Analyst. This was huge, and the money was decent, but not great. I quickly realized that all the money for the legal industry is typically reserved for hot-shot lawyers, not techies. I began to expand my horizons and look for opportunities outside of the legal department.

The Big Payoff

I eventually landed a role in the Cloud division of the company. With my transition, came the new title of Systems Development Engineer. This feat of transitioning from Corporate to the business side was known as a difficult feat to achieve. In addition, to make this transition without formal education, and work among esteemed individuals with gobs of education and credentials, was also unheard of. I had done both.

By the time I decided to move on, I was at the top of my game. I had been an integral part of building out 2 technology teams, and was making more money than a typical judge or corporate lawyer. Isn’t that ironic? At that time, I was completely out of the legal profession, and solely focused on technology and business.


Today, I have that same hunger to learn and innovate. I will eventually circle back to the legal industry, but this time with a more powerful, diverse technological skill set. The lessons, insights, and skills gained from working as a professional developer among extremely talented, driven individuals, has helped me take my skills as an entrepreneur and developer to the next level.

My story may not resonate with everyone, but telling it helps me reinforce my unique perspectives and strategies for success. I now consider knowledge to be more than power. Knowledge is freedom and individualism. However, knowledge is not free. Whether law or technology, I had to push myself to become proficient, and I continue to push myself to remain proficient. I still have a long way to go in life, and I can only hope to reach even higher and have continued and greater success.



Matt Pitts

Ex Amazon Engineer and Founder of @AdonousTech. A technology company focused on #VoiceFirst #Serverless and #Cloud applications for small businesses