#BreakingLaw – lessons from a Corporate Law Hackathon

Third year JD student Kenji Yamada took part in a recent hackathon designed to bring together students from a range of disciplines to develop solutions to real world corporate law challenges. He reflects on his experience.

Students at the 2016 Corporate Law Hackathon

Students at the 2016 Corporate Law Hackathon.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in the ‘Corporate Law Hackathon’ hosted by Melbourne Law School and King & Wood Mallesons.

Lawyers and university students from a range of disciplines, including law, business, design and IT, came together to tackle real challenges confronting the legal industry.

Over the space of 48 hours, 12 teams raced against the clock to come up with new and innovative solutions. Tasks included designing an app for domain name disputes, streamlining the negotiating and drafting of contracts, and creating a new digital approach to delivering legal services.

As a law student, the Hackathon provided a valuable insight into some of the day-to-day realities and challenges of practising law that we are not often exposed to while studying. For instance, my team realised that a common issue that lawyers face during the contract drafting and negotiating process is determining whether a term is appropriate, compared with what is usual in the market for similar types of deals. Often lawyers have to trudge through digital archives or consult colleagues with more experience in that area. My team saw such time-consuming and ineffective approaches as a chance to develop an interactive comparison tool.

Having to brainstorm, develop and create something over the space of a weekend was an intense but rewarding experience.  Not only did we learn more about legal practice but also other important skills.

As Melbourne Law School lecturer and one of the Hackathon organisers Wendy Ng put it,  “We wanted students to have the experience of solving a practical problem that is law-related but which requires them to think laterally and use skills that they might not typically associate with legal practice.”

Another aspect that I really enjoyed about the Hackathon was the opportunity to work with people from a variety of backgrounds who could bring a range of skills to the table.

During one of the workshops, Maureen Thurston, the Design to Innovate Director at Aurecon, spoke about the growing need for professionals to think beyond the silos of their industries and stressed the importance of collaboration across different disciplines. In my experience, working in a diverse group definitely led to the creation of a stronger and more comprehensive final product.

The weekend closed with group presentations to the judging panel. Winning first place was the group ‘Lawsome Foursome’ who created a digital alternative to traditional legal documents.

The Hackathon was an intense but enjoyable experience. Not only did we hear from great guest speakers about the changing legal landscape, but also we were provided with workshops and opportunities to develop important skills for lawyering in the 21st Century.

By Kenji Yamada.

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