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Disrupting Law 2017: Strangers to Founders in under 54-hours

Disrupting Law 2017: Strangers to Founders in under 54-hours

Disrupting Law was a special experience for all involved in 2017. We the organisers (The Legal Forecast and QUT Starters) thought it important to provide a recap of our unique project and express our gratitude to the myriad supporters from the legal, tech and other industries, and the broader community.

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What is Disrupting Law?

Students from a range of faculties and universities nationwide come together over a weekend to search for the next best idea to advance legal practice in a novel way.

In a process that was deliberately randomised to spark new connections and friendships, 13 student teams partnered with 13 law firms.

One contestant described the process as “strangers to founders in 54 hours”.

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The firms generously provided legal and non-legal staff to mentor the students over the course of the collaborative and high-octane 3-day competition that last year resulted in two teams turning their concepts into real-world start-ups.

We expect 4 – 5 teams to take their ideas to market (and are confident that most teams could as a result of the quality and originality of the pitches witnessed this year).

The teams are also given access to an unbelievable set of “roaming mentors” who are handpicked by the organisers for their unique experiences and achievements in the legal-tech and other related worlds.

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On Sunday 6 August 2017, tired, apprehensive, but determined to have a go, students pitched their ideas to a ‘Shark Tank’ style panel and over 250 audience members at Room Three Sixty.  The pitches were astounding.  

Clarissa Rayward,  The Happy Family Lawyer, remarked: It was so inspirational to see the quality of ideas and the extent of their implementation in barely 48 hours.

Contestants were lucky (and in some cases understandably nervous!) to pitch to our impressive judges:

  • Terri Mottershead is the Director of the Centre for Legal Innovation, an innovation-focused think tank at The College of Law.
  • Steven Wilson is the Chief Operating Officer of the Office of the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur, which plays a vital role in building and promoting the importance of entrepreneurship in Queensland.
  • Julian Uebergang is the Managing Director of Neota Logic, a leading producer of artificial intelligence software.
  • Alison Laird is the Principal of Laird Innovations and is currently contracted by Pinsent Masons to be their Innovation Manager throughout the Asia Pacific region.

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We were also lucky to have the involvement of Glenn Tighe (Veriluma) who, using the judging criteria that we gave him, designed a bespoke software tool that received the judges’ scores for various categories (each category was uniquely weighted depending on what the organisers felt was most and least important for the teams to consider) and calculated the overall winner.

Glenn also circulated a questionnaire to students which inadvertently asked them to self-assess their likelihood of winning on Saturday (by asking questions like “how well do you cooperate with your teammates?” and “how much time did you get with your lawyer mentors?” etc.).  

Therefore we are able to match predictions about how teams would fare with their actual scores (but have chosen to only provide this information with respect to the 2017 overall winner – see below).  

Who supports Disrupting Law?

Our mentoring firms in 2017 were Herbert Smith Freehills, King & Wood Mallesons, McCullough Robertson, Allens Linklaters, DLA Piper, Clayton Utz, Piper Alderman, Hall & Wilcox, Minter Ellison, Jones Day, ClarkeKann, Helix Legal and Law Squared.

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In addition, seven carefully selected industry partners agreed to offer representatives, prizes, and financial and other support to the project.

These partners included:

  • Janders Dean, the world’s leading legal industry management consultancy.
  • Neota Logic, a leading producer of artificial intelligence software.
  • GlobalX, a leading producer of software for the legal, conveyancing and financial industries.  
  • The Centre for Legal Innovation, an innovation-focused think tank at The College of Law.
  • Suncorp Group, a leading provider of general insurance, banking, life insurance and wealth management services in Australia and New Zealand.
  • Thomson Reuters, a multinational mass media and information firm. 
  • QUT Law School, a highly regarded law school that prides itself on offering real-world experiences to its students.

Who is behind Disrupting Law?

Disrupting Law was created and co-hosted by a group of students and young professionals in 2016 who were then either involved in The Legal Forecast or student society QUT Starters.  The originators are from multiple universities (including UQ, QUT, USQ and Griffith) and/ or work in various places.

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The Disrupting Law events in both 2016 and 2017 were jointly co-hosted by The Legal Forecast and QUT Starters and many fresh faces were involved this year (as well as a few “old” hands).  

This is of course is an immense logistical undertaking and the people involved, none of whom are professional or even quasi-professional event organisers, should be particularly proud of what they have achieved while juggling onerous uni and work commitments.  

Warwick Walsh (CEO & Founder of Lawcadia) said of the 2016 event:

The best example of entrepreneurship and innovation during the Disrupting Law weekend was the event itself. It is one thing to have a good idea and start to develop that (as the contestants were required to do), it is a much harder thing to start to implement that and do all the hard work to get it to market, which is what The Legal Forecast and QUT Starters achieved over the past 6 months to be able to put on the event. So congratulations to you for that.

The Legal Forecast is a not-for-profit run by early career legal professionals and law students who aim to advance legal practice through technology and innovation.

QUT Starters is a student society building a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation at Queensland University of Technology.

The Journey!

Friday evening

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On Friday evening, attendees gathered under an impressive artwork by designer Aaron Patel which successfully sought to capture the tone of Disrupting Law: a blend of law, creativity, and excitement with a dash of the unknown.

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After Professor John Flood’s inspiring keynote speech, thirteen teams of students –from law, tech and other backgrounds– were assigned to thirteen law firms by a process that involved a law firm representative jumping on stage and drawing a number from a hat.

You’d be forgiven for expecting the hat to shout “Gryffindor!” though this never actually occurred.

In huddles on Friday night, team members and their lawyer–mentors made introductions, broke the ice, reflected on Professor Flood’s inspiring speech and commenced formulating their ideas to disrupt law.

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Saturday

Bright and early on Saturday morning the teams spread out in the wonderful working space at J Block, (QUT Gardens Point) and, determined to crack the difficult task at hand, rehashed and revised their ideas.

The ambitious efforts of the students and their lawyer–mentors were met by surges of inspiration and unique perspectives from an unbelievable team of non–lawyer mentors brought in from all over the country.

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These individuals, many of whom flew to Brisbane to participate, roamed the working space, adding development insights, assisting with business models, and advising on design, startup methodology and niche technologies like blockchain and biometrics.

One roaming mentor from the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal remarked:

This was my first experience participating in a hackathon. The Disrupting Law 2017 hackathon was one of the most wonderful and memorable law focused events that I have been a part of in a long time. It was a fantastic creative space to learn and also enjoy the company of other mentors and legal people.  It was  very encouraging to witness the enthusiasm of the intelligent and highly engaged students.  Well done !!

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The legal and non-legal mentors worked together to encourage and empower the students, and lift their spirits at every inevitable twist, turn, and pivot.

Sunday

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As we moved into Sunday teams were much more prepared this year and, having soaked in the wisdom of their mentors, focused in on their incredible, and varied, solutions, all of which, as you will read shortly, are aimed at advancing legal practice through innovation.

 

The Sunday showcase: what was pitched?

DLA Piper (Team 1): Crypt-It

Crypt-it is software designed for artists to protect the originality of their work in a copy and paste world. Using Crypt-it, artists can upload their work to the blockchain, where they will receive an undisputable certificate of authenticity as evidence of the originality of the work.  Furthermore, by submitting artistic work to the blockchain, artists are protected from those asserting false copyright claims, as there is a permanent record linking back to the author of the original work.Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 1.19.42 pm

Helix Legal (Team 2):  Lawvelop

Lawvelop assists lawyers to meet continuing professional development requirements through an intuitive online platform which provides content, reminders, reports and automatic law society auditing (among other features). 

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ClarkeKann (Team 3): Mynd

Mynd is a data driven wellness coach and business productivity tool that aims to improve mental health by assisting individuals to build positive habits through providing them with information about their own behaviour and mental state.

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Clayton Utz (Team 4): Pivot

Pivot allows law firms to measure, analyse and better value lawyers’ “soft” skills to evaluate client retention, trust, and to enable personal development and feedback for lawyers.  

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Minter Ellison (Team 5): Tim

Tim uses eye-tracking technology, automated narrative function, a cognitive computer system and long-term data collection to automate time-keeping for lawyers.

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Herbert Smith Freehills (Team 6): InsideOut

InsideOut is a client relationship management tool for firms that brings firms and clients together. It’s a one stop shop that seamlessly contains bespoke legal matters with different firms and presents them in a practical and user-friendly format, allowing clients to stay abreast of the progression of a matter, legal costs, next steps and keep in contact with their lawyers.

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Piper Alderman (Team 7): BioSign

Electronic signatures are a natural progression in paperless technology, especially in the legal profession, but there are still doubts about security, efficiency and convenience. With BioSign, electronic signatures are taken to another level – with biometrics. BioSign is a new way to instantly and remotely sign documents more securely than current electronic signing programs using smartphone fingerprint scanning technology.

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LawSquared (Team 8): Rent Aware

Rent Aware is an end to end platform that facilitates the tenant to landlord relationship, with a focus on empowering parties to positively manage their relationship by educating them about their rights and obligations by leveraging the power of AI and Natural Language Processing.

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Hall & Willcox (Team 9): CrossCheck

Currently, when law firms seek to determine if a potential conflict of interest exists, they only consider the firm’s own internal data, which does not consider the growing movement of the “new lawyer”. CrossCheck proposes a solution of a centralised conflict flagging system that queries a combination of publicly available information, law society records and records maintained by firms to provide more efficient, effective and accurate conflict checks.

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Jones Day (Team 10): ConnectLaw

ConnectLaw is a lawyer-to-lawyer platform that disrupts the traditional legal model by connecting sole and small firm practitioners from diverse legal backgrounds so that they can join together for legal work they might otherwise be unprepared to tackle.

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Allens (Team 11): CPD Express

CPD express is an app that allows for all CPD information to be recorded in the one location as well as the ability to host video content from CPD providers. This regulates the CPD process, making it easier for lawyers to stay up to date with their CPD.

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McCullough Robertson (Team 12): Insight

Insight is a client portal that displays work in progress updates, billing information, and task management tools for clients to access on demand. Insight aggregates information from separate law firms, allowing a client who interacts with multiple firms at once a single platform to access all of their information.

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King & Wood Mallesons (Team 13): Torque

Torque helps law firms streamline the due diligence process by combining project management, machine learning and web crawling.

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Who won what!?

All the teams did a brilliant job and should be commended.  A few took home special honours:

Overall winner i.e. the Legal Innovation Award presented by TLF and QUTS: RentAware (LawSquared)

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As discussed above, based on Veriluma’s predictive algorithm and the analysis conducted by Glenn Tighe, the RentAware team predicted that they would place fifth (though they ultimately placed first!)

RentAware takes home a cash prize and a shiny trophy (to be held in the mentoring firm’s lobby until Disrupting Law 2018).

The Janders Dean Prize: CryptIT (DLA Piper)

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This award was given in Janders Dean’s discretion to the team that had the best presentation on the Showcase night (irrespective of other criteria).

Representatives of the CryptIT team will be supported by Janders Dean to attend the #JDHorizons event in Sydney where they will have an opportunity to pitch their idea to the attendees.

Neota Logic: Crosscheck (Hall and Wilcox)

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This award was given in Neota Logic’s discretion to the team demonstrating the most preparedness to commercialise its idea/ take it to market.

The Crosscheck team will be supported by Neota Logic with free no-strings-attached access to the Neota platform for a period of 2 years and support, and mentorship from the Neota Logic team.

After witnessing the impressive pitches on Sunday, Julian Uebergang of Neota Logic generously extended opportunities to both the Mynd team and the Rentaware team as well .

GlobalX Award for Leadership in Innovation (individual): Sam Cleary (of the DLA Piper team)

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This award went to a contestant with a non-law background who demonstrated leadership in innovation and involves a paid internship at GlobalX.

Thomson Reuters Award (individual): Hannah Williams (of the Piper Alderman team)

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This award went to a contestant with a law or non-law background who demonstrated leadership and involves a paid internship at Thomson Reuters.

Don’t take it from us!

We have sought the feedback of attendees and are receiving heart-warming testimonials.

So far, contestants have said:

After six years of university, in which time I have aimed to participate in absolutely everything, Disrupting Law I can honestly say is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. You meet amazing people, undertake immense pressure, but just like rocks into diamonds, it is so, so worth it. If you like law, or tech, or business, or even just like meeting new people like I do, Disrupting Law is definitely worth your time.

Disrupting Law was an amazing weekend of highs and lows, which ultimately culminated in an enthralling expo of bright new ideas to revitalise the legal industry. The connections I made over the weekend will last long into the future, and I look forward to developing the next Big Thing that will disrupt the legal landscape.

Having taken part in the inaugural Disrupting Law in 2016, I was excited to take part again, and found that it had just gotten bigger and better

Thank you to all involved!

Many of our contestants and partners have done an excellent job of providing their own perspectives and we encourage you to take a look at their stories too:

See our awesome social media wall: https://walls.io/7DK9WGJMj

Charles Biddulph (an aspiring aerospace engineer) of the Law Squared Team via LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/2ftGg9i

Jaya Prasad (a UQ law student) of the Law Squared Team via LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/2vFWva0

A Storify story by Brydon of Allens, a mentoring law firm: https://storify.com/AllensComms/disrupting-law-hackathon

Another Storify story by Kate Galloway chronicling the showcase on Sunday: https://storify.com/katgallow/disruptinglaw-hackaton-qutstarters-aug-2017

A blog post by one of our event partners, Neota Logic: https://www.neotalogic.com/2017/08/03/neota-logic-sponsoring-australias-largest-legal-industry-hackathon/

By Milan Gandhi (TLF NATIONAL), Jessica Wat (TLF ACT) and Josephine Bird (QUT Starters)

Most photos taken by Shuwei Zhang.  Aaron Patel designed the artwork for our opening ceremony.