By Kevin O'Keefe

Seattle University Law School holding Social Justice Hackathon


For the vast majority of Americans, lawyers and legal services are irrelevant.

It’s no surprise that 80 percent of the legal needs of the poor are going unmet. But two-thirds of middle income Americans have unaddressed legal needs. Some don’t think of hiring a lawyer, some don’t realize they have a need, most don’t know a lawyer they’d trust and some cannot afford a lawyer, especially those lawyers who have not adopted technology to render legal services more effectively.

Seattle University Law School, committed to the twin priorities of academic excellence and education for justice, is holding a Social Justice Hackathon to unite Seattle’s legal and tech communities to create innovative solutions to stem this divide — to provide Americans access to justice. The hackathon will be Friday evening, November 6, and all day, Saturday, November 7.

As way of background, in the technology industry a hackathon is an event where programmers, software developers, and user interface designers collaborate intensively on projects in competition with other teams. Many hackathons are intended for educational or social purposes, while in other cases the goal is to create usable software.

Hackathons start with presentations about the event. Participants then suggest ideas and form teams, based on individual interests and skills. The main work of the hackathon immediately follows and can last anywhere from several hours to several days.

At the end of hackathon, each group presents their results to the audience and a panel of judges, who select the winning teams.

Seattle U’s Social Justice Hackathon is looking for projects that seek to eliminate the gap between those who need civil legal services and those who provide legal resources. Participants can include developers, designers, lawyers, law students, business developers, “idea people”, or anything in-between.

Teams can work on a project of their own interest or select from any number of problems suggested by the Social Justice Hackathon community partners. Ideas of all sorts are accepted, from Web and Mobile Apps to Wearables and Algorithms.

Miguel Willis (@miguelelcapiton), a second-year law student at Seattle U, who I met at a legal hackathon last fall, organized the Social Justice Hackathon with the support of the law school’s Access to Justice Institute.

Willis is taking a wise and pragamatic approach in using the hackathon to make a dent in the need for legal services.

The goal of the hackathon is not just to build more tech applications, but to truly get around restrictions or barriers prohibiting low-income or moderate-means individuals from receiving access to legal services. This hackathon provides a great venue for the legal and tech community to collaborate in an innovative way.

Diana Singleton, director of Seattle University Law School’s Access to Justice Institute sees the hackathon as the perfect intersection of innovation and social justice.

The hope is that not only will technologists, lawyers, and law students come up with potential tech-based solutions to real problems, but that they’ll make connections that could lead to other partnerships in the future.

To register, get more information or to get a ticket, go to the Social Justice Hackathon site.

LexBlog and I will do what we can to provide media coverage of the invent through our LexBlog Network (LXBN) and related social media.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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