Bob Ambrogi, media and tech lawyer and editor of LawSites, poses a valid question in the wake of the first round of pitching in the Global Legal Hackathon this weekend.
Are hackathons a gimmick? Can solutions that actually improves the legal industry world-wide be thought up and conceptualized over the course of a few days?
Perhaps it depends on the format. As we heard from Nasdaq in Stockholm, internal hackathons have spurred real innovations that now generates revenue. And the online courts hackathon in London last summer seems to have generated real results. The GLH is broader in scope and, obviously, in scale. It has created a lot of buzz, showcased the enthusiasm and ideas floating around around the world and connected a lot of people. An achievement in itself.
Well-thought-out ideas can hopefully lead to new businesses being formed, or inspire larger-scale efforts by tech companies, law firms or governments, such as the billion pound initiative to digitalize the courts in England and Wales, down the road.
If the ideas would be naive or overly simplistic, maybe an event like this would fuel skepticism - or cynisism - more than anything. I don't think that's the case though. Lack of originality is not surprisingly a common issue. This doesn't have to spell doom for the project however as products or trends that exist in certain markets haven't necessarily reached others. As I wrote in my report from the judging session, tools for guidance during the process or buying legal advice, or digital marketplaces for legal services, are for next to non-existant here (to name one example). And as one of the other judges noted, one shouldn't underestimate the importance of the look and feel of a product.
Other than that, the concepts seem to target important areas where more work can be done. The maturity of the projects pitched is perhaps also testament to the relative ease with which tools can be developed when creative people actually get around to it. During the time I've been running this website I've met developers who are interested in but intimidated by the legal sector and in need of partners to collaborate with. Which is why i iterate that hackathons, and hopefully the meetups we organize from time to time, fill a purpose as networking platforms.
The winners of the first round of pitching have now been announced. We selected Lawless, an "AI-powered language-agnostic app for fast and reliable legal advice", in Stockholm. In Romania, the winning team worked on an online marketplace for litigation investment. Again, not a new concept but perhaps unexplored in Romania or even the EU. Another winning team developed a chatbot that answers the question "do I need a lawyer?" - similar to the tool the DoINeedaDPO team developed in Stockholm.
In China, where courts have embraced AI and factories are producing an estimated 86% of the world's counterfeits, teams developed among other things a blockchain tool for copyright protection and plugin that explains legal information. Speaking of courts and AI, the winning team in Berlin pitched an algorithmic process that helps disputing parties find consensus. In the US, one team developed a blockchain-enabled body camera for "police and lawsuit evidentiary matters".
The winning teams continue to round two, to be held March 11th. The overall winners will be announced at the finale in New York April 21st. I'll be rooting for team LawLess of course, but I'll also admit I have a soft spot for the winning team from Budapest. Click here for the full list of winning teams and project descriptions.
5000 mennesker på 5 kontinenter viser vejen for fremtidens legaltech (Danish)