This time last year I was participating in an event which was going to change my life in a significant way. Global Legal Hackathon, the biggest legal innovation competition was organised by Hristescu & Partners for the second time in Romania.
I wanted to participate in this event since 2018, but I didn’t have the courage. I didn’t believe in myself and I didn’t think that I could have an idea which mattered, so I didn’t register for the 2018 competition, and I regretted it. In 2019 I said to myself: that’s it! I’m doing it! Even if I didn’t have a team, nor a clear idea about what I was going to do, I registered for the competition. It was there that my idea turned into something palpable, I found a team and I placed second for a solution to simplify Terms and Conditions on websites and apps so that the Internet user knows exactly what he or she agrees to online.
The first place was obtained by Lawrelai, the lawyer chatbot which provides legal advice to tourists having legal problems in another country, solution which obtained the first place in New York too at the final stage. GLH is an international competition and last year Romania obtained the first place.
There is not too much to say about me. I am 29-year-old lawyer and, like any millennial lawyer, I have a passion for technology. This made me launch in 2017 a blog on Internet law: LegalUp.ro . In 2018 I launched a GDPR KIT with which companies can implement the Regulation by themselves. The experience gained at Global Legal Hackathon in 2019 helped me launch a platform for online courses on GDPR: Focus powered by LegalUp.
WHAT MADE ME APPLY
In 2018 I regretted not having registered for the competition, so in 2019 I decided to participate in the event because I realized that the digitisation of the legal field is a fact, and to go against the current is an impossible mission. And I thought it would be a good idea to seize this opportunity. Obviously, I also thought that I was going to meet interesting people (which indeed happened). I didn’t register to win, but it just happened. It was an interesting combination between an idea, a team and a presentation. I am participating this year too, but with a new team, and, as last year, I don’t do it to win, but for the experience and for the people I will meet. If me and my team obtain an award this year, it will be welcomed, if not, the experience I will gain and the networking I will be doing will be worth much more than a diploma.
HOW IT WAS IN 2019
The fun time began on Friday evening at 6 o’clock and ended on Sunday around 9 o’clock in the evening. And when I say fun, I want to stress the fact that this is not a solemn and boring competition, the atmosphere is entertained by Radio Guerilla, the food is good, the people are positive and joyful. I remember that the event had four stages: (1) First pitch and team formation (Friday evening); (2) Work sessions (hacking sessions) – Saturday and Sunday; (3) Pitch sessions (Sunday) și (4) Award ceremony – Sunday.
- First pitch and team formation (Friday evening)
At this stage, I was happy to find out that there was no problem if I still didn’t have an idea (I can join a team which has one) and that there was no problem at all if I didn’t have a team (I can join any team, no one is left behind). I noticed that mentors and organisers were very active in helping setting up the teams so that (1) no one was left behind and (2) all teams had the two components: legal and IT.
Those who wished to speak presented their ideas in front of the public in order to attract teammates. It was an interesting starting point which gave us an idea about what projects would be put into practice by the end of the competition.
Also, if you want to participate and you don’t have an idea, you can adopt a theme from the ones made available by the organisers.
My idea was still at an embryonic stage, but I found colleagues who believed in my idea (Ecaterina Donciu, Diana Marusic, Eugeniu Cernei) and thus we formed a team and we managed to have a final idea by Saturday. When we had the final form, we started to build a prototype and then prepare a presentation.
- Hacking sessions
Except for lunch breaks, we worked very hard during Saturday and Sunday. We knew that we had to have a prototype by Sunday, a PowerPoint presentation and a maximum 5-minute pitch during which we had to convince the jury that our solution deserved to win.
I particularly enjoyed the way the mentors involved and how they helped us with everything they could and mostly with their experience coming from the most various domains (IT, legal, entrepreneurship, marketing, public speaking etc.) so that we could build a successful prototype and a proper presentation, but I can also note here the constant concern of the organisers to make sure we had everything we needed.
I was in charge of the legal part. Me and Ecaterina were both in charge of product management. Ecaterina made the PowerPoint presentation, logo and design. Diana and Eugeniu were in charge of the programming, and me and Diana presented together the idea in front of the public in a pitch of maximum 3 minutes. Yes, we were a team and despite our small differences of opinion, we managed to reach common ground and win second place.
- Pitch sessions
We followed our mentors’ advice and decided to have a short and straight-to-the-point presentation, an open and funny description of our idea. We talked for 3 minutes in front of the jury, but the time was enough even for a short demo. I think that the most important part was the 20 second video demo we presented. I didn’t have stage fright, after all I was speaking in front of the persons with whom I had spent more than 30 hours. After the presentation, we had some questions from the jury about how we would build and monetise our solution. We were ready for this too, thanks to our mentors.
- Award ceremony
If I knew I would win second place, I would have put on a nicer dress because this picture was all over internet.
Although my tee-shirt said: „Rule #1. Never be #2”, we were runner-up. The first place was won by Lawrelai. Now I realize that my scarf didn’t match anything else I was wearing, but it is my lucky scarf.
WHAT THIS EXPERIENCE OFFERED ME
Beside the diploma, two mentoring programs and other awards from the sponsors, this competition offered me things I couldn’t obtain from anywhere else and this is why I will heartily recommend this competition to all my friends.
I have met so many interesting people (lawyers, entrepreneurs, programmers, web designers), we became friends and I am still in touch with some of them, we exchange useful information and we help each other with everything we can.
The people were positive and I charged myself with energy for my next projects. In fact, after GLH19, my life immediately changed for the better. The organisers and the mentors did an excellent work and it was truly one of the best organised events I had ever participated in.
In short, I have acquired a set of knowledge which I successfully applied to my activity, such as:
- technical knowledge: I learned how to work more efficiently as a lawyer, how to automate what should be automated so that I do not waste my time with manual work.
- communication skills: I learned how to communicate with the programmers and how to use simple words (not legal jargon) in order to send out my message.
- presentation skills: I learned how to synthetize information, how to present what is important and to leave out useless details and how to express an idea and a message so that they can be understood by the others.
- entrepreneurial skills: I learned about how you can monetise an application, how you can build partnerships and other entrepreneurial skills for which you would pay thousands of euros at specific courses.
- team spirit: I improved my team working skills and I understood that sometimes it is important to accept other ideas so that things go well. For example, although I didn’t like the chosen name, I preferred to go with it to avoid useless conflicts, taking into consideration that the time was limited and the contribution to the actual work was much more important.
- leadership skills: In my team there were two leaders: me and Ecaterina. We didn’t manage to decide which one is the `boss` so we preferred to share this role. This is why when she told me what I had to do, I did so without any comments, because I trusted her. Similarly, when I said what it had to be done, everyone did so because what mattered at the end was to have a functioning project.
- stress management. I remember that there were two minutes left until we had to submit our presentations and, although I panicked for a few seconds, I finally managed to get myself together and to successfully overcome the situation.
In short, the value of the experience acquired is undeniable. I have obtained in three days what I would have obtained if I had invested thousands of euros in entrepreneurship, leadership, communication or public speaking courses.
If you are a developer, lawyer, a legal professional, UX designer or a business developer, you can register for this year competition here.
I could not finish this article without saying a few words about our solution. I am a lawyer dealing mainly with Terms and Conditions and other legal documents for web sites and applications. I have noticed that these documents are never read by the Internet user, although, in most cases, they are very important and represent actual contracts. Yes, as an Internet user you have a contract with Google, Facebook, Whatsapp and with the rest of the online services you use. As our world becomes more and more digitised, more and more contracts are made electronically and, as a user, you become part of this contract simply by clicking it and you acquire different rights and obligations. I think it is important to know what you agree to online. But since these documents are long and written in a complicated legal language, it is very difficult to grasp the information which concerns you.
Our solution is a Chrome extension prototype which lets you know when you are about to enter an online contract and if you click on it, then it will sum up the information and translate for you from a legal language into common language what exactly you agreed to. The solution has also a translation functionality into the language you speak. Let’s take, for example, online shopping. When you are shopping online on a foreign web site you may have certain questions, but you have to read through dozens of pages in English written in a complex legal language in order to find the information you need. If you activate the accordion Chrome extension, the most important things will be presented to you by using a language you can understand, for example:
- Are there any other fees beside the price of the product?
- Can I return the product?
- How can I return the product?
- What happens with my personal data I provided online?
- How and when will I get my money back if I return the product?
- What warranties are provided?
- What rights do I have?
- Where can I contact you?
- Who are you?
- What security measures did you implement? Am I sending my personal data to a secure platform?
Our solution, using artificial intelligence and ML, should be able to (1) sum up the documents using accordion design; (2) translate from legal language into common language; (3) translate into the user’s language.
WHAT I WANT FOR THE 2020 EDITION
I will definitely participate this year too for the experience, the people, the fun time and the ideas. I would like to see as many ideas and solutions as possible. I would like to meet this year as many lawyer colleagues as possible and see them join the movement and as many entrepreneurs and programmers as possible who are interested in a really high potential field: the legal field.
HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE
You can register online free of charge for Global Legal Hackathon 2020 (Bucharest and Iași) before 4 March 2020 here.
Let’s all have a good time at GLH2020! Dare to hack the legal way!