Reflections on a successful start of the Global Legal Hackathon
One month ago you may have read in Legal Business World my interview with Aileen Schultz about the world’s first Global Legal Hackathon (the “GLH”). Aileen is Co-Founder and Global Organizer of the GLH, which just took place February 23-25, with roughly 5,000 registered participants across 22 countries on 6 continents.
Much text has already been devoted to the GLH, including many articles and posts that were being published real-time during the event. Here are some of my own reflections on the GLH as I experienced it from two different host cities.
First, I drove from the U.S. to Canada so I could join Aileen and the GLH teams in Toronto. At the border crossing into Canada, the border officer asked me why I was visiting the country. When I told him “For the Global Legal Hackathon,” he said “Oh yes, I have heard of that -- it is happening over 3 days, right?” I took that as an omen that this weekend would be momentous!
The GLH kicked off in host cities around the world, more or less in succession by time zone. Just like dominos, potential energy transformed into kinetic energy and we were soon all on the move. We could follow posts from participants around the world through the Slack app and on the GLH website where a page was devoted to a live feed.
Everyone seemed to be focused, inclusive, and having fun.
Here is a photo of Aileen Schultz and me, with a couple teams in the background.
At the downtown office of Dentons Toronto, 7 teams formed quickly on Friday evening after initial mingling and idea pitches. Over the next couple days, several teams hunkered down on the 4th and 5th floors of the office, and some worked elsewhere but returned to the office when it was time to present.
Some teams preferred to avoid too much structure, and some teams chose to adopt defined team member roles, such as:
Front-end developer (for what we see)
Back-end developer (server-side data processing)
User Experience (UX) designer
People had backgrounds in physics, law, economics, marketing, IT, operations, and even acting ... you name it.
Their reasons for attending included but were not limited to the following: to build businesses, learn about innovation in the legal sphere, have a new experience, change the world expand their network, and to learn about blockchain.
Here were some of the tools being used:
Downloads of csv files
Python 3 and above
UX design theory
Sketch for web layout design
InVision for prototyping
Wix free website builder
For anyone who desires to learn code, some participants recommended these sites: Edx, Udemy, Coursera, and Stack Exchange.
At 9pm each night, we left the office and returned each morning at 8am, with some people continuing to work through the nights outside of the office (not literally outside, I hope, as it was dark and cold, but from home or otherwise). Yes, some people were fatigued by Day 2, and one person napped midday in a nearby room. Thanks to sponsors, we had food and coffee to sustain us each day.
In the wee morning of Day 3, I drove back to my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio to observe the GLH taking place at Cleveland State University where it just so happened that another event, Startup Vikes (“create a business in one weekend”), was taking place down the hall from the GLH. There was a flow between these two events of participants and idea sharing. What kismet! It was fun to connect with people around the world. It was absolutely inspiring to me to witness the diversity of challenges people were trying to solve, and to watch people come together, first as strangers, to collaborate over 3 days, and then to make it to the finish line together, more as partners and friends, who attested that collaboration improved their initial ideas. (The GLH is working to collect team project summaries; check the GLH website to learn more.)
Another impressive moment, among many such moments over the GLH weekend, was when we learned that Vlad Posad from the Ukraine took the initiative to create a mascot for the GLH named Hacky!
I asked Aileen to contribute her takeaway from the world’s first GLH, and here is what she had to say: “No one could have anticipated this. It is a true testament to the global spirit driving legal innovation. Legal systems are what enable human systems, and human systems are incredibly broken. It has been truly mind blowing to see the energy and passion united for change across the industry, and well, well, well, beyond it. It seems clear to me that we’re approaching the right time to collaborate on establishing universal legal systems that will break down the siloed walls, enable human collaboration as it has the potential to be, and to lay the foundations for evolution across all sectors.
We’re now moving into round two, where teams will have had about two weeks to improve their winning solutions. The intention is to enable, and encourage, further development of the solutions. The goal has always been to connect the legal industry globally to facilitate actual development of change. As some have correctly identified, this often is not accomplished at hackathons. We intend to change that trend, and more than that, to facilitate an ever growing body for rapid evolution and the changing of global systems.”
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About the author:
Yvonne Nath 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.