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  • What is a "hackathon" and what do we aim to achieve?"
    A hackathon is an event where a large number of people meet to collaborate and engage in developing technology-based solutions, often taking the form of a competition or workshop on exploratory programming. It can be used to educate about social and policy issues, to highlight innovation trends (e.g. FinTech, HealthTech), or to solve day-to-day challenges of particular organisations. Solutions from hackathons are sometimes picked up by hosting and/or third-party organisations for further development and investment (e.g. in accelerator and incubation programmes). In promoting access to justice and technology in the law, the Law Society is organising the Access to Justice InnoTech Law Hackathon (“Hackathon”), a two-day competition in the style of a hackathon for professionals, students, and interested members to design and develop technology-enabled solutions to address issues in community justice and legal services. Please also read the Hackathon instructions to review the objectives and expected outcomes.
  • Who should join the Hackathon as a participant?
    Anyone interested in legal technology (“LawTech” or “LegalTech”) innovations and is passionate about practical solutions for access to justice (known colloquially in the LegalTech community as “A2J”). We do not expect you to be an expert, but we do expect you to be curious. We will provide each team access to mentors who are subject matter experts relevant to the Hackathon during the competition. Teams are encouraged to ask mentors questions to educate themselves in developing their Hackathon solutions. You are more than welcome to join the Hackathon as a participant if you have background in one or more of the following areas: Access to justice issues; App/website development; Legal operations and support services; Legal practise (all areas); and Software engineering. Alternatively, please join us if you are pursuing studies in Law; Information Systems and Technologies; or Public and Social Policy –or simply entrepreneurial and curious about A2J problems!
  • The Hackathon encourages cross-disciplinary collaboration. What sort of skills should each team possess?
    We encourage diversity within the teams, and there is no strict requirement for their composition. But we recommend that each team should have one or more members competent in the following skills for creating practical and innovative A2J solutions relevant: Front-end and back-end development; Legal research and analysis; Marketing, business development, and management; Public and social policy research; Public interest advocacy and advice; and Working with community justice groups.
  • Do I have to sign up with a team or can I do so individually?
    You may do so either way. For participants signing up individually, we will help to facilitate the formation of teams with different backgrounds to promote cross-disciplinary collaboration.
  • What does the Hackathon problem scenario look like?
    There may be one or more problem scenarios relating to A2J and closing “justice gaps” with the aid of technology. We aim to encourage innovation to solve operational and practical challenges facing the general public in obtaining legal services and the challenges facing stakeholders in the public sector, community service organisations, and legal service providers in assisting lay clients in securing quality legal consultation and representation and obtaining legal advice efficiently and effectively. Please see our "Guidelines" page for more details.
  • What technologies will / should be used in the Hackathon?
    There are no restrictions as to the technology that can be used by teams to develop their solutions. However, to ensure participants can start off from a level-playing field, we have arranged Microsoft and MicrosoftAzure to provide participants with access to: Bot Framework; Cognitive Services; and App Services; during the competition period. Basic training will also be provided on these software solutions. The Hackathon operates on a Bring-Your-Own-Device basis. Each team should bring sufficient number of notebooks and mobile devices and related peripherals and cables to complete design and development of their solution. Similarly, each team is responsible for ensuring that they can demo their solution effectively during their pitching presentation, including the use of emulators and other applicable software platforms.
  • What are the judging criteria for participating teams?
    Participating teams will be evaluated on their digital solutions in terms of how they address the following criteria: Relevance to the problem scenario; Legal, technological, and operational practicalities well considered in the design and execution; Optimal user experience (or “UX”) and accessibility by the lay public; Creativity and novelty of the solution; and Operational durability, ongoing support, and economic sustainability. Mandatory questions to be answered by each team during the pitching session In one sentence, what problem are you solving and why is this problem important to access to justice? What are the benefits, including returns on investment and time and cost-savings, for your target users? What are the costs of implementation and maintenance? Assessment Criteria
  • What are the awards and prizes that high-achieving teams could win?
    We will offer cash/product prizes for high-achieving teams, to help launch their projects, with the opportunity to promote their solutions through follow-up media coverage. We will offer these prizes to the top three scoring teams as well as honourable mention(s), subject to the discretion of the judging panel. Post-Hackathon, we will also aim to help teams connect with community organisations and other relevant entities to adopt the prize-winning solutions to demonstrate the utility and practicability of the solutions.
  • What are examples of recent LegalTech hackathons?
    Recently, legal professional associations, universities, and other institutions in American, Australian, and European cities have held their own LegalTech hackathons, focusing on public and/or private sector legal services. These hackathons have predominantly been open for public participation, and serve similar goals, educating the public about the value of technology in the law. Here are some examples: Global Legal Hackathon (23-25 February, 2018); HackJustice UNSW Australia (20-21 July, 2017); Legal Tech Hackathon Toronto (2-4 June, 2017); Berlin Legal Tech 2017 - Legal Hackathon (8 February, 2017); Tech for Justice Legal Justice Hackathon (5-6 November, 2016); Music City Legal Hackathon (8 April, 2016).
  • What does “A2J” technology look like today?
    Technology enhancing A2J is manifested in many forms, reflecting the heterogeneity of "access" and "justice". The growing efforts around the world to promote A2J and technology in the law are echoed by a number of programmes overseas and in mainland China, including: The U.S. Legal Services Corporation’s “Technology Initiative Grant Program” (established in 2000) and its annual “Innovations in Technology Conference”; The digital reform and online courts programme by the Ministry of Justice and the Judiciary of England and Wales respectively (the latter institution held the “Online Court Hackathon” in July 2017); The Singapore Academy of Law’s Future Law Innovation Programme; and The Hangzhou Court of the Internet on the mainland. There are many examples of current A2J applications of technology, including the “A2J Authoring Guide”, which is implemented in community centres and duty lawyer services in the U.S. to guide people without any legal training on preparing information for legal consultations. A2J digital solutions can create significant impact on the provision of legal services to demographics which are under-served with legal representation even if they comprise low-end technologies.
  • Overview of the next “hackathon” on September 28, 2018"
    The next instalment of the InnoTech Law Hackathon will be held on September 28, 2018 (see the Schedule). This time, participants will be asked to compete in a more focused, fast paced “hack” event to address problems arising from the theme of accessing justice in the Belt and Road region. The competition format will take the form of a “mystery shopper exercise” (see responses to the last two questions below) – an innovative approach that should be a first for a law hackathon in Asia. Essentially, the problem scenario, background information, and preparation materials will be released to participants around 1 week before the competition “Demo Day”, and the participants will develop their tech solutions to be presented to a judging panel on September 28, 2018. Part of the assessment would be based on how the solutions handle a series of pre-set queries from the judges. Each team would only find out what these “secret” queries are on the day of the competition, which may or may not be in a conversational format. We aim to provide the participants with workshop training in relevant software development platform and off-site mentoring (i.e. office hour drop-ins). Subject to the information on this page, other information is provided in the general FAQ of this website.
  • Why you should join the “hack”?
    We welcome participants with an interest in the law and technology field, and legal and/or tech backgrounds to join. We will admit teams of 2-6 with a mix of such backgrounds into the competition. Among the team members there should be at least one or two members with beginner level coding or website development skills. One of our key aims is to make working with legaltech accessible and inclusive, and the development of relevant solutions highly feasible in a short period of time.
  • What are the substantive objectives?
    The importance of (human) language and linguistics in the law cannot be overstated. Natural language processing (NLP) technologies play a critical role in bridging human and machine languages. The NLP framework will therefore feature prominently in the hack solutions in this event. The participants will learn and further develop their skills in operating in this area of computational law, which will gain increasing importance in future tech-enabled legal services. Completion of this event will allow participants to create essential building blocks to either help launch new legaltech projects or improve their existing legaltech projects; whatever user interface (UI) or output form these projects should take. The participants should demonstrate creativity and subject matter expertise to help machines capture, extract, organize, and communicate legal meanings / human constructs – via verbal, visual, and other types of representation – and vice versa humans interacting with machines.
  • What are participants required to make as the tech “deliverables”?
    Build your own “law bot”. The participants will make an “A.I. brain” and train it to help provide basic legal information: create simple legal concepts in the NLP framework (in the form of “intents” and “utterances”). The participants will develop these concepts to help the lay public and their “bots” search, extract and articulate legal meanings, and retrieve legal knowledge efficiently on a platform powered by the NLP engine. Once the participants have created their prototype “A.I. brains”, they are free to deliver output by plugging in the digital “body parts” or modules of their choice, including chatbots, dashboards, optical character recognition (OCR), and other modules (some of these modules are provided by the technology sponsor Microsoft on the “LUIS” platform). The participants are encouraged to optimize the UI or user experience (UX) of their “digital body” interfaces for effective access by users. The event is made for beginners: No software development or coding experience required, other than light use of APIs. Create your legal machine brain with Microsoft “LUIS”, an online drag-and-drop platform with plenty of tools out-of-the-box to complete the requisite tasks in this event. We may also provide code samples and templates for the participants to integrate into their prototypes. Teams are also welcome to choose their own NLP framework.
  • What is your “law bot” meant to do, specifically?"
    Firstly, the participants are asked to build basic “A.I. brains” to address a simple legal scenario and issues arising from it. For example, the participants might be asked to respond to queries relating to probate law. A team might decide to address these problems by developing a chatbot. To build the “brain” of the chatbot, the participants will create a list of “intents” and “utterances” in a software framework powered by NLP. The NLP-based “A.I. brain” is essentially a knowledge graph that maps out concepts, I/O triggers, and information repositories to form a highly accessible and interactive “search engine” (in a broad sense). Secondly, the participants will need some time to test their adapted framework to “reason” and process queries on simple legal concepts via various input and output (I/O) models: e.g. verbal Q&A, OCR queries etc. The ways to address the problems with the NLP engine could involve a variety of tech-enabled processes, including sentiment and search analytics and dashboard classifications. In “LUIS”, access to the bundle of “intents” and “utterances” would be published as application ID keys and plug-ins. Thirdly, the participants will iteratively refine the “intents” and “utterances” to improve the quality of the machine responses. Each team should consider how to frame the user-machine interaction and reduce queries and corresponding responses into machine processes appropriate to the context of the problem scenario to optimize effectiveness and efficiency of their solutions. Fourthly, the participants will present the solutions on “Demo Day” and be prepared to have the judges interact with each team’s “law bot” to test its abilities to render appropriate responses that would be helpful to a lay user accessing appropriate legal resources. Under the above example, on “Demo Day”, a judge could ask the chatbot, “how would I make a probate application?” The chatbot could then provide directions to the probate office at the High Court and other relevant information such as freely accessible online information. Fifthly, how well each team does will depend on the relevancy and quality of the responses as well as the UI / UX. Please see the Judging Criteria for details.

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