Online Courts Hackathon
1st - 2nd July
Professor Richard Susskind OBE, President of the Society of Computers and Law and one of the online courts pioneers: “Online courts are likely to be the most significant development in our court system since the nineteenth century, enabling far greater and affordable access to justice. We are bowled over by the response to the Hackathon.”
ONLINE COURTS HACKATHON – THE RESULTS
The first Online Courts Hackathon was held over 24 hours on 1 and 2 July. Over 200 participants from law firms, universities and technology companies formed teams, including lawyers/law students, coders and designers from the UK, Europe and even Australia. A team from Wavelength Law and the Law Society of England and Wales were declared the winners and awarded their prize by Lord Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice.
The Hackathon was organised by the Society for Computers and Law, Legal Geek, the Judiciary of England and Wales and HM Courts & Tribunals Service. The SCL President, Professor Richard Susskind OBE, and Legal Geek’s Jimmy Vestbirk devised and drove the event forward. The Hackathon was hosted by the University of Law.
The Online Courts Hackathon challenged teams to design various tools to support online courts in just 24 hours under various headings:
- form-filling - making court documents more accessible to litigants in person
- order drafting - creating orders that are more likely to be accepted by courts
- continuous online hearing - challenging the question of whether a court is a place or a service
- argument-building - to aid non-lawyers in creating well-structured arguments, distinguishing fact from law
- outcome prediction – using technology to answer the natural question "what are my chances of winning?" rather than asking a lawyer
- negotiating and settlement – tools to help resolve disputes before they escalate
- dispute classification - to guide non-lawyers to resolution options
- bundles - how to solve the plastic-bag-full-of-paper problem.
Thirty teams pitched their ideas and reported on their progress on building their solution. After a short-listing phase, nine teams got four minutes in front of the full panel of judges and every other attendee. The judges were:
- Mrs Justice May, High Court judge
- Mrs Justice Carr, High Court judge
- Amanda Finlay, Chair of Law for Life
- Kevin Gallagher, Digital Change Director
- Chris James, Technology Lawyer, SCL Trustee
- James Moore, Co-founder, F-Lex Legal.
The Wavelength/Law Society winning suggestion was went above and beyond the set challenges. Their concept went from a diagnosis of a chest complaint in a doctor’s surgery through each stage of a possible claim against a landlord, using slick ‘pathfinder’ technology and voice interaction with COLIN (the Courts OnLINe help agent). As well as Wavelength’s legal engineers, the team included Peter Wright, chair of the Law Society’s technology & law reference group, and Sophia Adams Bhatti, the Law Society’s director of legal and regulatory policy.
The runners-up, TeamPM from Pinsent Masons, presented ‘MobiMapper’, a case visualisation and argument mapper which narrows the issues of a case into a single document that a litigant in person might bring to court.
There were also awards for the Craziest Idea, which went to the Two of Us, Best Teamwork, won by the Gilbert & Tobin team, and for ‘Coolest Tech’, which was awarded to a team from Cambridge University for their ClaimR, an algorithmic decision tree that predicted case outcomes to 83% accuracy.
Susan Acland-Hood, CEO of HM Courts and Tribunals said: “We want to take the best justice system in the world and improve it though new technology and modern ways of working. Our existing plans for online courts will help people resolve disputes quickly in ways that suit them but we also want to work with others who can bring us new ideas. The excellent teams competing in this event will be contributing to something that really matters - the delivery of a better justice system for the future.”
Jimmy Vestbirk, founder of Legal Geek: “We believe online courts are the perfect application of technology to improve access to justice. Legal Geek, the world's largest community of LawTech startups, is proud to co-host a hackathon which could generate ideas to shape the future of our court system. This was a once in a life time opportunity for students, coders, designers, legal professionals and innovators to shape the future of online courts.”
Thank you to The University of Law who are helping organise this event
The proposed introduction of online courts in England and Wales (for civil, family, and tribunal disputes) represents one of the most significant reforms to the justice system in the past two centuries. Supported by both the Government and the Judiciary of England and Wales, the motivation behind online courts is to provide greater access to justice at lower cost than the conventional court system. While the government is leading the transformation (and is investing around £1 billion in modernising the courts), it is recognised that the design of the online courts would benefit from the input of the wider communities of lawyers, court users, law students, and technologists.
The idea of the Hackathon is to bring these communities together over a 24-hour period (from noon to noon) and in a friendly and yet competitive spirit, to invite teams to come up with designs, solutions, systems, and technologies for online courts. Participants will be invited to design various tools to support online courts – for example, tools to help litigants structure their legal arguments, organise their documents, negotiate settlements without advisers, as well as systems that will promote ‘open justice’ and machine learning solutions that will help analyse all the data generated by the online courts (these examples were drawn, in part, from discussions with HM Courts & Tribunals Service).
Prizes will awarded for the best ideas. Pizzas and coffee will be consumed in great quantities while the teams work through the night.
This hackathon is an application process, applying does not guarantee entry. The secret location will be revealed to accepted teams and individuals.