Legal Hackers Summit?

Some people have expressed an interest in holding a small convention of legal tech, innovation and hacking groups around the world.  Let us know if you would be interested in attending something like this, what you’d like to see when you get there, and (perhaps most important) how much you’d pay to get yourself there (consider lodging, travel, and other expenses)!

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

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:
  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:

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 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.