[INSTRUCTIONS: READ ] Designing Your Hackathon Solution: Guiding Questions
Updated: Apr 2, 2018
In designing your hackathon solution, please consider all questions set out below, subject to the umbrella of issues set out in the problem scenarios of the Hackathon. We are looking for solutions that address real-life problems. We encourage you to consider potential problems and solutions from diverse perspectives, taking a cross-disciplinary approach. We have also set out recommended websites and readings in each problem scenario section.
At the pitching session in the afternoon on the last day of the Hackathon, you and your team are required to make a maximum five (5)-minute presentation to the panel of judges, which may or may not be followed by maximum two (2) minutes of questions from the panel.
In the presentation, your team is required to answer three (3) questions:
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?
In the presentation, your team is required to “demo” and walk-through your solution. This could be a prototype supplemented by wireframes and graphical diagrams for discussions on relevant workflows or a rough but functional mockup. No PowerPoint deck is necessary.
What is the core issue you are building a solution for? And what is the context of the issue?
You are recommended to select a subject area your team is genuinely interested in understanding and helping. Please define in precise and practical terms the core issue(s) you are building a solution to address.
You could select common legal problems, including but not limited to those, arising from: advice for tech start-ups, intellectual Property, building management; consumer goods and services; conveyancing and stamp duty; divorce and child custody; employment benefits and unfair dismissal; landlord and tenant; loans and debt collection; minor crimes (or summary offences) and criminal procedures; personal injuries (general and employment related compensation); traffic offence; refugee and asylum seekers, etc.
In scoping out your core issue(s), however, you are recommended to identify the specific legal process and area of law relevant to your core issue(s). You might be interested in helping the lawyer to enhance his or her efficiency by automating the screening and review of documentation shared by clients, or tracking requests for information from clients. The more specific and tangible the better. You are required to build a solution where you could convincingly show feasibility and impact.
What are the “solutions” existing in the current market?
Solutions” in this context should be broadly conceived. There may be actual products and services in the market, and you are advised to research on existing paid and free resources relevant to your area of interest. There are commercial vendors of legal research tools and precedent banks for legal template documentation, which are sold primarily to legal practitioners. There may be no product or service per se but there may be commercial and customary practices that address the issue you are focused on, albeit inefficiently or ineffectively.
Free and self-help options are increasingly available to the general public. People might not even know, for example, which form to fill and file or which government department to submit appropriate documentation or enquiries. In many areas of law, there are online and offline self-help resources, including forms and templates to download and frequently asked questions. Yet, the requisite information and documentation needed to deal with a single case might be scattered within and among different websites and physical locations (e.g. offices of the judiciary and government agencies). There are time and costs attached to each administrative procedure, whether directly or indirectly borne by the client.
Nevertheless, these self-help systems are mostly “passive information stores” requiring users to know what “ails” them and come up with relevant search terms or search strategies to find appropriate reference materials. This is a fundamental problem of search, data science, and information retrieval. It is also a fundamental problem in optimising choices in a multi-layered "option maze": the choices of lawyer and legal strategy, the likelihood of obtaining financial support (e.g. legal aid) are all interrelated.
Who are you helping, really?
You might start by focusing on a particular stakeholder group. For example, you might consider how a member of the general public could articulate his or her problems and what are their available means before engaging a lawyer. From the professional’s perspective, you might consider how the lawyer’s administrative and operational issues could be addressed. You might be helping non-profits or community organisations that connect the general public with pro bono and subsidised legal services.
You might have a “B2C” solution to address issues arising from the relationship between the lawyer and the client. You might have a solution focused on the relationship between the lawyer and a government agency, for example, where appointed lawyers are reporting on case management updates to the Legal Aid Department.
How to get help for your team (mentors and advisers)?
While the final solution to be submitted by your team should be your original work with any credit appropriately attributed, we do not expect you and your team members to all be experts in the field you are addressing. You are encouraged to seek help from mentors and advisers, whether they are legal, technology, and other specialists relevant to the Hackathon.
Before the competition, you are highly encouraged to find and speak with one or more subject matter experts with relevant practical experiences to learn about:
(a) the overall legal process;
(b) common documentation involved;
(b) evidentiary issues;
(c) the operational costs and workflows;
(d) timelines and timing / procedural issues;
(e) legal and operational risks; and
(f) other key stakeholders involved (e.g. banks and government agencies).
In addition to legal practitioners, senior clerks and paralegals in law firms, among others, are great resources and could offer practical guidance.
During the competition, we will provide mentors from a range of practice areas and specialisms relevant to the Hackathon for teams to consult with. They will be available around the competition venue for each team to speak with to gain a better understanding about relevant issues, and to discuss design ideas and practicality of potential solutions. However, we cannot guarantee that there will be sufficient numbers of mentors with experiences directly relevant to the area you would like to work in. We might notify ahead of time the backgrounds of the mentors, but you are advised to seek your own mentors to avoid disappointment.
Why should your target users adopt your solution?
Before building out your solution, you should conduct a “reality test” on your idea and design to check if it would work “on paper” at least. Your test could be based on the following questions:
The user-friendliness of your solution, including the user interface and the overall workflow (i.e. what the user needs to input and what the user needs to do after the output). Your target users might be from all walks of life, and your solution should be intuitive.
Does your solution create an extra layer of operational burden and, if so, is it worth it for your target users to adopt the solution anyway? E.g. your solution only works with digitised documentation that is rendered searchable by optical character recognition.
Are you building a solution to address a problem that is suitable to the technology you are using? Even the latest technology in the market today can only address relatively simple, straightforward, and repeatable tasks arising from and related to legal practice. Legal analysis is still largely the preserve of lawyers.
Why should your target users prefer your solution instead of existing ones (if any)? And, what are the “switching costs” where your target users decide to change and adopt your solution?