The Australian National University (ANU) College of Law has continued its perfect record at the Innovate Law hackathon, winning the Sydney competition for the second consecutive year.
Team PrHacktical Solutions was mentored by Dr Philippa Ryan, ANU Master of Laws program director; Beth Patterson, director and founder of ESPconnect; and Ravi Nayyar, a University of Sydney student. It comprised five ANU College of Law students: Eleanor Lau, Andrew Ray, Cormac Relf, Danica Smith and Melly Zhao as well as a legal professional, King & Wood Mallesons solicitor Daniel Taha.
The team was tasked with developing a product to assist members of the Law Society of New South Wales navigate the constantly evolving legal technology market.
Their answer? “LawTech Connect”, a digital registry of legal technologies designed exclusively for the legal profession.
Danica, a Juris Doctor student who oversaw quality assurance for the project, said the 48-hour hackathon provided an opportunity to explore law and technology.
“That intersection has always fascinated me. Even now as I head into my final semester, I will be taking (ANU School of Legal Practice course) The Future of Legal Practice, which is basically about how the legal profession is evolving and what we can expect to see in the future with regard to emerging technology and its capacity to assist legal practices,” she said.
Eleanor, a fourth-year Bachelor of Commerce/Laws (Hons) student who managed client liaison duties for the competition, said keeping a tight focus on the final product was instrumental to the team’s success.
“It was all about trying to solve a realistic problem in a practical way. Our mentors helped us contextualise some of the restrictions our client was facing. Even though we had lots of ideas, we had to focus on what was realistic, which is really helpful in solving real-world problems as legal practitioners,” she said.
“As aspiring lawyers, it’s almost essential that we need to be across the legal issues that technology is raising as well the use and application of technologies to become efficient lawyers.”
Preparations for the competition started about a week before the hackathon began on 25 July, with some expert advice from the team’s academic mentor.
“Dr Ryan explained what to expect and how we should prepare by dividing roles,” said Andrew, a fifth-year Bachelor of Science/Laws (Hons) student who served as project manager.
“Obviously, it’s a very collaborative process but she was very clear about the importance of roles, accountability and structuring our time.”
Despite squaring off against nine other teams featuring some of the country’s brightest aspiring lawyers, Team PrHacktical Solutions kept a cool head – and collaborative mindset.
“There was a real sense of everyone being there to learn and have fun. I don’t think any team went in expecting to win. All the pitches at the end were excellent and I think we learnt a lot being exposed to a lot of different bright people, including experts in their field,” Andrew added.
The team’s demonstration of “LawTech Connect” in the hackathon grand final centred on a fictional user named Sam, a rural legal practitioner whose client is unable to make a court date because of accessibility issues.
“Sam types in ‘accessibility’ into ‘LawTech Connect’ and in the side panel he notices dispute resolution,” Danica explained, adding the online registry has search functionality and a strict vetting process to ensure services are high quality by including requiring an Australian Business or Company Number and a domestically hosted web domain.
“We wanted it to be almost like Google, but we didn’t want it to be that open-ended,” explained Melly, a third-year Bachelor of Commerce/Laws (Hons) student who was in charge of user experience.
As 2019 Innovate Law hackathon champions, the ANU students received a Rocketbook notebook, software donated by the event’s sponsors and six months of office space in Sydney to further develop “LawTech Connect”