Hackathon aims to “harness technology to improve access to justice”

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9 June 2016

McDaid: hackathons lack lawyer participation

McDaid: events lack lawyer participation

A legal hackathon is to be held north of the border as part of a push to stimulate lawtech innovation among Scottish law firms and promote the use of technology in improving access to justice.

The Law Society of Scotland (LSS) will back the 48-hour weekend event on 17-19 June. Unlike recent hackathons held in London at the Ministry of Justice and for the benefit of Hackney Law Centre, the organisers will post general challenges to the ‘hackers’ – computer coders – and seek to engage lawyers and law firms rather than solve particular organisational problems.

Two broad challenges will be presented in the hope that technological solutions emerge, such as mobile phone or computer apps. They are: improve access to legal information for young people, and provide technology to “help people navigate legal processes and documents, such as small claims actions”.

LSS access to justice committee member Arlene McDaid, who recently founded the Scottish chapter of the global Legal Hackers movement, said that while the two London hackathons were seeking “quite specific” solutions, the event would be “more of an open one to find solutions that will benefit everyone not just a certain organisation”.

Ms McDaid said that unlike England and Wales – which has the interim report by Lord Justice Briggs on an online court, Scotland lacked “the same drive to put the law online”. The hackathon was aimed at encouraging the Scottish legal profession to “engage in how we can harness technology to improve access to justice and also to highlight the fact that all those entrepreneurs sitting in firms can really make a contribution here”.

She hoped lawyers and technology specialists within law firms would join in. “All the hacks I’ve been to in the legal scene have been quite low in lawyer participation… More and more firms are innovating in terms of their own services in the UK, and we have a little bit of that going on in Scotland, but not as much as… elsewhere.”

She added: “The hackathon provides a unique opportunity for lawyers to collaborate with a diverse group of individuals and crowdsource innovative solutions to pressing access to justice issues.”

In a statement, the LSS described the hackathon as “a pop-up innovation lab for lawyers, designers, technologists and others to collaborate and design sustainable and scalable solutions that alleviate pressing access to justice issues”.

The winners will receive £2,000 and there are runners-up prizes of £1,000 and tickets for HackTrain 3.0 – a mobile conference aimed at innovation in travel, to be held on board a train.

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