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:
- 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/
- 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: