Hack the Law - making legal information more understandable

The hackathon Hack The Law 2017 was organized by Helsinki Legal Tech Lab at Tiedekulma, Helsinki in mid-October. I volunteer at the Legal Tech Lab as a part of my law studies and was a part of the team planning the event. So, what is a hackathon? The word hackathon consist of the words hack and marathon . The idea behind a hackathon is that people with different backgrounds comes together for a couple of days, forms teams and works on finding new (technical) solutions for some given problem or theme.The participants are encouraged to think outside the box and to be creative.

Hack The Law 2017 gathered students in the fields of law, tech and design. According to a study conducted by Pentagon Insight on behalf of Helsinki Legal Tech Lab this fall, almost 72 percent of the Finns experience that matters related to law are hard to understand for a layman. On the first day of the hackathon, the results of the study was presented and for the participants, the theme for the weekend was to develop new legal services that benefit citizens and society by using open linked data legislation. Seven teams worked long hours during the weekend and pitched their ideas on the final day of the hackathon. All proposed ideas were about making it easier for everyone to gather and access legal information as well as making the information more understandable. It was amazing to see how much can be done in just one weekend!

The study results show, that there is still a lot that can be done in the legal field. Legal information for citizens should not be about long paragraphs with complicates wording. According to the study, citizens want it to be easy to access and presented in a way that everyone can understand. This is where legal technology comes in. Legal tech is not just about the technology in itself, but rather how technology will change the ways citizens search for information and interact with the legal matters, the ways lawyers work and even processes that have been the same for ages. One concrete example of this, is the AIPA-project at Ministry of Justice. The aim of the project is to find new digital working methods for the courts and build one data system that supports the new methods. Basically, this means a court free from paper.

Hack The Law was one of the first hackathons in Finland that addressed legal issues and legal technology. I think hackathons are a great way for finding (and maybe even testing) technical solutions to different problems and I hope that we will see more hackathons that focus on legal tech in the future.

The Legal Tech Lab is a non-profit interdisciplinary project at the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki, which examines and experiments on legal tech and digitalization of legal practices.