Bleak House to Geek House

Join us at Brooklyn Law School (or online) for a great set of talks on the evolving law and legal practice of entrepreneurial lawyers.

We particularly liked a couple of panels:

Crowdsourcing the Law

Lawyer as CTO

Lightning Talks and Demos


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Welcome, Detroit!

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Making it Real: Legal Hacking Comes to DUMBO (and London and San Francisco…)

For almost two years now the Legal Hackers community has brought lawyers, politicians, technologists, advocates, artists, and business people together to explore and create alternative solutions to pressing legal and regulatory problems.  Two weekends ago, we made a substantial step forward in putting those discussions to practice.

On February 8th and 9th in DUMBO, a group of talented lawyers, coders, and policy heads came together to talk about issues surrounding data privacy and, more impressively, build actual solutions.  The weekend was sponsored and organized by a host of generous organizations, Clio and Kelley Drye & Warren LLP being particularly generous in sponsoring this groundbreaking event in the New York City location.

This Data Privacy Legal Hackathon wasn’t just your grandpa’s “eventing”-worthy unconference.  Legal Hackers, teaming up with Open Notice and Customer Commons to provide working venues across the globe, asked participants to build solutions to data-privacy problems in a little over twenty-four hours.  In the end, we awarded the best project with $1000 cash and the glory of a 1st Place title.

Here’s a recap of the weekend for your geeking pleasure–

Day 1:

A panel of experts, moderated by Professor Jonathan Askin of Brooklyn Law School, opened the day with an engaged and diverse conversation on current and future issues in data privacy. Panelists included David Wainberg (AppNexus), Doc Searls (VRM Harvard Berkman Center), K. Krasnow Waterman (MIT), Amyt Eckstein (Moses & Singer), and Dona Fraser (ESRB).  The entire panel can be viewed here.

Following the panel, participants began to break off into teams to get their projects underway. The projects and teams across all venues can be viewed here.

After some team building and working, we were honored with two compelling mid-day presentations from Susan Herman (President of the ACLU) and the honorable Ann Aiken (Chief Judge, District of Oregon). Susan Herman discussed the pressing need for data privacy solutions, litigation, and even private-industry pressure, in the context of a government-surveilled world that endangers individuals’ rights to engage in public protest and private whistleblowing.

Judge Aiken shifted our focus to the issue of parolee re-entry and reducing recidivism. Judge Aiken’s concept, which was originally presented at Reinvent Law in April of 2013, is a holistic, tech-enabled system to improve two-way communication between parolees and the government–specifically, a smartphone application that connects parolees directly to important re-entry resources while simultaneously collecting deep data about the parolee’s location, actions, and safety.  Professor Jonathan Askin raised an issue here in the context of our theme for the weekend: what sorts of safeguards will be put in place to ensure the privacy of these parolees?  After some discussion, Judge Aiken’s presentation and call to action became a huge rallying point for the event and resulted in a group forming around the idea, proving later to be one of the most popular projects of the weekend (second place in our competition: Re-Entry).  Their elegant response to Askin’s question was the following: parolees do not have much by way of privacy to begin with; it is therefore our responsibility to find a mechanism that “graduates” parolees from the prison system and recaptures that privacy, including the provision of direct access to personal information the government collects.  Re-entry’s application model, they claim, will allow for this recapture.


Susan Herman (left) and Hon. Ann Aiken (right).

Work ensued from there.

Day 2:

“Take My Photo Down” on the left; and “GhostDrop,” presenting, on the right.

Day two was mostly work, but ended with our project presentations, judging, and announcement of winners.

Our New York winners were the following projects–

Second Runner-Up: ToS Helper

First Runner-Up: Re-Entry

And the grand prize winner


The winners, GhostDrop, described their project as “SnapChat” for sensitive document transfer.  Through the service, the transmitting user (perhaps a whistleblower or a client) can set a time limit for the recipient to access the document, after which the document disappears from the service.  Congratulations to them!

You can also see all three hackathon winners’ presentations (from London, NYC and San Francisco) here.  You can view the three winners from New York, London, and San Francisco here—along with the full judging criteria here.


It was tough picking “winners” here, in all.  The winners, really, were the public, who are now benefiting from the amazing discussions, connections and inventions forged over the course of two days, across three cities and two countries.  We look forward to our next hackathon, and we look forward to seeing you there!

Thanks to MakerBot for this great trophy!

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Data Privacy Legal Hackathon: Press Release

Website: | Registration:
Twitter: @legalhacknyc | #legalhack | #privacyhack

NEW YORK. From February 8 through February 9, in New York City, the Bay Area, and London, the Legal Hackers, along with Open Notice, the Open Knowledge Foundation, and Customer Commons, will hold a legal hackathon to tackle one of the most explosive issues in the policy landscape: data privacy. Gathering legal, policy, and technical minds in the same room, this event offers participants the opportunity to collaborate and examine hot-button privacy issues — including Do Not Track, government surveillance, and cross-border data transfers — that we see splashed across headlines on a daily basis. The goal of this legal hackathon is to build tangible solutions to the privacy concerns created by the current technological and legal landscape at both the national and international levels.

What is a legal hackathon? A legal hackathon is an event that brings together teams of lawyers, policymakers, academics, and technologists to collaborate and develop on-the-spot, technology-enabled solutions to challenging legal and policy issues. Participants at the Data Privacy Hackathon will form teams to build tools that address an aspect of a data privacy problem that interests them. These teams will have approximately 24 hours, over two days, to work on their project. The teams will then present the results before a panel of judges on the evening of February 9. The most creative, valuable, and socially beneficial results will receive cash prizes.

Why privacy? It’s fair to say that no other single law and policy issue poses as much of a challenge to the world of modern technology as privacy. The question of how much control a person, corporation, or government can or should exert over the information flowing across today’s networks remains deeply contested. Yet even as another Edward Snowden revelation raises new concerns over surveillance, hundreds of thousands of consumers are voluntarily downloading mobile applications that offer free products and services in exchange for their data. Meanwhile, the laws regulating privacy are often incomprehensible for both consumers and small businesses, making it difficult for the law to serve the public good it was designed to protect.

A global concern. An event like this has never been more important. The uncertain data privacy landscape presents a host of challenges, but also offers exciting opportunities for creative technical and legal minds to come together to build real solutions. Join the Legal Hackers 2/8/14 – 2/9/14 to take part.

Registration for participants is free at

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Hacking Revenge Porn

New York Legal Hackers converged at the IFP Made in NY Media Center to host a discussion on the merits and vices of regulating revenge porn. Revenge porn is a phenomenon (primarily targeting women) where the creator of pornographic and intimate photos posts those images online to exact revenge on the subject. In some cases, the site administrators charge a fee to the subject to have the photo taken down.

The discussion covered several possible regulatory mechanisms, including criminal law, copyright, rights of privacy/publicity, and anti-discrimination laws.  The prevailing view of our panelists was that consensual pornography is a healthy and normal human practice, but that criminal laws have been either unsuccessful or overbroad.


You can check out a video of the event here.


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Hacking Revenge Porn

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Data Privacy Legal Hackathon

We are pleased to announce that New York Legal Hackers will be holding its second hackathon.  This time, NYLH will be focusing on data privacy.  Information can be found here.

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Privilege & Encryption Workshop

On October 24, 2013, the NYC Legal Hackers discussed cryptography and attorney-client privileges in light of the NSA’s dragnet data collection program. We heard from Alison Besunder, Jed Davis, and Nick Merrill.

Nick - Legal Hackers Crypto - medium

Jed Talking - Crypto Meetup Nick and crowd at Crypto Meetup


Dig deeper into cryptography with Eric’s Cryptography for Lawyers readlist.

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The New York Legal Hackers converged on Hudson Station in midtown Manhattan last week to brainstorm topics for the next few months of discussion and collaboration.



Issues covered included voting, open source software, and non-profits. We look forward to hearing how attendees intend to put these important discussions to practice! Check out these suggestions the NY Legal Hackers live tweeted!




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Startups Disrupting the Legal Industry


Last month’s Legal Hackers Meetup was part demo night, part panel, and part lively discussion about technology and the future of legal practice. Entitled “Startups Disrupting the Legal Industry,” it was hosted by General Assembly, and featured demos from Shake, Lawdingo, CaseRails, and Priori Legal. The demos were followed by a panel that included the startups’ founders, plus Jennifer Berrent, a partner at WilmherHale who works with emerging companies. Prof. Jonathan Askin, founder of the Brooklyn Law Incubator and Policy Clinic, moderated.

A few consistent themes emerged throughout the evening: technology can make life better for both lawyers and their clients, but it’s being underutilized. There is an opportunity for consumer technology companies to capture the currently neglected “long tail” of the legal market. And startups working in legal technology face unique challenges because of the risk-averse nature of the profession and because of regulatory obstacles.

Thank you to all of the participants and attendees!

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