Not long ago, the words “legal” and “hacking” were generally only synonymous when the “hacker” found themselves in court and on the wrong side of the law. That might be changing.  The justice system of the future may very well be created by hackers.

On Friday, February 5th, The University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law kicked off Arkansas’ first legal-themed hackathon.

Bowen’s Dean of Student’s Michael H. Schwartz recognized the value of the event as an opportunity to better prepare Bowen students and faculty for a future where the practice of law will be increasingly influenced by emerging technology.  “The law school must be producing people who are technologically savvy,” said Schwartz.  Commenting on his impressions of the event, Schwartz added, “I came away dazzled by the talent right here in Little Rock.  I had high expectations, but my expectations were tripled.  I was very excited about the symposium.  The speakers were phenomenal.  And then the hackathon was even better.”

During the hackathon, programmers, designers and legal professionals teamed up and squared off in an all-night sprint to identify and execute concepts for improving access to legal representation.  According to event speaker Toby Unwin, CIO of Premonition, the legal system in the United States is “severely broken”, and log jammed by runaway litigation.  According to Unwin, American’s file 40,000 lawsuits every day, and spend over $400B in litigation every year, a figure he described as “the economic equivalent of 9/11 every 10 days.”  Unwin says transparency is severely lacking in the legal system, and that technology is the means by which that transparency comes to the law.  Events like Bowen’s legal hackathon provide technologists, design thinkers and legal professionals an opportunity to explore potential solutions to these problems, and innovate solutions to solve them.

The concept for the event was conceived and organized by attorney and Bowen adjunct professor Vince Morris, and attorney and Phyzit Chief Privacy Officer Stewart Whaley.  “This is the first ever ‘legal hackathon’ in the state of Arkansas.  I feel hackathon’s are important to the legal profession because they not only bring together coders and developers, but they bring together critical ideas and experience to put forth solutions to so many problems that I encounter in my line of work as a Legal Aid Attorney,” said Morris.

The event followed Bowen’s annual Law Review Symposium.  The theme of this year’s symposium was “Legal Hacking: Technology and Innovation in the Legal Profession”, and featured a lineup of thought leaders and speakers from some of the premier legal technology companies in the world, such as LegalZoom, Avvo, Premonition, Ravel Law and others.

The event wrapped up Saturday, with cash prizes of $1000 and $500 awarded to the Top 2 teams.

DAY 1 – A mashup of Day 1 events.

By Tim Freeman in Hark TV