As a LegalTech founder and web developer, I was excited to take part in the Global Legal Hackathon 2018, hosted by HiiL Hague Institute for Innovation of Law in February in Johannesburg, earlier this year. Since the Hackathon was hosted by HiiL, I decided to focus on an Access to Justice (A2J) solution. It was an exciting weekend project that offered a good break from my daily LegalTech focus centralising around practice and process management.
Cracking the Access to Justice Problem
The day before the Hackathon, I was climbing up Table Mountain in the heat of the January sun, thinking about how I understood access to justice. Given that my background is in computer science and not law, it was best to start with what I knew and then work via first principles.
What sort of justice can one access at scale? A lawyer is limited to a certain number of hours. Information is free but can be a little difficult to navigate. Any good solution would need to make use of these constraints. What if there was a way to use just a few hours of the lawyer’s time and help as many people as possible using these hours? Moving along the Contour Path, looking at Cape Town from above, this seemed like a striking way to crack elements of the access to justice problem.
Fast Forward to the Hackathon – An Open-Sourced Solution
Between a videographer, a technical writer, a web developer, a lawyer and myself, our team had just 48 hours to design and create a solution. It ought to be emphasised that the team actually had a lot to do with the solution. Integrating our skills most effectively was key to making the best use of everyone’s time and guaranteeing a solution of high value.
It was while hopping down the rocks in the shadow of the cable car, that a little aha moment was had: free online legal tutorial videos! Being techy, I use video tutorials regularly to fully immerse in a topic, as an educational tool for myself and others, and to figure out solutions to a problem. We knew that law firms have internal documents, precedents, procedural flows, and asked what would happen if firms were receptive to opening up some of these resources to the public and trading knowledge capital for social capital. The idea was born.
48 Hours to Success
The Hackathon began with naming our startup, getting great guidance from Nic Rosslee of Adams & Adams who suggested the more distinctive the trademark is of legally related services, the greater the trademark protection we would have. It was after a couple of glasses of wine that Baobab Law was chosen.
The next day was spent creating a legal tutorial around copyright infringement. The tutorial was geared towards a client that might approach a law firm that wanted to save money by running through a 10-point checklist before engaging a lawyer, thereby saving themselves many hours of time.
We captured the interview footage in half an hour that formed part one of the tutorials using a cheap label mic and a tripod. Half of our day was spent editing our footage, and we created an animated logo and friendly web portal for the beta test. Things went smoothly as the team kept their heads down. We were solely focused on doing our best to win the contest, blinkered to the teams around us who were as in the zone as we were heading towards the finish line.
By the final afternoon, the tension in the room was palpable as each team presented their ideas. We ended up coming second which was a brilliant achievement, and this earned us a ticket to Legal Innovation & Tech Fest! I loved taking part in the Hackathon, a vital place for innovation to incubate within an access to justice context, and am looking greatly forward to the conference in June!
The future seems bright for Baobab Law. We are currently approaching other firms continuing to build out content for the site, and are excited by the interest being shown so far. We’re entering this idea as our application for the HiiL Innovating Justice challenge this year. Watch this space!
About the Author: Guy Stern – LegalTech Solutions Specialist
Guy loves his dog and mountain hiking. Living each day to the fullest and making his work as fun as his personal life.
Being a non-lawyer, having studied traditional Computer Science Honors at UCT, Guy looks at the legal industry with fresh eyes, choosing this profession as the new Wild West of IT solutions, Guy is passionate and enthusiastic about building solutions around the needs of lawyers and their clients.