A Juris Doctor student’s journey from first-time hacker to pitch perfect

It was at an MLS careers consultation that second year Melbourne JD student, Elisa Wong learned of Law Without Walls X (LWOWX) Social Enterprise Hackathon – a four-month virtual competition for law students around the world.

Elisa Wong

“I was interested in technology and innovation, but I wasn’t sure how I would pursue that with a law degree,” explains Elisa.

After submitting a three-minute application video, Elisa was accepted into LWOWX and was put in a team with peers from London, Guatemala and Melbourne.

Elisa and her team communicated online and worked with team leaders from industry and LWOWX alumni mentors to create a virtual solution for the topic: ‘fake news and the search for truth’. Each team of law students were required to build a tech-based or tech-enabled solution for their assigned topic.

“The topic they give you is really broad,” Elisa says.

“Something we’re told from the beginning is that you want to find the root cause of the issue, you don’t want to solve a symptom.”

It was a ‘20 crazy ideas in 20 minutes’ brainstorming session that led to the creation of a complementary virtual reality training program in domestic violence for police officers. The team conducted psychological-based research which helped them to narrow their topic to ‘how to address the effect of misinformation of implicit gender biases in police officers’.

“Our product was called ‘Komorebi’ which is the Japanese word for ‘the filtering of light between trees’,” Elisa says.

“Our unconscious bias lives in the darkness of our mind, and we’re shining a light on that.”

Elisa felt confident her group could win a supplementary prize, but “freaked out” when they were announced the overall winner.

“It was 5.30am and I was delirious, it didn’t hit me until the next day that I was going to Miami to compete in the LWOW Original Hackathon against other winning teams!”

Elisa has since competed in Miami, where her team won Best Pitch. LWOW Original brings together winning teams from across the world to present their LWOWX product to a live panel of judges and audience.

Elisa has learned a raft of new skills including project management, business plan development, prototyping, advertising, and new ways of approaching research.

“LWOW forces you to look at the big picture, so when you come to make a solution it’s more creative, human-centred, and empathic,” Elisa says

“It’s different to how you would typically solve a problem in law school.”

Elisa finessed her skills in time management by balancing her JD and LWOWX commitments. “I got on top of my studies before LWOW got too intense”. Elisa worked with the schedules of her mentors and team leaders, citing her team’s priority to use their time effectively.

But there was more flexibility for her group’s weekly meetings, revealing that “sometimes I’d be in my pyjamas and others would be in work clothes”. Elisa relished the challenge of working across different time zones with peers of different cultures; people of whom she now calls “friends for life”.

Now an award-winner in pitching, what is Elisa’s pitch to JD students who are considering LWOW?

“If you’re looking to learn skills you won’t learn at law school that will help you succeed in your career – do LWOW.”

“It’s such a rewarding experience, if not for the skills you’ll learn but for the people you’ll meet. It’s been one of the highlights of my academic career.”

By Melissa Stewart

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Melissa Stewart