ILANZ, In-House Lawyers Association of New Zealand

The Global Legal Hackathon - what’s that?

The Global Legal Hackathon - what’s that?

By Website Administrator , | 29 April 2019

The Global Legal Hackathon  - what’s that?

I attended the Global Legal Hackathon in February at Monash University in Melbourne with my ILANZ President hat on. I had no idea really what a hackathon was. I was asked to attend as a mentor but having no idea about what I was supposed to do and feeling very much like an imposter, I asked to participate instead. It somehow felt safer that way.

WHAT AN EYE OPENER!

For the uninitiated, the idea behind the Global Legal Hackathon is a 48-hour event in which teams form to create a tech solution to progress the legal industry and the function of law and justice.

SO WHAT DOES THAT ACTUALLY MEAN?

Here’s how it worked. A vast number of law schools across the world each hosted a hackathon event from 22-24 February 2019. Some started earlier than others due to time zone differences.

The law schools invited participants to register for free. The event ran simultaneously across 24 countries, in 46 host cities in those countries and over 6000 people participated.

The whole thing was free. The only aim was to bring together lawyers, law students, post-graduate students in law and tech and business professionals to come up with an idea for a tech solution that would work and with a pitch to sell the idea. In 48 hours.

You turned up into a big room. If you had an idea, you explained what it was to the whole room. Then people decided if they wanted to join you to help you to hack the idea out. Your team needed at least one of the following:

  • A lawyer
  • A tech person (think AI post-grad student, an IT person, a data engineer or someone else with coding or AI programming skills)
  • A business person to offer commercial and marketing advice

You assemble your team (translation: you wait for people to agree to help build a tech product to fix your idea as you have no idea how to do this).

Your team had from 7am on Saturday to 3pm on Sunday to create a tech solution to the problem, build a working example, design a functional website and demo and deliver a killer pitch to sell the concept to the judges.

You choose a team name. You choose a room to work from. You then open your laptops, grab a whiteboard marker and wait for someone to take charge.

We did it. All 200 of us at Monash university that weekend. I was very very impressed.

SO WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM I PITCHED?

I explained that in-house lawyers are often perplexed that their business or commercial colleagues do not come to them early enough in a project.

I suggested that if there was a way to enable a fast review of a project or design brief to detect legal issues, maybe those business teams would know to chat with their friendly and approachable in-house team sooner.

WHO STEPPED UP TO HELP ME?

Steve, Suraya, Sid, Noel, Kim and Koji all volunteered to help me build a tech solution. They were working lawyers, law students, data engineers, website designers and AI programmers.

I am usually the bossy one. In this case, I handed over the bossy boots reigns to Sid Nair who is a law student, marketing guru and pitch professional rolled into one.

WHAT DID WE BUILD?

We came up with Legal Lens. A tool that uses Natural Language Programming to read a document, detect common words that indicate a certain legal issue and generate a visual summary of the key legal issues in that briefing document. All within 20 seconds. We didn’t win our round but then again, we didn’t expect to.

For me, the value was in experiencing the process and understanding how every person had a specific function to help create a product.

Want to know more about what we built and what I learned in the process? Keep an eye out for my next blog…

The team Day 1

Hackathon Image2