5 Things in LegalTech: The Big Global Hackathon Lowdown, International Women's Day & Legal AI is Mainstream

Your time is short. This quick read gives you 5 things you need to know from LegalTech in the past seven days.


LegalTech stars of the future revealed


The “Global Legal Hackathon” held the first round of its legal tech development competition across 22 countries. The winning prototypes included voice-driven contracts (Canada); a one-stop AI image copyright protection (China); and a program that allows those convicted of marijuana misdemeanors to file an expungement automatically (Los Angeles). Brian Inkster (Hack the law to reinvent the wheel), however, sounded a note of caution: “As I watched proceedings via Twitter, with specific reference to the London event, I was of the view that I was seeing solutions to ‘problems’ that possibly didn’t really exist and the wheel often being reinvented. Also, blockchain was in vogue for no real reason other than perhaps to feed the current hype surrounding it.” But law blogger Bob Ambrogi praised what he called the “karma factor”. He said: “The energy was almost palpable. With so much activity on such a broad and diverse scale, it seems impossible that good ideas won’t come out of it.”

PwC attorney Britton Guerrina agreed, saying: “A hackathon frees you to dream up new ideas – no matter how crazy or controversial, and then develops your creative problem-solving skills as you transform an idea into reality.”

Meanwhile, at the ABA Techshow, social media insight startup Voluble was announced as the “clear-cut winner” by co-host Mary Juetten, founder of Traklight and Evolve Law, alongside co-host Bob Ambrogi. The company helps aggregate and analyze social media data for litigation pertaining to consumer perceptions.



AI vs Lawyers

LawGeex unveiled a new study pitting its AI solution against 20 top corporate lawyers. The win for legal AI (94% accuracy for the AI vs 84% for lawyers) was covered across mainstream press, including Mashable, Futurism, The Daily Mail, Interesting Engineering, and Inc (and made the front page of Reddit). Writing in Above the Law, Joe Patrice says the study makes “it harder than ever to dismiss the advantages of artificial intelligence”. Top legal blogger, Ron Friedmann, in Prism Legal, said the victory is not that surprising. “I started comparing human versus machine performance in discovery document review in the early 1990s. Even then, with an earlier generation of natural language processing operating against text generated by Optical Character Recognition, it was clear then that the machines often performed better. A decade later, the predictive coding discussion in eDiscovery document review began in earnest – and continues.”

LegalTech went even more mainstream, with entrepreneur Joshua Browder of Do not Pay (AI used to bring legal justice to consumers in everything from parking tickets to divorces) braving the Daily Show, and an interview with correspondent, Ronny Chieng ( an ex-lawyer) talking about the subject of robots taking lawyers jobs.




LegalTech and International Women’s Day

LegalTech came into its own on International Women’s Day. Kirsten Wolberg, Chief Technology Officer at DocuSign discussed the situation in Refinery29 (the leading global site focused on young women).  Wolberg said: “Only 7% of investor money goes to women-led startups; just 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women; women are more likely than men to leave tech positions (41% vs 17%).” She concludes: “I have just taken a new role as Chief Technology and Operations Officer at DocuSign and this unapologetic woman is going to use every ounce of her power to make a difference for women here and everywhere.”

Meanwhile, according to legal analytics solution, Premonition, data released for international women’s day showed “women partners win 12% more than their male colleagues and women associates win 3% more than their male colleagues.”


Smart Contracts: The Good, the Bad & the Buggy


The importance of smart contracts for lawyers was tackled both by Ed Sohn, VP Product Management and Partnerships for Thomson Reuters Legal Managed Services (the second in his series) and by David Fisher, founder of Integra Ledger (“the blockchain for the law”) in Artificial Lawyer. Fisher says: “Smart contracts are computer programs that are authenticated on a blockchain and that can perform operations on that blockchain without human intervention.” Giving the example of a real estate purchase, he says “Currently, this would be performed via a signed contract in multiple counterparts, a wire of funds from one bank to the bank of an escrow agent, the manual transfer of title, and finally the release of funds to another bank, with the whole process taking hours or days. In the future, a smart contract would be coded to automatically and instantly transfer title upon transfer of digital currency to the smart contract – no duplicate contracts, no escrow agent, no banks, no delays, and minimal transaction costs.”

It should be noted, however, that research from universities in Singapore and the UK revealed that a scan of nearly one million Ethereum smart contracts has identified 34,200 vulnerable contracts potentially allowing the freezing or deleting of assets in contracts the attackers don’t own.


Cloud continues its march in law

The ascendancy of cloud computing in the sometimes-hesitant legal profession was further assured as the world’s fourth-largest law firm (by headcount), Hogan Lovells, switched to the cloud to adopt NetDocuments management platform. In a blog post, Alvin Tedjamulia, chief technology officer at NetDocuments says: “According to ILTA’s 2017 Technology Survey, 77% of firms with ‘700 or more attorneys’ indicated increased cloud technology adoption for 2018. In terms of barriers to cloud adoption, these same firms are a lot less concerned about cloud security, cloud reliability and management acceptance of cloud technology. The legal cloud computing is no longer focused on why? But rather how? And how deep? We have collectively come a long way from 1999 and NetDocuments 1.0.”

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