Coders create new portal for law centre in pro bono hackathon

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By Alex Aldridge on

System could boost efficiency in delivery of free advice


Sixty techies spent the weekend hard at work on creating new systems to help improve the provision of free legal advice at Hackney Law Centre.

The coders and developers, who came from as far afield as the US, Romania and Gibraltar, worked overnight on Friday and during the day on Saturday at the Google Campus in Shoreditch to create technological solutions to some of the problems faced by the north London clinic.

At the end of the 24 hour session — organised by lawtech community organisation Legal Geek in partnership with Hackney Law Centre — a panel of judges including CrowdJustice founder Julia Salasky and Matrix Chambers barrister Matthew Ryder selected three standout projects to be taken forward.

The winner was an entire new portal management system built by six members of Freshfields‘ in-house IT team. It can be viewed here.

In joint second place were two separate text messaging systems created by teams of independent coders — one providing booking alerts; the other translating text messages in other languages into English, before translating responses back into the foreign language. This is particularly important for Hackney Law Centre, as many queries come in from people for whom English is not their first language.

Legal Geek founder Jimmy Vestbirk told Legal Cheek that discussions are set to take place about combining the projects into a single package that could be implemented by Hackney Law Centre.

Commenting on the overall success of the hackathon, CrowdJustice’s Salasky said:

What a thrill to see so many people with such different skill sets giving their weekend to solve one of the hardest problems of the legal sector — how to improve access to advice for the most vulnerable. We were blown away by the creativity of the solutions and the energy of the developers, lawyers and designers who stayed up all night to hack the problem.

Milos Kresojevic, enterprise architect at Freshfields, added:

Technology has huge potential to improve access to justice for people everywhere. This hackathon has shown what can be done in a very short time. We’ve enjoyed the experience and hope we can help more in the future.