For those in the legal industry trying to understand how disruption will really impact on their business before it is too late, many may feel as though the horse has already bolted.
But legal hackathons are offering an interesting solution to the dilemma, with firms and lawyers joining to be part of the change rather than find themselves blindsided by it.
The upcoming ‘Disrupting Law’ hackathon is one example of BigLaw, NewLaw and suburban outfits pooling their resources to invest in being part of the next big thing.
Milan Gandhi founded The Legal Forecast, which is one of the co-organisers of the hackathon. The young law graduate said that the ideas developed by two teams from last year’s event were ultimately spun out into businesses.
“An artificial intelligence chatbot that facilitates legal advice, a web application that helps users keep track of critical dates in their contracts and an account management system designed to track pro bono hours and share information between law firms and community legal centres were just a handful of ideas to come out of the 2016 hackathon,” Mr Ghandi said.
Now in its second year, the hackathon partners participating firms with 14 student teams comprising tech-savvy talent from law and other different disciplines.
The overall aim of the event is to challenge contestants to develop new ideas and novel ways to advance legal practice.
This year the organisers have enlisted the support of Gilbert + Tobin, Herbert Smith Freehills, King & Wood Mallesons, McCullough Robertson, Allens Linklaters, DLA Piper, Clayton Utz, Piper Alderman, Hall & Wilcox, MinterEllison, Helix Legal, Jones Day, ClarkeKann Lawyers and Law Squared for the Queensland-based event.
Through the hackathon, the firms commit legal and non-legal staff to mentor the hackathon competitors.
In August, student contestants will spend 54 hours over three days, thrashing out their innovative ideas and participating in workshops led by legal industry experts.
The hackathon will culminate in a shark tank pitch before a panel of legal professionals and entrepreneurs.
Imogen Kenny, a 2016 participant in the Disrupting Law hackathon, described her competition experience as enriching. Her group addressed the issue of access to justice with the concept of a mock cloud-based workflow management platform for use by community legal centres.
“It’s not often that you get thrown together to create a concept over a weekend with some brilliant law, business and technology students while being mentored by partners of a commercial law firm and people who are big in the tech space,” Ms Kenny said.
This year the Queensland University of Technology’s entrepreneurship group named QUT Starters, together with not-for-profit The Legal Forecast, will host the Disrupting Law hackathon program that will run from 4 August to 6 August.