Law Without Walls ConPosium 2018: A Weekend of Palm Trees and Legal Innovation
By Joy Bradley, Legal Operations Paralegal at Wavelength.law
Law Without Walls (LWOW) is a world first programme that was founded by Michele DeStefano with the University of Miami, it is dedicated and designed to tackle the limitations and issues affecting legal education and legal services by creating innovations to help ensure the future of law and business. The programme connects approximately 100 students from over 30 law and business schools from across the globe. Teams of students are given a topic area by their group sponsor and given 16 weeks to solve a problem and present a solution within that topic. I have been involved in LWOW for the last 4 years, first as a student from UCL, then a team leader and now as a team mentor and sponsor. The newest role came about when I joined Wavelength.law in February who sponsored the programme and supported the LWOW’s Legal Technology Officer.
The programme champions culture, diversity and collaboration. It is not always typical for law firms that would otherwise be competitors to join and collaborate in a programme like this (with the odd exception, such as the newly announced establishment of a Barclays Eagle Lab specially for legal tech in Notting Hill, through pro bono or membership groups). It’s also not just law firms who participate in LWOW by sponsoring and voluntarily mentoring teams. In-house counsel, academics, venture capitalists, technologists, consultants and others are also active members of the LWOW community. This year saw topic sponsorship from firms such as Eversheds Sutherland, Pinsent Masons and Linklaters and companies such as HSBC, Spotify, LATAM, Microsoft and Legal Zoom. This blend of experience and expertise makes LWOW even more valuable to the students and programme community.
The end of April saw the finale to this year’s LWOW programme, which the organisers called ‘the ConPosium’. I arrived in Miami to some truly tropical weather and was excited to see the culmination of 16 weeks of dedicated effort all members of the LWOW community have made. At the ConPosium the teams present their solution to a panel of judges, a live audience, via live chat and by livestream online. The buzz of anticipation was prevalent throughout the whole weekend. What would be next? The enthusiasm for LWOW was so electric that #LWOW2018 was trending on Twitter.
I have watched and participated in several ConPosiums but what struck me about this year was the sheer diversity of the topics and issues the students were tackling. As such, the Projects of Worth were some of the most unique innovations I have seen in the programme yet. From compliance update tools for the airline industry to and app which matches victims of natural disaster to building contractors, there was no one Project alike.
All teams were subject to the close scrutiny of the judges with 20 minutes of questioning after their pitch. A new addition to this year’s iteration was ‘Audience Judge’ where members of the audience could opt in to be randomly selected to be a judge on the panel. This added a fresh, interactive spin on the judging phase which was well received. A highlight was when our CEO, Peter Lee was asked to judge for a team solution called Weaver, an e-marketplace and matching service for victims of natural disaster and contractors to help rebuild their homes. Weaver later went on to win the prize for ‘Best Idea’.
The overall winner of the program was the team sponsored by Spotify. Their app-based solution provides undiscovered music artists with a platform for promotion, gig booking and legal/business resources. One Project to look out for is Sero, a GDPR compliance platform aimed at fintech start-ups, who won a prize sponsored by Neota Logic. Neota Logic will support the Sero team over the coming months to develop their proposal and the technology behind it using Neota’s expert logic solution, to help bring it to fruition.
With each year I gain new perspective on the emerging use and creation legal tech and this year was no different. However, as Wavelength sponsored the program this year and through my new role with them, I was thinking more on the legal engineering opportunities that could be implemented with these projects. With AI and blockchain remaining as the technologies of choice, there were an array of ideas on how they can be utilised to innovate law. A favourite of mine was one project, sponsored by Pinsent Masons, which used trained AI to make help risk assessments and optimise repetitive, low level contracts, such as non-disclosure agreements, intended to make the review process more efficient.
What proved to be a successful gathering of diligence, creativity, imagination and legal technology, it makes me all the more excited for what’s to come in LWOW 2019.
Joy Bradley, May 2018