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Global Legal Hackathon, an Interview with the Co-Founder and Global Organizer Aileen Schultz

Welcome to part 1 of my 2-part journey exploring the Global Legal Hackathon that will be taking place around the world February 23-25, 2018.

My name is Yvonne Nath, I work in law firm operations, and am pursuing a Master’s in Law Firm Management at The George Washington University. Lately, I have been on a mission to collect all of the information about legal industry innovation I come across into one place. If you are interested in seeing or contributing to this collection, please visit us at

In late December 2017, I saw a LinkedIn post announcing the the first ever Global Legal Hackathon (“6 Continents, 54 Hours”). Out of curiosity, I registered to participate without really knowing what it was.

The website gives us this:

“The Global Legal Hackathon engages law schools, law firms and in-house departments, legal technology companies, governments, and service providers to the legal industry – across the globe. It will bring together the best thinkers, doers and practitioners in law in support of a unified vision: rapid development of solutions to improve the legal industry, world-wide.”

This left me feeling unprepared: was I qualified to participate? Should I be using the next few weeks to learn the elements of a programming language and, if so, which one? Many questions came to mind.

Thanks to a mutual connection on LinkedIn, I happened upon Aileen Schultz. Aileen is Co-Founder and Global Organizer of the Global Legal Hackathon, and she has kindly agreed to be interviewed by me so we can learn more about it.

Aileen, what inspired you to organize the Global Legal Hackathon?

Thanks, Yvonne. I have spent the last handful of years working in the legal sector. You know, everything actually has a legal context -- all human systems. Legal innovation is about progressing human systems. Many people, including myself, are frustrated with the pace of progress in the government and legal sector. There are many companies creating similar solutions and duplicating efforts across disparate jurisdictions, as you may have seen with chatbots and contract compilation software, for instance. Last year, at a (non-legal) hackathon in New York, my colleague at Integra, David Fisher, and I realized that one of the most utilized solutions being used at that hackathon was our product, Integra Ledger, which is a permissioned blockchain for the global legal industry. We were blown away to discover that for once, there at that hackathon, it seemed legal was at the forefront of innovation. We realized that a global context for legal innovation was not yet being addressed and this was hindering collaboration and progress. Legal is at its cusp of turning into a transformative industry, and we thought “hey, what a perfect time for a global legal hackathon!”

Tell us about your experience in organizing the Global Legal Hackathon

Integra has given me tremendous bandwidth to organize this hackathon, for which I am very grateful. We are providing the platform. We will be using the Cadence mobile app to share photos and messaging during the event, as well as to support hosts in their management of local registration. We owe all of its early growth to the hosts around the world who have volunteered their resources. They will cover the costs to host at their specific locations and they will drive the culture at each location. Each location will have its own cultural flavor, which makes this event really fun. The hosts are incredibly brave -- most have never even heard of a hackathon!

Tell us what to expect over the 54-event

When you arrive at your chosen host location, you will check in at registration. There will be a networking period where you will wear a badge that notes your name and skill set, and you will have time to get to know one another and make yourselves aware of what skills are in the room. Teams can come preformed, or can form at the beginning of the event on Friday the 23rd. Teams can also come half formed, looking for additional skill sets to add to their crew. It is an unstructured process for establishing teams and coming up with your own challenges you wish to address. You spend the rest of the hackathon trying to solve those challenges within your team, and then pitch to the panel of local judges on the late evening of the 25th.

Do we need to know certain programming languages or have certain tech prerequisites (how do we prepare)?

No specific skills are required. Although tech chops are not required, developers are very much desired and in demand at legal hackathons. In their short history, legal hackathons have not been the most attractive to developers, because legal is not traditionally seen as a sexy focus, per se, but that’s changing. There are so many opportunities for developers now in the legal sector, and the hackathon is a great time for them to dive in!

What do you expect will be the Global Legal Hackathon demographic?

All. All are welcome and encouraged to attend. We really want our message to be that we encourage all perspectives and levels of experience, and all stakeholders. Diversity promotes innovation. As of the date of this interview (January 22, 2018), over 42 cities across 6 continents have registered for hosting the Global Legal Hackathon. We expect to exceed 8,000 participants with a very real possibility of exceeding 10,000, with a humble (aha) goal of breaking the world record for a hackathon by surpassing 14,000, which is how many people were registered for the 2017 NASA Space Apps hackathon. We are already the largest legal hackathon in the world, through organized growth and joining forces with other hackathons, such as we are doing with the Berlin Legal Tech hackathon (Hacking.Law).

We expect attorneys, developers, designers, students, law schools, non-profits, for-profits, project managers, senior partners, CIO’s and more. Traditionally, hackathons are attended by young technologists, but we encourage all to attend, and hope to see a balance of legal professionals and technologists building real solutions that will live well beyond the hackathon.

What happens with the ideas generated from hackathons (are companies formed, who owns the IP, etc.)?

Teams own their IP. What they do with it after the Global Legal Hackathon is entirely up to them. Some will participate solely for the experience or for fun. We anticipate and are preparing for some teams to form companies and take what they’ve created at the Global Legal Hackathon to new levels, whether they continue to later rounds or whether they do this outside of the hackathon. We have three rounds to this hackathon, the first being the initial 54-hour event from February 23-25, 2018. One winning team from each host location will be invited to participate in a global round two, which will be held remotely. 8-10 winning teams from round two will be invited to a final round in New York City, where winners can pitch their ideas at the gala reception on April 21st, 2018.

Who are your role models in the industry?

The following individuals and organizations have stood out to me throughout my legal innovation journey, whether as friends, or as truly awe inspiring gear-turning individuals and entities that are drivers of the change we’re seeing today in the industry: David Fisher, Amy Te Haar, Jason Moyse, Margaret Hagen, Richard Tromans, Richard Susskind, Sovrin, Cognitive Legal, startups like Loom Analytics and, and finally, every single person out there that is crazy enough to say to themselves, “I think I can change the world”, and then actually do.

You mentioned your collaboration with Hacking.Law. Are there any other people or organizations with whom/which you would love to collaborate?

We’re open to and invite collaboration from all organizations, firms, innovation centres, bar associations, schools, in-house counsel departments, and more. But, in particular I’d love to see more involvement from government organizations. Ultimately, if we’re truly going to transform legal systems at a global level, we need government bodies to jump on board full force in both avid support and involvement.

What is your particular passion with respect to legal innovation?

Finding solutions for tackling human rights issues at the borders and domestically. In particular, deriving a sovereign identity solution that is globally adopted. Organizations like Sovrin are tackling this problem area, and they need global support. This is about providing a digital identity that is recognized worldwide. Your ID would be your own, not belonging to any government or centralized source. This is a global need that requires a global mindset; collaboration across the globe may help us create the platform for the development of such a widely accepted identity solution. Though the problem areas sovereign identities can help tackle are far and wide, I’m particularly passionate about seeing such a solution aid in the combat of human trafficking.

Thank you, Aileen, for your time and thoughts. I look forward to attending the Global Legal Hackathon in February!

This concludes our interview. If you would like to read about my experiences at the Global Legal Hackathon, part 2 of this piece will be published in next month’s eMagazine. For questions and comments, you may contact Aileen Schultz at or me, Yvonne Nath,


About Aileen Schultz and Yvonne Nath

Aileen is a Network Strategist, Legalhacker, Thinker, and Doer living in Toronto (Canada). In addition to co-founding and organizing the Global Legal Hackathon, she is Director of Network Intelligence for Integra Ledger.

Yvonne is a Legal Innovation Aggregator, Facilitator, and Polymath living in Cleveland, Ohio (USA). She is the Director of Strategic Operations at Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur LLP.

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