'Law for Good' hackathon a complete success!
Hackney Community Law Centre (HCLC) is delighted to report that the 'Law for Good' hackathon, organised for HCLC by Legal Geek - the UK's largest tech community of groups of lawyers, entrepreneurs, techies and industry experts working together to disrupt, improve and innovate the traditional legal industry - was a complete success.
The event was Europe’s first ever law tech hackathon. Over the course of 24 hours, beginning on the evening of Friday 18th March, 50+ coders participated in the hackathon at Google Campus in Shoreditch - some flying in from as far as Romania, Gibraltar and the USA.
The coders split into 10 teams of 'Hackers and Hustlers' to battle it out and conceive, build, and pitch technical solutions to help HCLC deal with problems affecting the delivery of and access to our legal services. They were problems such as our reception and solicitors having to make too many phone calls to chase clients for documents or remind them of appointments, and not being able to take instructions from non-English speaking clients efficiently when no interpreter is available/not funded.
On the Friday night, the hackathon was opened by Cllr Sade Etti, Speaker of Hackney and addressed by HCLC's Sean Canning and Miranda Grell who gave presentations setting out the key challenges HCLC wished the coders to assist with.
After the opening speeches and an ice breaker exercise, the coders retired to another part of Google Campus to begin brainstorming.
HCLC's Ian Rathbone, Sean Canning and Miranda Grell stayed in attendance to answer any queries the coders had. The 10 teams that entered the hackathon all came up with superb ideas. However, once the 24 hours of coding had ended and the hackathon's panel of judges arrived to watch the presentations and deliver their verdicts, it was the 3 ideas from teams 'Fresh Innovate', Lawtomaton and TBFE that stood out.
The judges awarded 'Fresh Innovate' (pictured above) - a team made up of lawyers and tech experts from law firm Freshfields - first prize for their design of an entire new HCLC portal management system. The interactive website 'triaged' in seven languages to help provide a solution to legal problems in housing, welfare and benefits, immigration, and employment. Visitors could contact HCLC after ‘opening a case’ online from a menu of options relating to their specific problem.Watch Fresh Innovate's winning pitch HERE and view their winning design HERE.
Teams Lawtomaton and TBFE celebrated joint second place. Lawtomaton designed an artificial intelligence-based “SMS virtual assistant” which, via an algorithm, used an existing online translation engine to translate urgent mobile texts about legal problems into English from the user’s own language, and texted back in that foreign language giving the user instructions about how to proceed. The app was basically a “virtual receptionist”. TBFE designed a text reminder service to help HCLC's reception staff, in particular, to manage bookings and appointments.
Most of the HCLC team, from both the Board and staff, attended the hackathon. We were thrilled with the coders' ideas and gave them all a big thumbs up!
Cllr Ian Rathbone, HCLC Chair, said: “I was very touched by the enthusiasm of the young people involved, all trying to find electronic ways to help us at the Law centre continue to give access to justice for those who do not have the finances to pay for legal fees. And what they have done could help other law centres around the UK. What it shows to me is that people who are 20-somethings, and maybe a little over 20 something, are willing to help in whatever they can, and this is encouraging at a time when we see volunteering in the community and charity sector dropping for whatever reason. Coding for good – is good! The various Hackathon groups came up with some great ideas which we hope to follow up – if there is any tech firm in tech city that can help us develop some of these ideas we have been given, then please get in touch!" The hackathon was also welcomed by local councillor and Speaker of Hackney Sade Etti who said “It was an eye opening experience for me and I am glad I was able to participate in the event”and Cllr Anna Rickard who said “hackathons for charities are brilliant and great the Hackney Law Centre could benefit.”
We would once again like to thank all of the amazing coders at the Law for Good hackathon who stayed up for 24 hours on the 18th and 19th of March!!!
Thank you also to the fantastic judging panel: Nathaniel Mathews, Senior Solicitor HCLC; Julia Salasky, Founder Crowd Justice; Karen Winton, Managing Partner Nest VC; Joanna Goodman, Tech journalist, Guardian and Law Society Gazette; Matthew Ryder QC, barrister Matrix Chambers; and Campbell Unsworth, Director, General Standards.
We are also grateful to Julie Bishop and Nimrod Ben-Cnaan from the Law Centres Network for coming along to the hackathon on Saturday to show their support.
However, our biggest thanks goes to Jimmy Vestbirk, local Hackney resident and the energetic founder of Legal Geek (pictured here with HCLC's Miranda Grell after the hackathon), for his vision and hard work in bringing the hackathon to fruition and for his deep care and interest in HCLC clients and the local Hackney community.
Jimmy was a joy to work with and we look forward to continuing to work with him for a long time to come.
****There has been a lot of press interest in the hackathon****
****Click HERE to read some of the articles written****
****Click HERE to see Legal Geek's official photos of the event****
****And finally, watch a superb one minute video (set to music) with highlights of the hackathon below****