JD students take bushfire app to Georgetown

From creating legal apps to competing in the Georgetown Law Iron Tech Lawyer competition, MLS JD students are future-ready.

The recent bushfire crisis affected millions of Australians. Countless houses were destroyed, with many communities still reeling from the wide-spread devastation and resulting complex legal challenges. In the aftermath of the fires, insurance has become the number one legal issue affecting bushfire victims.

It was this situation that inspired MLS JD students Brittany Baker, Eva Carroll, Sverre Gunnersen and Wesley Yu to work with Victoria Legal Aid to create i-Claim, a bushfire insurance help app that can guide users through the complicated insurance claim process.

MLS JD students Sverre Gunnersen, Eva Carroll, Wesley Yu and Brittany Baker

“We created i-Claim in the MLS Law Apps subject after witnessing the horrors of Australia's Black Summer. Most of us knew somebody whose property or business was damaged, destroyed or at least jeopardised by the bushfires,” says Brittany.

Sverre agrees, adding that low-ball settlement offers are a real problem. “People who have lost everything but the clothes off their back are particularly vulnerable,” he says

The i-Claim: Bushfire Insurance Help app

I-Claim is designed to provide assistance with claim preparation, claim lodgement, and outcome options using animations and clear, concise language. It allows users to securely store their important documents in one place, and generates and sends letters to insurers and the Financial Complaints Authority, helping users draft and lodge claims and complaints.

The team hopes that their app will be put to practical use, and are in contact with Victoria Legal Aid about possibly housing the app on their website in the future.

An outcome of creating the app was the opportunity to compete in the inaugural Georgetown Law Iron Tech Lawyer Invitational earlier this month, where student teams from around the world showcase legal tech and data analysis tools they have developed to help improve access to justice.

The apps were judged on concept, design, presentation and execution. MLS competed against the University of Hong Kong, Georgetown Law, Richmond School of Law, the University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law and the University of California, gaining an honourable mention in the finals which, due to current COVID-19 restrictions, was held virtually over five different time zones.

The MLS team's Georgetown Law Iron Tech Lawyer presentation

“The experience was both challenging and rewarding and involved many hours of work. However, it was an honour to participate, representing Australia and the University of Melbourne”, says Eva.

“Initially I thought presenting virtually would be difficult, but it suited the competition and didn’t present any problems – apart from the fact the final ran from 11pm till 2am Melbourne time!”

For Brittany, the experience was surreal, however she adds “it was great because it meant that my parents could tune in and watch from NSW.”

“Competing was a fantastic experience. It was very rewarding to build a workable, useful app that will hopefully be utilised by future bushfire victims,” says Wesley, who along with his teammates, hopes to continue working with law and digital technology. “I think tech and data science will be great skills for all lawyers to have in the future - along with traditional legal and commercial skills.”

Sverre also plans to continue to work in the digital legal tech space, although he notes that everyone in the legal profession will, eventually.

“Technology happens whether people in the industry like it or not. Just look at how in two short weeks after the COVID-19 lockdown courts have pivoted from resisting the use of video conferencing to embracing it.”

Watch the full MLS Georgetown Law Iron Tech Lawyer presentation and experience the i-Claim app.

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