Highlights From the European Legal Hackers Summit 2018
Technology keeps on evolving, and the regulatory bodies and businesses alike have to adapt to the changing landscape. For law professionals such a technology-driven evolution brings new tools for the job, new reasons to muse about the future, and, in some cases, new concerns to address. Legal tech, emerging from the fusion of legal practice and relevant technological solutions, is perceived not only as a way to address the problems of the practice of law, but as a way to improve regular people’s access to justice and make the entire law systems around the world better.
To talk about the emergent legal tech trends, the toughest problems, and potential solutions, the Kyiv chapter of the global Legal Hackers movement organized the first European Legal Hackers Summit 2018 in Odessa, Ukraine, held on May 26th. lawless.tech has attended the event, and here’s what it was all about.
Reflections on the Global Legal Hackers Movement
According to Jameson Dempsey, director of Legal Hackers movement, Ukrainian chapter was one of the most active among over 90 chapters throughout the world, and the Summit was organized entirely by Kyiv Legal Hackers chapter.
“I didn’t choose Ukraine, Ukraine chose itself. Ukrainian Legal Hackers has been one of the most active chapters and when we proposed this idea of doing regional summits they had been offering for a long time to host people from around Europe, from around the world in Ukraine. So, when we launched this project of doing regional summits they said they want to be a part of it. We’re thrilled that they hosted it, organized it all themselves. It wasn’t organized centrally, it’s organized by the local chapter for the global community and that’s how it happened. Also, Ukraine is a beautiful country. It’s my first time and I’m glad I came,” Mr. Dempsey told lawless.tech.
The Legal Hackers movement dates back to 2012, when several New York students hosted the first “legal hackathon” at Brooklyn Law School. The hackathon gave way to the “NY Legal Hackers” meetup, which later grew into a community of legal tech innovators that gained traction and became a global movement with over 90 chapters in over 75 cities on six continents. As Mr. Dempsey noted, before getting involved with Legal Hackers himself, he was interested in technology and public policy. Working at a law firm just after the Uni, he had to learn how to do the job without anybody’s help and was prompted to understand the software to work with. Later he became a lawyer representing telecommunications and tech companies, which, eventually, led him to Legal Hackers.
The movement has taken some of its inspiration from the original computer hackers of the 1950s–1960s:
“What we take from the original hackers ethics is the idea of creative problem solving, and the idea that the technology can be used as the force for good to improve things like access to justice and the legal system. So it is broad, it is a little bit different, but we’re inspired by it. We’re taking the mindset, we’re taking the mentality of creative problem solving, leveraging technology and applying it in legal context,” Mr. Dempsey noted.
The geographically diverse structure of Legal Hackers allows each local chapter, whether in well-developed countries or in developing ones, to effectively address the similar problems put in a different legal systems with their local peculiarities. As Mr. Dempsey puts it:
“In Legal Hackers chapters throughout the world, I think, many of the core challenges are the same. The issues of improving efficiency, the issues of access to justice, in some cases making legal researches available for the public, and proving the technological skills of lawyers, like learning how to code or learning design skills or project management skills — those tend to be common around the world. It’s really just the way that they are implemented, and that’s one of the reasons why the Legal Hackers are so focused on empowering local communities, so focused on local issues. It’s because the systems are different and we want the local people who understand these issues to be the ones addressing them first and foremost.”
Notably, the summit gathered Legal Hackers members from all around, including Magda Siwanowicz from Warsaw, Poland; Irina Hliabovich from Minsk, Belarus; Dmytro Foremnyi from Kyiv, Ukraine; Maxim Makovey from Chisinau, Moldova; and Holger Zcheyge from Moscow, Russia.
The Scope: Legal Education, Access to Justice and Justice Innovation, GDPR, ICO Regulation, Open Data, and Legal Tech Products
After the opening keynote speech and the words about Legal Hackers initiative, the scope shifted to education-related issues brought up over the Legal Education in the Era of Legal Tech panel discussion. Participants in the discussion were Farshida Zafar from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Iryna Hliabovich from Zubr Capital, Minsk, Belarus; and Lexorium founder Denis Ivanov from Odessa, Ukraine, as a moderator.
The discussion revolved around such important questions as the kinds of knowledge one should have to be a legal tech lawyer, the problem of attracting young professionals, and the obsolete aspects of the existing education system. According to the experts, a legal tech professional have to be somewhat of a “jack of all trades” while remaining competent at least in the legal area. Here, however, lie additional complications. As mentioned by Iryna Hliabovich, there is a lack of competent teachers capable of providing aspiring innovative lawyers with the much needed technical knowledge and skills of management and interdisciplinary cooperation.
Yet another important issue young legal professionals are facing right now is the uneven employment landscape, as even the professionals with all the needed skills can find themselves without the job opportunities where they would be able to make the actual impact and drive the progress further.
The next stop in the agenda was a speech by Holger Zscheyge, director of Infotropic Media and one of the co-organizers of Moscow Legal Tech conference. His speech titled Access to justice: how a nearly missed marriage helped fight for consumer rights, as the name implies, was centered around the issue of access to justice from the regular people’s standpoint. Mr. Zscheyge provided the audience with several important numbers, such as that 84% of the U.S. citizens can’t afford legal help, or that about 600,000,000 of individual Russian nationals’ legal cases appear each year, or that the costs of solving legal problems faced by small and medium businesses reach nearly £100 billion (over $133,6 billion). He also noted that it’s wrong to think that the tech will change the lawyers in the nearest future, however the tech is already capable of improving access to justice.
The latest hot news on lawyers’ radar, the EU’s GDPR, was addressed as well. The new rules, applicable to European companies and any companies that have clients or employees in the EU, are aimed to regulate the processes of collecting, storing, and processing individuals’ personal data. Notably, the penalty for violating the GDPR is a fine of €20 million (over $23 million) or 4% of the violator’s annual turnover.
Mr. Beregovyi also mentioned that such documents should be created for each particular case considering both the requirements of GDPR and the individual specifics of a business in questions.
ICO regulation, being a similarly hyped up topic for regulators, lawyers, and entrepreneurs alike, was addressed over the panel Token Regulation: ICO market transformation according to new regulatory issues, moderated by Nestor Dubnevych, Senior Associate at Juscutum Attorneys Association. The discussion touched the matters of market evolution alongside the new regulations and the lawyers involved with crypto- and blockchain-driven businesses. According to Mr. Dubnevych, 46% of projects that had successful ICO’s weren’t developing their own products, which is an unsettling statistics for cryptolawyers, who are often hired to protect the interests of such projects.
Shorena Kikaleishvili, Head of Legal Department at Georgian cryptostartup Spotcoin, mentioned that the global market for ICO won’t remain the same, but will get healthier over time, considering the effort put into creating the appropriate regulatory frameworks today. As for the Georgia, where her project is incorporated, she mentioned that currently the jurisdiction doesn’t impose any strict governmental regulations.
The second half of the Summit began with the speech by Wilfried De Wever, founder of Humanity Solutions and the Head of the HiiL Innovating Justice Hub. Under the title 10 years of justice innovation: lessons learned, Mr. De Wever offered his perspective on the impact and the knowledge gained from the last decade of innovation in practice of law and access to justice, as well as several practical advices to the aspiring justice innovators. He pointed out the acute problems of climate change and consolidation of power in hands of a few individuals. Notably, both problems mentioned above can, and most definitely should, be addressed by the emerging legal tech and justice innovation initiatives. As for the advice, Mr. De Wever recommended aspiring entrepreneurs to choose the growing market that they do understand, to focus, to work as a team, and to remember about the revenues.
After the keynote speech by Wilfried De Wever, Nikita Podgainiy, CEO of Bot&Partners, presented his Open Data speech centered around the importance of access to registration data for legal tech companies and the example of Opendatabot platform aimed at monitoring court registry entries. Mr. Podgainiy also pointed out the problem of inaccuracy of information and the need of creating a sustainable information culture and additional verification of the data provided by the government.
The final appearance before the startup pitches and closing remarks was the Digital transformation and legal products panel discussion moderated by Oleksandr Nikolaichyk, partner at Sayenko Kharenko law firm. The discussion brought up points such as the adoption of automated reporting solutions and other helpful tech innovations by law firms and the premise of outsourcing IT specialists vs. hiring the in-house team.
Legal Startup Pitches
The pitch and Q&A session, one of the final parts of the summit, featured three legal tech startups: TOEsud (ТОЕсуд), VR MootCourt, and SaveYourself.Bot. Over the session project representatives pitched their products and withheld a series of questions from the audience of experienced developers, lawyers, and entrepreneurs guided by the moderator Dmytro Foremnyi, Innovative Justice Agent at HiiL.
The first word was given to the Ukrainian startup ТОЕсуд. The project is meant to monitor and show the key effectiveness metrics of professional judges, using machine learning and data science to analyze the data from the court registry. Ultimately the project is expected to form individual ratings of judges and provide useful statistics about them to lawyers and regular people.
The second project, VR MootCourt, was presented by the lecturer at Erasmus School of Law Farshida Zafar.
Basically, VR MootCourt is a virtual reality representation of a courtroom, where law students can learn how the court works and see the action from different perspectives in a fully immersive environment.
Finally, the third project, SaveYourself.Bot, presented a chatbot for victims of domestic violence and bullying. The first version of the bot was initially created as an entry to the Global Legal Hackathon earlier this year. Now SaveYourself.Bot creators are working with legal professionals, psychologists, and tech specialists to make their chatbot capable of helping people in urgent need on psychological and legal levels.
Today it is very important to keep up with the technologies, whether in practice of law, education, or helping people access the justice mechanism meant to protect them. The European Legal Hackers Summit 2018 has given significant insights into the actual ongoing efforts in all of the aforementioned directions. First and foremost, such events clearly show that there are young and passionate people who aren’t afraid of the unknown and aren’t afraid to bring innovation into the very conservative world of law and legal practice.
Such events also help the young legal professionals to learn from their experienced colleagues from all around the world and get their perspective on different legal systems in other countries. Considering the growing informational interconnectivity and the evidently increasing amount of international initiatives, such as Legal Hackers or HiiL, it is truly necessary in order to get out of one’s local echo chamber and see the big picture.
Hopefully, in the years to come the world will see more impactful legal tech initiatives, more relevant events to share the knowledge and achievements, and ultimately, the justice accessible to everyone, as it is meant to be.
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