The second annual Global Legal Hackathon has begun, and winners from 24 countries have advanced to the second round, including two New York- and Philadelphia-based teams who looked to empower people to pursue civil court matters.
Participants in the first round of Global Legal Hackathon, which happened in a host of global cities, created legal solutions over two days beginning on Feb. 22. The solutions had to address access-to-justice or practice-of-law challenges.
One team was selected from each city to compete in a second round, in which they must submit a video of their updated solution by March 15. Finalists are scheduled to be announced March 25.
From there, finalists head to the third and final round to have their solution judged in person. Last year, the winners were four teams that were evenly split between solutions that assist the private or public sector.
While winners of the hackathon are not offered physical or monetary prizes, they do gain exposure and networking opportunities in the legal tech industry, said Pierson Grider, an organizer of Global Legal Hackathon.
This year, Grider said, the solutions pitched during the global event varied, but he noted that is to be expected. “I really think it depends on the jurisdiction and what pain points they were trying to solve.”
Big Apple’s ‘Classify’ Legal Aid
In New York City, Shivam Satyarthi and Bliss Hu brainstormed and developed ”Classify,” a tool that aims to scan users’ retail or bank purchases and inform them if they’ve purchased a product entitled to reimbursements from a class action. Classify advanced to the second round of the Global Legal Hackathon.
In screenshots shown to Legaltech News, users log into their Amazon account, and the Classify software scans their order history. A screen lists purchased items that were part of a class action and the estimated compensation they could receive. Users would fill out a claim form on Classify, and it would be sent to a law firm processing the class action.
Satyarthi said he and Hu, a Rutgers University computer science major, thought of the idea during the Global Legal Hackathon after kicking around a few ideas.
“We saw the problem that a lot of people don’t know that the items they’ve bought [were part of] class actions,” said Satyarthi, a technology analyst for a Wall Street bank. “The affected parties most often don’t even know they are eligible for compensation.”
Satyarthi said the judging panel of legal and technology professionals during the first round thought the solution provided a valuable service, but asked them to figure out how much class action money is unclaimed.
Ideally, the creators would also like to connect their solution to the purchasing history of online retailers and banks. However, at this stage, broad access to bank and retail data isn’t available, Satyarthi acknowledged. Presently, they are using their personal bank cards to test their technology.
Philadelphia’s ‘Eviction Safe Philly’ Guide
In Philadelphia, a team of lawyers and nonlawyers created “Eviction Safe Philly,” a web-based interactive form for those facing evictions in Philadelphia. The guide seeks to connect users fighting an eviction notice with legal aid offices specialized to their needs.
The form’s recommendations adapt to a user’s answers, and while it doesn’t provide legal advice, it does create a standardized intake document that can quickly provide useful information to lawyers. “It’s not fancy technology but it solves a real problem,” said team member and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius assistant director of information governance Johan Widjaja.
Widjaja added that the guide also adds any Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections violations associated with a user’s residence into the document. Highlighting such violations can be beneficial when contesting an eviction, Widjaja added.
Insiyah Jamal, a business analyst for Morgan Lewis and an “Eviction Safe Philly” team member, said the Hackathon judge panel questioned how the team expected to assist people who don’t have access to the internet.
In response, Jamal said the team would explore making the guide accessible on kiosks in government buildings. The judges also recommended the team further explain to users how the data is being used.
Along with the panel’s suggestions, the next update is set to include making the solution mobile friendly, becoming Americans with Disabilities Act compliant and adding timetables regarding the expected length of court proceedings.