Legal Geeks code through the night for Hackney Community Law Centre

Legal Geek hackathon for Hackney Community Law Centre

‘Law For Good’: the Legal Geek ‘hackathon’ for Hackney Community Law Centre. Photograph: Legal Geek

Lawyers, developers and coders battled it out to design new software for law centres last weekend, at Europe’s first ever law-technology ‘hackathon’.

More than 150 coders from as far afield as Romania and the United States descended upon Hackney for the charity event, held in support of Hackney Community Law Centre (HCLC), a free legal advice charity.

During the 24-hour event at Old Street’s Google Campus, teams conceived, built and pitched software such as online portals and apps that will help people deliver or access legal services.

The event was organised by Legal Geek, a group of lawyers, entrepreneurs and technology experts which seeks to improve the legal industry through technological innovation.

The group’s founder, Jimmy Vestbirk, said: “There is a huge community of startups, coders and designers in Hackney. However, there are also many issues delivering and accessing legal services.

“The main problem faced is that 50 per cent of clients drop out after one meeting for a variety of cultural, social and language reasons.”

He added: “The law-technology community is seeking to help the most vulnerable people in the community by solving these issues with technology.”

Participants coded through the night to develop software that would help the legal industry, with their efforts judged by a panel that included an HCLC representative and tech industry leaders.

Prizes were awarded for the three pieces of software most likely to improve access to justice, by maximising efficiency for the law centre and making it easy for people to receive legal advice.

The firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which built an interactive tool to answer legal queries in 24 hours, was announced the winner. Runners up included an Artificial Intelligence-automated SMS virtual receptionist, and an SMS alert system.

Legal Geek hackathon for Hackney Community Law Centre

Sourced crowd: law meets tech at the Legal Geek hackathon. Photograph: Legal Geek

Hackney Community Law Centre is now inviting selected groups to test their products on potential clients, with the aim of piloting the idea with the Law Centre before shipping it out to other UK law centres.

Miranda Grell, HCLC Development Officer, said: “As a small community charity with meagre resources, finding new ways to increase our efficiency is of paramount importance to us.”

“We are indebted to the many coders, lawyers and tech experts who gave up their entire Friday evening and all day Saturday to devise the most fantastic tech solutions to help us better serve our clients and local Hackney community.”

Julia Salasky, from Crowd Justice, a crowdfunding platform for legal cases, added: “What a thrill to see so many people with such different skill sets giving their weekend to solve one of the hardest problems of the legal sector – how to improve access to advice for the most vulnerable.

“We were blown away by the creativity of the solutions and the energy of the developers, lawyers and designers who stayed up all night to hack the the problem.”