By: Caroline Ross

The phrase “legal innovation” has become a buzzword that has been popping up recently within the legal services industry. But what does this term mean and how can students be involved in this technological shift within the legal profession?

The Bread and Butter of the New Legal Industry

Legal innovation can be defined as bringing “newness” into the legal profession, whether that means in through a new business model, new technology, or a new take on what it means to be a lawyer. Ultimately, the goal of legal innovation is to create change in the legal industry that results in greater efficiency and efficacy in how client matters are handled. While navigating the minefield that is legal innovation, one thing to keep in mind is that disrupting the status quo cannot take on a “one-size-fits-all” approach. There are a multitude of ways that legal innovation can operate to produce value to clients.

Now that you know what legal innovation means, the next question to tackle is how students and other professionals can take part in innovating the legal industry. One dependable avenue of innovation in a variety of disciplines is a hackathon, which will be explored in further detail below.

How to “Hack” Into Law

At its core, hackathons are about executing, rather than just talking about solutions. The term “hackathon” was born within the technology industry because in these competitions teams come together to rapidly create prototype solutions for problems facing a given practice area or organization. In these competitions, teams of students become innovators. The goal is to create solutions to problems that related to a specific theme of concerns.

While hackathons have been traditionally held within the computer science realm, there is a growing movement to include multidisciplinary teams in these competitions. A legal hackathon takes a new spin on this concept because teams are challenged to invent new ways to improve access to justice as well as equity and diversity within the legal industry. These collaborative events give professionals and students the opportunity to connect and dive into solving key issues that impact their work and their clients. A successful legal hackathon, therefore, must strike a balance between a mix of backgrounds, experience, and skill sets to effectively revolutionize legal practice.

Why Students Should “Hack” Into Law

A legal hackathon can be treated in a comparable manner to moot competitions, as they both allow students to hone and demonstrate their professional skills during law school. While moot competitions are not the only way for students to gain experience in litigation, these competitions are a valuable way that students can show a demonstrated interest in a given practice area. Similarly, legal hackathons are an exciting new venture for law students to engage with professionals to tackle pressing issues within the legal industry. 

Legal hackathons also provide students with the opportunity to interact with the business of law and data analytics. Over the past few years there has been a boom in law firms and other legal service providers utilizing technology tools to better serve clients. Legal technology has become embedded within the legal departments of corporations and throughout law firms across the country. While the pandemic has negatively affected many people, it has also provided an avenue to innovate the practice of law and the justice system as a whole. Students should “hack” into the law because the use of legal technology can bring about positive changes to how justice is administered in Canada.

About QLIC

The Queen’s Legal Innovation Club (QLIC) is part of a larger ecosystem of legal innovation associations across Canada. In collaboration with the Conflict Analytics Lab, QLIC aims to bring attention to legal innovation opportunities for students and other legal professionals in Ontario.

About MyOpenCourt

MyOpenCourt believes that data science research can make a difference. While a computer algorithm can’t replace good legal skills, data science can help all Canadians determine whether they have a case and reach out to the right lawyer for help.

To view MyOpenCourt’s free legal aid tools, please visit: https://tool.myopencourt.org/