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June 8 2022

What is a legal hackathon?

Industry Insights

Louise Anderson

Louise Anderson

Jodie Tilsley, Will Lloyd, and Robert Maliszewski stand in a line, ready to inform you about the inherent nature of legal hackathons and how you can get involved in them.

What is a legal hackathon? We ask the Manchester Legal Hackers!

A new legal future is dawning. As advancements in technology and computing open up new avenues for legal problem solving, “legal hackathons” are popping up all over the globe.

Legal hackathons are massive problem-solving events, where legal technologists come together in groups to leverage the powers of law and technology to solve a given problem. As legal technology becomes more and more powerful, legal hackathons are emerging as opportunities to challenge and test the potential of tech-driven legal solutions.

But how are legal hackathons actually conducted? What kind of problems do they try and solve? How can you get involved?

We put some burning legal hackathon questions to three members of the Manchester Legal Hackers committee, Jodie Tilsley (JT), Will Lloyd (WL), and Robert Maliszewski (RM).

What is a legal hackathon?

WL: Starting with the second part of ‘Legal Hackathon’ - a Hackathon is essentially a group of people who, usually working in teams, attempt to ‘hack’ i.e. overcome a given problem! The ‘Legal’ bit is just a Hackathon aimed at solving a problem within a legal context or setting.

JT: It’s all about problem solving. Legal hackathons can offer opportunities to engage in problem solving in areas you may never come across in your day to day job role. The topics can be almost anything (albeit with a legal angle!).

RM: And networking! There are always people with various backgrounds, skills, ideas. It is a great opportunity to team up with them and present a solution together.

What is a legal hacker?

WL: If you’re interested in the intersection of law and technology - it could be you! In terms of the Legal Hacking community, however, it’s anyone In the wider sense, it’s anyone who relishes in solving legal problems / the world of law and technology. You could be a Legal Hacker without realising it…

JT: Yeah - essentially anyone who enjoys solving problems with a legal tech twist.

Who can take part in a legal hackathon?

WL: Anyone and everyone!

JT: As Will has said, everyone! If you have very little experience of the legal sector or tech it can be a great way to see whether it’s something you’d be interested in.

How can I get involved in a legal hackathon?

WL: Keep an eye out on your local legal tech scene, particularly if you’re based in a location that has a Legal Hackers chapter established already (and if you don’t have one, you can always set one up yourself!). There’s also the annual Global Legal Hackathon - one of the largest legal hackathons around.

JT: You can also often find events on LinkedIn or Eventbrite. Legal Tech groups will often also post about events so it can be useful to follow these on social media platforms.

What should I know before a legal hackathon?

WL: You should know that you don’t need to be a whizz at every aspect of legal or tech to add value to a team participating in a legal hackathon. Everyone has something to contribute, whether that’s technical experience, legal expertise, an eye for design or something completely different.

JT: Agreed, the best thing to do is attend with an open mind. Legal hackathons provide an opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and give new ideas a try. If you’re given topics in advance, researching these will certainly set you off in the right direction. If you’re given the opportunity to come up with your own ideas, try to think of areas that may have not yet been considered in the world of legal tech. Often these can be the areas that desperately need people who have a bit of time and an open mind, to think about new ways of solving existing problems.

RM: Absolutely agreed. This year in Manchester Global Legal Hackathon over 60% of attendees were Software Developers. If you do not know how to code, there will always be people that can help you with that – vice versa, you can help them with building the idea, presenting it to the panel, wireframing/designing, pretty much anything as far as ironing out the idea goes!

What ideas have won legal hackathons before?

WL: There are so many! Rob and I both took part in the 2020 Global Legal Hackathon in Manchester (the last thing I remember doing before the Pandemic!) and the idea that won that year was a really interesting one, how would you describe it Rob?

RM: In summary, the winning team designed an app for student tenants who struggle with communication with landlords. Lack of clarity and transparency in contracts, not fulfilling statutory requirements by not fixing a washing machine, heating etc. is an everyday problem. The team created an app that improved that communication, supported tenants with relevant resources, and was completely free. It won the Manchester heat of the Global Legal Hackathon as a proof of concept, and then built it further to reach the Hackathon’s grand finale. It was great to be competing with the team, learn from their experience and discuss legal tech further.

Additional resources:

  • What is a legal technologist? - Has this post piqued your interest? Come read the sister post to this one, where the Legal Hackers answer your questions about what a “legal technologist” is.
  • The Global Legal Hackathon - if you’re itching to try your legal hacking, then check out the website for the Global Legal Hackathon! Best part: you can do it from anywhere in the world.
  • Manchester Legal Hackers on LinkedIn - Say up to date with the latest news on the Manchester Legal Hackers by giving their LinkedIn page a follow.

We would like to extend an enormous thank you to the Manchester Legal Hackers committee!

  • Jodie Tilsley (JT) - Jodie studied law at the University of Manchester where she first became interested in Legal Technology. She is now a Trainee Solicitor and Senior Legal Technologist within a Legal Technology Department. This has allowed Jodie to continue to grow her knowledge around technology and its application to the legal sector. 

  • Will Lloyd (WL) - Will is a Trainee Solicitor at a global legal business, where he is putting his previous experience as Legal Technologist to good use whilst completing his training. Whilst studying towards his Graduate Diploma in Law, Will gained an appetite for legal technology, and soon founded his university’s first student Legal Hackers chapter, where he aimed to engage student communities and raise awareness of emerging legal technologies within higher education. He hopes to continue this with Manchester Legal Hackers, and has recently guested on BPP University’s ‘What the Heck is Legal Tech’ podcast series.

  • Robert Maliszewski (RM) - Robert studied law at the University of Liverpool and then finished his LLM in Intellectual Property Law at the University of Manchester. With interest in technology and law, the legal technologist role was a clear choice. Working at an international law firm, Robert wants to promote legal tech outside of work. Having co-founded the Global Tech Loop group, Robert now participates in Manchester Legal Hackers chapter as a co-organiser.