How Lawyers Work: David Colarusso, Attorney and Data Scientist

In this week’s edition of How Lawyers Work, we talked to David Colarusso. David Colarusso is an attorney, software engineer, and former high school physics teacher living in the greater Boston area. Originally hired by the MA public defender agency as a staff attorney, he recently transitioned to doing data science on their behalf. 

You can follow David on Twitter and LinkedIn.

What apps or tools are essential to your daily workflow?

No one’s going to say this because it has become ubiquitous, but a I couldn’t live without a web browser. I’m a data scientist, so I can’t get through a day without using a Jupyter Notebook, which runs in, wait for it, a web browser. Similarly, pen and paper are a must, despite most of my work being “paperless.” You have to have somewhere to write down lists and sketch out ideas/do algebra.

As for apps, I love Overcast for podcasts (because I can listen at +2X speed) and Audible (where I can crank things up to 3X). Don’t judge me. I have a long commute, and I easily take in information at that speed when I’m reading. It’s not odd at all.

I like Twitter as a discovery engine (it’s about who you follow), and Pocket as a place to catch up on all the stuff I find on Twitter.

Also, Google Voice, not for all the great reasons most people use it, but because I found a cheap unlimited data plan and by using VoIP I have turned it into an unlimited talk, text, and data plan. It’s like cutting the cable cord but for your phone.

What does your workspace look like?

A few years back I built my own standing desk for work, but when I moved to our Boston office, I was told the “fire code” precluded me from bringing it along. Consequently, the desk was moved to my home office (i.e., basement) where I occasionally work from home.

Did I mention the standing desk is also a book shelf?

Boston, however, was nice enough to find me a standing desk they found acceptable and a second monitor. Another casualty of the move was my whiteboard. This too is now part of the home office. In Boston, I just draw on the windows. As our only data scientist, I have to keep up appearances.

I started using a standing desk in law school when I realized you could read really boring case texts and not fall asleep as long as you were standing. They allow for one to dance at random times throughout the day, and they make the transition to pacing quite easy. Also, when people walk by they assume you’re hard at work because there’s no way you’re slacking off if you’re standing.

How do you keep track of your calendars/deadlines?

Google Calendar for personal, Outlook for work, but keeping track of deadlines isn’t what gets things done, for that you need lists. I love lists. The medium shifts over time, but not a day goes by without me consulting a to-do list. I check in with one every morning and they help me orient myself. Also, what’s that saying, a dull pencil is better than the sharpest mind?

What’s your coffee service setup? (Other beverages are fine, of course, but you should really be serving coffee!)

I have this Thermos brand thermos and it really is amazing how well it keeps things warm. The fallback is this mug. If I’m having coffee it probably came from Dunkin. Did I mention I’m based in Boston? I’ll let you in on a secret. I mostly drink hot water these days. I had to cut down on my coffee intake for reasons, and hot water (sometimes tea) is my substitute drink.

What is one thing that you listen to/read/watch that everyone should?

The Hamilton cast album. Nothing beats fighting for someone’s constitutional rights while listening to people sing about the constitution.

Another great thing about Overcast, it allows you to export your podcast in the OPML format. So here you go. That being said, I do produce a podcast which is mostly an excuse for me to talk with my old law school study group once a week. It’s called AM in the AM, and you really should be listening. It’s a bunch of lawyers talking about news, politics, history, and the law.

What’s your favorite local place to network or work solo?

My basement. See above.

What are three things you do without fail every day?

Setting aside biological functions, consult one of my lists, read, and tell my wife I love her.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?

For the record, I think this question seems kind of chain letterish. Setting that aside, I’m going to say Ed Walters because once he called into a class I was teaching via Skype, and his office looked like it was from a movie. It just shouted, “I’m a cool office.” I could be wrong, but I think there was exposed brick. Mostly, I remember the color palette being very well balanced. So I’d like to get some of that backstory.

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