21 March 2016

Pro bono hackathon creates new portal for law centre

Lawyers, developers and computer coders spent the weekend battling it out to create innovative products for law centres at the first LawTech hackathon.

The event was organised by LawTech community organisation Legal Geek in partnership with north London's Hackney Community Law Centre and took place at Google's London campus in Shoreditch.

Teams of coders, lawyers and UX designers from all over the world competed to design, build and pitch technical solutions to solve issues affecting the delivery of and access to legal services in Hackney.

Legal Geek founder Jimmy Vestbirk commented that half of law centre clients drop out after one meeting for various cultural, social and linguistic reasons. ‘We believe that more developers and coders need to be involved in LawTech disruption to combat this problem.’

Hackney Community Law Centre’s development officer, Miranda Grell, said the centre was looking ‘to stop our receptionists and solicitors having to deal with so many phone calls when there must be a better way technologically to chase people for documents, remind them about appointments etc.’ The centre is also looking for help working with clients who speak other languages when an interpreter is not available.

At the end session, a panel of judges including CrowdJustice founder Julia Salasky and Matrix Chambers barrister Matthew Ryder chose three standout projects to be taken forward.

The winner was a new portal management system built by six members of Freshfields‘ in-house IT team. In joint second place were two separate text messaging systems — one providing booking alerts and the other translating text messages from other languages into English, before translating responses back into the original language.

Following the event, selected groups will have the chance to test their products on potential Hackney Community Law Centre clients; these could later be piloted in other UK law centres. Sources: Legal Cheek; The Law Society Gazette