Law centre gears up for 'hackathon'

Topics: Legal aid and access to justice

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Lawyers, computer coders and developers will be hunched over laptops through the small hours tonight in a battle to develop and pitch innovative products for law centres.

The Gazette understands that plenty of caffeine will be supplied at the first LawTech hackathon this evening. The event has been organised by LawTech community organisation Legal Geek in partnership with north London's Hackney Community Law Centre.

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The 24-hour event will take place at Google's Campus London, Shoreditch, where teams of coders, lawyers and UX designers compete to design, build and pitch technical solutions to solve current issues affecting the delivery of and access to legal services in Hackney.

Legal Geek founder Jimmy Vestbirk said half of law centre clients drop out after one meeting for a variety of cultural, social and language reasons. ‘We believe that more developers and coders need to be involved in LawTech disruption to combat this problem.’

Hackney Community Law Centre’s development officer, Miranda Grell, said: ‘As a small charity with meagre resources, finding new ways to increase our efficiency is of paramount importance to us.’

Grell said the centre was looking particularly at finding a way ‘to stop our receptionists/solicitors having to deal with so many phone calls when there must be a better way technologically to chase people for documents, remind them about appointments etc.

‘Also some way to help us work with clients who speak other languages when we don’t have interpreters’.

Following the event, selected groups will have the chance to test their products on potential Hackney Community Law Centre clients. These could subsequently be piloted in other UK law centres.

Vestbirk said he first heard about Hackney Community Law Centre in the Gazette after it was the first centre in the country to take part in a digital pilot to provide members of the public with direct access to a barrister.

He said: ‘Hackney Community Law Centre has a very open agenda to deliver legal services in the most efficient way and our hackathon is a great way to engage law firms and coders in some [corporate social responsibility] to quickly build solutions to help the centre deliver legal services more efficiently to their community.’

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