Inaugural Global Legal Hackathon challenges students to find new solutions to legal issues

22 Mar 2018
Global Legal Hackathon

Dozens of UNSW students and mentors from diverse fields joined a global hackathon to solve persistent problems with the justice system.

Participants in the inaugural Global Legal Hackathon came to UNSW for the Sydney round of the event to find solutions to difficulties with access to justice, law firm operations, legal education, in-house legal departments and the justice system generally.

About 60 people took part in the event at UNSW, organised by volunteers from legal innovators The Legal Forecast and 23Legal, along with mentors specialising in technology, sales, legal and strategy.

With sponsorship from the Allens Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation and in association with the Grand Challenge on Living with 21st Century Technology providing assistance, participants joined other legal hackers in 40 cities across 21 countries and six continents for the event on 23-25 February.

Global Legal Hackathon

“Disruption and technology are the great equalisers of modern society,” said Dugald Hamilton of 23Legal.

“Technology and innovation, both within the legal industry and outside it, will allow us as lawyers to be transported back towards the foundation of what the law originally was by providing a voice to the people and granting greater access to the legal system. Ultimately, the technological innovation and digital renaissance of law is inspiring real and immediate change to the legal system for the betterment of society as a whole.”

Marina Yastreboff, a Legal Counsel at UNSW and mentor of participants, said it was a privilege to be invited to the first hackathon of its type and witness the students solve diverse real-world problems.

“The event brought together 10 teams who had just the weekend to develop an MVP addressing a legal issue with technology. The teams tackled issues as broad ranging as access to justice and debt recovery to automated contract drafting and AI solutions for access to clinical trials.

“Last week #GLH2018 became the top trending term across legal innovation news, which is not surprising as the energy and enthusiasm at the event was nothing short of inspirational.”

Law student (BSci/LLB) Jacob Lancaster’s team proposed a matchmaking platform to help patients find clinical trials relevant to their medical circumstances, whilst remaining in control of their medical data. Their product won the Herbert Smith Freehills award for the solution with the largest potential for global impact, and Jacob was also one of the two winners of the Shaun Chung Legal Innovator Award, which was presented to the individual with the most innovative ideas at the round.

Jacob said: “The hackathon presented an exciting opportunity for cross-disciplinary collaboration, and the evolution of the practice of law, through innovative legal technology solutions.

“Members of our team had backgrounds in law, business, technology and physiology. We leveraged our collective expertise to develop a blockchain-based solution which matches users to relevant clinical trials. It empowers users to vet, and have an immutable record of, access to their sensitive health data, having regard to whom it is disclosed and how it will be used.

“It was really encouraging to see UNSW on the forefront of legaltech, along with 23Legal and The Legal Forecast.”