Congratulations to Legal Hackers Panels @ SXSW 2015

Several Legal Hackers members, friends, and collaborators have been accepted to present on panels at South by Southwest 2015!  We hope to see you all there in March!

Nicole Bradick & Noah Waisberg – Will Your Next Lawyer Be a Machine?

Jameson Dempsey, Amy Wan, Dan Lear & Phil Weiss – Legal Hackers: A Global Movement to Reform the Law

Basha Rubin & Nabiha Syed – Rock, Meet Hard Place: Does Law Stifle Innovation?

Molly Schwartz, Rebecca Williams, Molly Bohmer & Daniel Schuman – Your Laws, Your Data: Making Government More Open

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Preserving and Promoting the Mission of Legal Hackers

Legal Hackers,

We are writing today to announce two measures that we hope will strengthen our community.  It’s hard to believe we’ve been around for over 2.5 years now.  We have produced numerous panels, demo nights, and hackathons, expanded into several cities in the US and EU, and are continuing to grow.  Legal Hackers has graduated from a meetup to a movement.

To help grow this movement, a group of four directors (Phil, Warren, Tariq, and Lauren) got together to create a team to act as an administrative organization that encourages legal hacking. We called it Legal Hackers because that’s the name we’ve been using since day one.  Since then, we have pulled together five advisory board members and over a dozen chapter organizers who all have a say in how the organization is run.

Legal Hackers’ goal is, as stated in our mission statement, to spur innovation at the intersection of law and technology. Towards that end, we raise and distribute funds to growing Legal Hackers chapters and assist in administering the activity of those chapters, offering qualitative assistance when requested.  No one has ever been required to act a certain way or perform a certain activity as a condition of being part of the Legal Hackers organization.

One of our initiatives has been monitoring and addressing the movement’s growing pains. In particular, we have seen some problematic uses of the Legal Hackers name: groups that capitalize on the goodwill of calling themselves “Legal Hackers” solely to attract members and sell a product, groups that squat on a Legal Hackers name on Meetup without doing anything, and groups that use the name in a completely different, not-so-savory way (e.g., “let’s hack the 9th Circuit’s docket!”).  In turn, we wanted to ensure that these uses of the name didn’t overpower the reputation we have worked hard to build, which is something we hope new members will continue to be excited to be associated with.

After considering several options, on April 9, 2014, Legal Hackers filed for a federal trademark with the US patent and trademark office in connection with our core activities: creating and distributing online content, helping the community build tech, and producing events, all under the umbrella of a community educational service.  We do not believe, in connection with these activities, that the name is being used in a generic or descriptive way.   Legal Hackers as a term does not readily associate with educational activity, online educational content, or producing educational/social events.  It was never our intention to use this trademark as a means of creating a commercial enterprise, and we would certainly never attempt to capitalize on the concept of legal hacking.  Legal Hackers is an organization hoping to help along a great idea–one that we’ve contributed a lot to–without generating a commercial enterprise.  Currently, no director, officer, chapter organizer or advisor of Legal Hackers LLC receives a salary or distribution.  In fact, it is prohibited under the Legal Hackers LLC Operating Agreement and the Chapter Agreement. We want to ensure that this movement stays inspirational and not commercial.

Moreover, several groups are legal hacking without calling themselves “Legal Hackers”.  They are “Legal Innovation” groups or “Legal Tech” groups, and they have our full support. But we want to offer this same peace of mind to all groups who strive to hack the law so that there is not a fear of top-down control of the movement in general.  In turn, we are doing two things as of today:

  1. We are licensing to the general public the word mark “Legal Hackers.”  And we are inviting you to help us decide what the restrictions on that term are (if any).  We want to work with anyone interested to build a collective standard for this community.  We have published a git repository of that license, and we invite you to help us edit it, here: http://legalhackers.org/the-otl/
  2. We are starting the process of distributing governance of Legal Hackers LLC.  This will be a long-term discussion that will hopefully distribute a significant portion of the organization’s governing authority to a collective of chapters of a certain size.  This will certainly take some time and effort to coordinate, but we are shooting for a January 1, 2015 shift.

These measures are not really different from what our goals have always been.  We hope that you will discuss any concerns you may have with us, because we are listening and eager to work with you to create the best community possible.  We look forward to hearing your comments, and we look forward to moving this organization forward.

We invite you to collaborate with us on this issue here:

http://legalhackers.org/the-otl/

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Seattle’s First Legal Tech Startup Weekend

We are so excited to support Seattle’s first-ever legal tech Startup Weekend.  West Coast Legal Hackers members should not miss this!  Details here.

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Congrats to our Code the Deal Participants & Winners

We had a great time at the event, and we look forward to the next one!

A special congratulations to our winners:

A few pics below.  More here.

 

 

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Welcome to Stockholm Legal Hackers!

We are pleased to announce our newest chapter, Stockholm Legal Hackers.

Stockholm Legal Hackers is managed by:

Robert Gullander, Founder & Director

Magnus Steen, Director

Egil Martinsson, Assistant Organizer

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Video: Tim Wu – Net Neutrality & the Politics of Entrepreneurship

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Video: MedTech Regulation–Fitting a Square Peg Into a Round Hole

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New York Innovators Challenge Attorneys And Developers To “Code The Deal”

NEW YORK: A community of technologists and legal professionals are competing in what appears to be the first hackathon that will challenge contestants to build technology that solves common problems in transactional legal practice. The hackathon, named “Code the Deal,” is hosted by New York Legal Hackers and Nixon Peabody, and sponsored by HP, Shake, DiligenceEngine, and Clio.

Code the Deal is offering $4,000 in prizes to inspire technologists and entrepreneurs to think about large and small business transactions – which, in legal practice, are often mired in paperwork and formalities – as an entry point for new ventures. Speakers and judges for the event include Abe Geiger and Vinay Jain from Shake; Sarah Feingold, General Counsel at Etsy; Nehal Madhani, Founder of Plainlegal; Jonathan Askin, Professor at Brooklyn Law School; and Remko de Knikker, Software Evangelist for HP Autonomy.

The event is the product of a longstanding discussion between Legal Hackers founder Phil Weiss and Nixon Peabody associate Aaron Yowell, who saw an opportunity for innovation in the transactional market. Yowell sees potential in adding fairly simple technology to transactional legal practice. “The applications open up once we start looking at our legal text as data objects,” explains Yowell. And as it turns out, the legal aspect of consummating a deal is usually a whole lot of text and, in turn, data.

The organizers hold a common belief that there’s room for improvement in transactional practice. “The legal profession has really been resistant to change when it comes to the most basic transactional practice,” says Weiss. “There’s a huge untapped market, for instance, when it comes to providing legal counsel for individual and small business transactions. Large firms couldn’t possibly serve that demographic profitably, so it is ignored.” By leveraging this data, the organizers say, larger and smaller legal-service providers could become leaner, more efficient, and, in turn, better serve a more tech-focused, rapidly developing economy.

Code the Deal will take place September 19–21, 2014 at Dev Bootcamp. Information regarding sign-up, judging, rules, and schedule can be found at http://codethedeal.com. Space will be provided for teams to work the entire weekend, beginning with an opening reception (drinks and refreshments served), and closing with demos, judging, and winner announcements. Guest speakers will be presenting throughout the working weekend, so attendees will not necessarily need to be coding to gain something from the hackathon.

A winner demo and networking reception will be held at Nixon Peabody’s offices on Tuesday, September 23, 2014, for industry professionals and investors. All events are open to the public with prior registration.

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Welcome, LA!

We are pleased to announce that Legal Hackers is successfully expanding its reach across the globe.  Los Angeles now officially houses an amazing and active new Legal Hackers chapter.  We are so excited to see them thrive!

Legal Hackers LA is organized and coordinated by Amy Wan and Aria Safar.  You can also

Be on the lookout for more new chapter announcements coming soon!

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NY Legal Hackers Tackle Net Neutrality in a Non-Neutral Net

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The FCC recently received over 1.1 million public comments from citizens, businesses, and community organizations on the Commission’s response to recent court rulings that severely limited its authority to regulate the internet as an “information service” under Title I of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  It was under Title I that the FCC had previously enforced net neutrality–or the principle that ISPs should treat similar Internet traffic similarly–through the Open Internet Order of 2010, which was nullified by the D.C. Circuit earlier this year.  The FCC has been sent back to the drawing board with a decision to make: should it allow ISPs to discriminate against end users, or reclassify the internet as a Title II “telecommunications service” on par with the telephone to preserve the Open Internet Order?  NY Legal Hackers took the call: is there a way to tackle this problem without FCC authority at all?

Last week, New York Legal Hackers assembled a diverse panel of experts, moderated by Nilay Patel, Editor-in-Chief of The Verge, to take on these challenging questions.  He was joined by Professor Jonathan Askin of Brooklyn Law School, a former telecom lobbyist and FCC attorney; Bruce Kushnick, a veteran telecom analyst and Executive Director of the New Networks Institute; Althea Erickson, Policy Director at Etsy; and David Pashman, General Counsel at Meetup.

Askin illustrated the evolution of our internet and how its importance has made net neutrality not just a matter of civil rights, but also an international economic issue.  Professor Askin endorsed the Netherlands’ recent codification of net neutrality by statute and suggested we might attempt the same.

Kushnick sharply criticized telecoms (Verizon in particular) and illustrated inconsistencies in its position on net neutrality, specifically its assertion that broadband internet falls under Title I.  Not only do Verizon’s available services and fiber-optic infrastructure suggest a Title II common carrier, Kushnick said, but the company even went so far as to file a cable franchise agreement with the State of New York last year in which it explicitly declared itself a common carrier.

Erickson and Pashman presented the startup community’s perspective and the notion that net neutrality plays a major role in the success of their employers.  Erickson described net neutrality as a necessity that creates a level playing field for large and small providers of the same online product.  Specifically, she pointed to the relatively anticompetitive market for ISPs, cautioning that the major providers will only grow in size and strength if not restrained by federal regulation.  Pashman emphasized the startup investment boom under the system of de facto net neutrality that has existed to this point.  Startups will be handcuffed by the FCC’s current proposed rules, he said, due to the gradual impact of paid prioritization on the end user experience.  He warned against allowing ISPs to control paid prioritization pricing should the new regulations be upheld, as the new rules appear open to manipulation and could leave consumers defenseless.

Thanks to our panelists and moderator for an insightful discussion, to our sponsors, Clio, the Internet Society (ISOC) – NY Chapter, and, in particular, LaunchLM for hosting us at the South Street Seaport!

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