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The Law Without Walls Experience: A European Law School student participating in the worlds biggest law and technology competition

October 15th, 2018 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “The Law Without Walls Experience: A European Law School student participating in the worlds biggest law and technology competition”

By Pierre Ferran

Pierre is a 3rd year European Law Student at Maastricht University. He is particularly interested in LawTech, as he also is a software developer in this free time. In 2018, he participated in the innovative Law Without Walls program, where, with his team, he focused on streamlining low-risk contract lifecycle for in-house legal teams. He now works for the legal engineering firm Wavelength as a Legal Engineer Intern.

What is LWOW?

Law without Walls is a giant Hackathon. For four months, we worked in a team to develop a solution solving a legal problem of your choice, ranging from corporate workflows to social justice, all topics ultimately revolving around a mixture of technology, law and entrepreneurship. I was the first ever student from Maastricht University to be sent to LWOW, after applying and being the one lucky student to be selected. The application process takes place in three stages: you first have to apply to the law faculty, by sending a letter of motivation, as well as all the application material required by LWOW. If selected, the Law Faculty will issue a recommendation for you to LWOW. You can then send in your application to the LWOW staff. If the LWOW staff selects you, you will then be interviewed through Skype. Should the interview be successful, you will be invited to the kickoff, where everything begins.

LWOW O Kick off

The LWOW O Kick off took place in St Gallen, Switzerland. No preparation was required aside from taking an online personality test. I knew nothing about what to expect, who was going to be in my team, or really anyone there for that matter. The organizers will assign you a hotel room that you will share with another participant, allowing you to meet another person from the program on the first day. I shared a room with Angelo Massagli, a student from Miami Law School, where LWOW originates. I arrived in St Gallen on the Friday evening, with the first day of the kick off starting at 9am on the Saturday, running the whole day. At breakfast, it became apparent how diverse the LWOW student were. While we are used to working in an international environment here in Maastricht, that environment is very European centred. LWOW students come from around the world, including many from South America. Upon arriving at the location of the kick off, the first thing they have you do is pose for a Polaroid picture, which you then have to pin to a board, alongside the other pictures of your team members, who have been doing the same.

With the help of the pinned pictures, your next task is to find your team amongst the crowd. This is the first time you get to find out who is in your team, so let me introduce you to them: the team is composed of three students, three team leaders, and two mentors. The two other students in my team were Valentina and Nicolas. Valentina is a Chilean law student, studying at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, while Nicolas is also a law student, studying in Bogotà, Colombia. The three team leaders all originated from the UK, with two of them, Chrissy and Adam, working at Pinsent Masons LLP, the law firm sponsoring our Team. Chrissy is a Senior Associate at Pinsent, while Adam is a data scientist. The other team leader was Peter, a commercial solicitor working in-house at Royal London, an insurance firm in London. Finally, our experienced mentors were Marsha, a retired American attorney, and Chris, a French-American attorney, who sits on so many boards he probably has a say on what you eat for breakfast without you knowing it. I am not going to spoil the entire kick off for you, but you can expect amazing speakers with insane credentials, great team bonding and fun activities. The first day pumps you up, and you will become very excited for the second and last day. It is worth noting that the people you get to talk to during the day are amazing, all dynamic and with interesting background. Most importantly, all these people are all very accessible and open to conversation. To give you an example, the assistant general counsel of Microsoft was in the room, and he insisted on being called “Steve”.

The second day of the kick off is where you get to do stuff. After intensive coaching, you and your team get to do a mini hackathon. We were assigned the theme of mental wellbeing of law students. We got to work and designed a small app that would allow students to anonymously vent off their frustration and get feedback on how many students are also experiencing difficulties in their local area. The project was called Stressbot, and its business model was based on the idea that universities could pay to access anonymized data about the wellbeing of students in their local area. This idea was the runner-up as the most viable project amongst all projects presented.

These two days are very intense but will leave you full of energy and optimism for the real project you will have to build over the next few weeks with your team. Of course, the final day is closed off with complimentary drinks, as a nice way to say goodbye.

LWOW O itself: “an experience”

The process of developing your idea is very well structured by the LWOW Team. The first thing you do coming back from the kick off is schedule the many meetings you will have between your team and the LWOW staff. The staff gave us set targets to meet every week, much like PBL, with the team working at its own pace. We decided to have a weekly meeting with our team leaders, with the students working during the rest of the week and reporting at the meeting. This is a demanding schedule, considering you also must prepare your regular tutorials!

Initially, we planned to focus on the gender pay gap, and using technology extract pay data from employment contracts to render out simple statistics. We identified this problem as it was a recurrent topic on the news at the time. Our team leaders also pointed out that a new UK regulation was coming into force at the time, which requires businesses to disclose gender pay gap statistics.

You quickly learn that LWOW is a lot of back and forth, and that’s a good thing! As inexperienced students, this back and forth allows you to try out different areas, question professionals, and figure out what problem is actually worth solving. The goal the LWOW staff sets for you are helpful for this. The LWOW meetings are like a hardcore drilling session (for those of you accustomed to the French education system: they are something like a khôlle de prépa). You have a set format to follow, that always includes a slide deck. You then present your work and progress using your slide deck. Often, the feedback will seem quite harsh, being strong but constructive about your performance, but this harsh feedback is only meant to push you further and further, to really make you go above and beyond. Despite the emotional rollercoaster these may cause, they bloody work.

The quest for perfection in LWOW allows you to learn fast, develop many skillset, and give you a good introduction to the workplace of tomorrow. Technology is all around in LWOW, we might be young millennials drowned in it, but we still have a bit to learn. LWOW will teach you how to use technology in a business setting efficiently.

Back to our project, we had to start investigating whether the problem of gender pay gap statistic was meant to be solved. We used our excellent mentor’s and team leader’s connections to interview working professionals, questioning them about how they planned to get ready for the upcoming regulatory deadline to publish gender pay gap statistics. All of these professionals were extremely helpful and kindly offered us some time from their busy schedule. It truly was an enriching experience to discover how potential “clients” see a solution to their problem, and how they currently deal with the matter.

We quickly found out through the interviews that our initial problem had already been solved outside the legal world. Human Resources system already provided a way to quickly access gender pay gap statistics, and thus, after receiving feedback from both our team leaders and the LWOW staff, decided to pick another problem.

At this point, we were already a bit behind on the LWOW schedule and needed to catch up. We went back to basics and started questioning our team leaders about their issues at work. Peter quickly started complaining about an issue he faces every day. Again, Peter is a busy in-house solicitor, every day he has to prepare important and valuable contracts and issues for his company, but he also has to answer every single legal question any employee has in his company. Thus, every day someone comes to Peter and asks him questions similar to “I am negotiating a contract with a supplier, but they want to remove the data protection clause from the NDA, can I accept that”, to which Peter always replies the same thing: “Are they handling data? If not, then yes you can remove it”. Obviously, Peter gets quickly fed up with these small repetitive questions that are relatively unimportant, because they concern low value, risk-free agreements. So how could we remove the burden of answering these questions? That’s what we set ourselves on doing, and we started the process again of interviewing professionals and built up a solution to this problem. The more you work on your project, the more you fall in love with it. It’s with this energy that you create a solution, a business plan, and of course, a pitch. The end goal of LWOW is to pitch your idea at ConPosium, as if you were trying to sell it to everyone in the room.

We called our solution Satori. Satori is a Buddhist concept: there cannot be Zen without Satori. That is what we aimed to bring to Peter’s life, zen. But there is no better way to explain what Satori is than by showing you our pitch, you can watch it here.

To make sure our project would stand out, I decided to use my tech skills to build a prototype of Satori, our pitch features a demo of the prototype. It is important to note that no particular tech skills are required to make a great pitch at LWOW, however, it also is a great opportunity to learn! Wavelength.law, an innovative law firm that specializes in Legal Engineering (you should check them out) sponsors LWOW by sending Felix Schulte-Strathaus, the legal tech officer of the program. He is there to help you map out your project, as well as potentially pointing you in the right direction to make a prototype of your project.

ConPonsium: LWOW Vice

ConPosium is it. It is the moment you have been working so hard for. Plus, it takes places in Miami. Yea, you get to go to Miami for “business”. As you have seen in our pitch, every team gets to present its project during the two days of the event, and in the end, the best projects are given an award.

The room to which you pitch is filled with brilliant people, from everywhere around the world, and with many different backgrounds. It truly is the people that make LWOW an amazing experience. You will meet dynamic like-minded students, who will become your friends, as well as enthusiastic professionals working everywhere from small legal practices to massive companies such as Deloitte or Microsoft. The connections you make there are invaluable, and the experience itself beyond enriching.

It’s hard to properly describe the LWOW experience, so I will leave you with this. If you are interested in legal technology, if want to know how the legal profession will work tomorrow, or if you are a repressed entrepreneur doing a law degree, then LWOW is for you. I must thank everyone at LWOW, and in particular, Erika Pagano, Michelle DeStefano, Catalina Goanta and Felix Schulte-Strathaus, as well as our team Sponsors Pinsent Masons LLP and Royal London Insurance for giving our team this amazing opportunity, which I hope you will enjoy one day as well.

 

You Don’t Need to Be a Superhero to Be in the Justice League: Rethinking Justice Hackathon (3-4 March 2018)

January 3rd, 2018 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “You Don’t Need to Be a Superhero to Be in the Justice League: Rethinking Justice Hackathon (3-4 March 2018)”

Why Do We Need Another Hackathon?

Making the world a better place is easier said than done. This is why every contribution to the noble cause embraced by humanity through the Sustainable Development Goals matters, because success is the sum of small efforts. Ours is a shared world: citizens, businesses, states and institutions all face the same risks and challenges, and so there is a constant need for society to innovate – to find better ways of doing things. Ideally, this can be done in order to bring about more justice in the world. What we mean by justice is simply more fairness, in the way in which citizens, civil society, businesses and public institutions interact with one another.

While thinking about broad theme has its advantages, we want to create a nurturing environment and mindset where someone with an idea can go ahead and do something about it. This is how the Rethinking Justice Hackathon came to life: students, staff and alumni from Maastricht University, as well as friends from the industry, coming together in a 24 hour hackathon to celebrate free thinking and enthusiastic doing.

We want to hold a hackathon that celebrates rethinking justice in all its dimensions: individual, social, commercial, political or cultural. To accommodate this wide range of options while making sure that our participants can focus their attention on topics that are narrower than this, we created four different challenges. Each challenge is led by a Partner, who operates in a field relevant for the theme of the hackathon and will be actively involved in pre-hackathon events. The four Partners we are collaborating with for this edition are: The Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law (Social Justice challenge); eBay (E-Commerce Conflicts challenge); Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts (Courts of the Future challenge); and Maastricht University’s Institute of Data Science (Data-Driven Justice challenge). Each of the partners will host a workshop for participants, so the latter can understand how they can relate to the challenges from the perspective of their own disciplines and expertise, while also allowing the participants to immerse in the way of thinking of our Partners:

– for the Hague (HiiL) and Brussels (eBay), we will arrange for transportation so that students can jump into a bus and be brought to our partners’ venue;

– for Maastricht (IDS), the workshop will be held in the IDS HQ at the Brightlands Health Campus;

– we will also facilitate an online workshop given by DIFC Courts.

Hackathons as Education at Maastricht University

As one of the youngest Dutch universities, Maastricht’s pedagogy has always stood out because of its Problem-Based Learning approach: departing from real-life problems and learning by doing, either through independent inquiry or group collaboration. For this reason, we consider hackathons and PBL to be a match made in heaven: creativity, leadership, perseverance, empathy, communication – all of these 21st-century skills that are so central to modern work experiences have friendly roots in the pedagogical concepts of Maastricht University education.

Real Interdisciplinarity

We want this event to take the shape of a hackathon because we believe in the creativity and stimulation it generates. Because of its nature, we expect participants to engage all their pre-knowledge in not only coming up with concepts but actually starting to execute them in as far as that is possible. For teams to come up with well-rounded ideas, interdisciplinarity is one aspect we are heavily vested in, to make sure that we attract enough interest from disciplines that complement each other and that can gain a lot of mutual benefits, which in turn can increase the quality of presented projects.

Our main goal is to ensure the highest quality possible for an educational hackathon experience. For this to happen, participants must gather as much pre-knowledge as possible, and together with the Partners of the challenges, we will facilitate knowledge acquisition. To that end, we will facilitate an additional series of workshops on the actual day of the hackathon, on a need-to-train basis. Teams encountering various issues while working on the challenges will be able to get tailored coaching for their problem-solving needs. For such workshops, we will issue online badges (Badgr), so participants can display their skills mastery on social media.

Registration and Team Division

Participants register individually and rank the four challenges according to preference. We will match their preferences across disciplines and backgrounds to ensure as much team diversity as possible, and create teams which will be allocated to the different challenges.

We have 100 places open for participants, who need to apply individually, and if selected, will be placed in teams on the basis of indicated preferences, so we can make sure everyone gets to enjoy a REAL interdisciplinary experience. We will announce the Hackathon participants on 3 February! Final participants will be charged a €24 participation fee upon confirmation (that’s investing €1 per hour in a 24-hour skills training event and getting a lot of free food, drinks and road trips in return).

Outcomes

The main purpose of this hackathon is educational (Hackathons = PBL). However, apart from the very experience, we aim to offer our participants, and apart from the employability importance of this activity in their profiles, we want to make sure that good ideas can be followed-up on. To this end, we will choose the two best projects on social innovation and commercial innovation:

The Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law will offer further coaching to members of the first winning team with a view to applying to the Innovating Justice Accelerator where they can further win €20,000 from the Dutch Ministry of Justice to develop their project. The Brightlands Techruption Incubator will offer guidance and counseling to members of the second winning team, to further consider whether the project can be incubated at Brightlands as a start-up. All participants will receive an online badge for their overall participation in the Hackathon.

Get ready for a challenging, intense, creative and satisfying justice-hacking experience! Check us out and don’t forget to apply until 1 February!

Arturo, you made it!

August 12th, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Arturo, you made it!”

AI, stock markets, money or the iwolf of wall street

August 11th, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “AI, stock markets, money or the iwolf of wall street”

Written by Andreyan

It is inherent to the human nature to greed for more money. There are endless stories of people’s attempts to get rich or go down in a blaze of glory in their attempt. Think of Jordan Belford. His story fascinated so many people under the skillful direction and production of Martin Scorsese. However, humans are humans and have weaknesses. They show emotions and they may be the cause of their downfall, as it happened with Mr. Belford. A solution is there, though, artificial intelligence lacks emotions and is capable of producing far more information than a normal human being. This brings two extremely advantageous uses of A.I. at the stock market.

On the one hand it can process a lot more information than a human brain for a short period of time, so it can make better shot calls on the market. Thus, it actually can predict the market better than human experts. A Japanese A.I. predicted the market correctly 68% of the time compared to “mere” 48% by the human experts. When the A.I. buys and sells stocks it creates contracts, but is it acting in the name of the company and is just a “mere” medium of the will of the company to create legal relations on market? Or is it a legal representative (agent) that has its own will and acts in the name of the company, given that the A.I. process a lot more information per time unit than a human and its decision will be faster than a human’s. Thus, what it does can be even a surprise for the owner of the A.I. However, when an A.I. is learning it can accidentally learn some shady schemes. So when the scheme is discovered, who is going to be blamed? The company using the A.I. to profit? The scientists that created the A.I.? Or the database sample the A.I. learned from, or in the other words thousands of known and unknown shady brokers?

So who is going to catch our scheme involved A.I., if it process more information than a human, thus, being smarter than a human?

The answer is A.I. Who is better to do it, than one of its own kind?! It has already been used on the market to alarm for potentially suspicion activities by the brokers with a significant better success than the classic human force, dealing with such schemes. It all sounds good from a practical point of view, but for any legal person the question of following procedure comes into mind. Procedural law is designed to protect certain interests and rights of the people being investigated. So how do we design an A.I. that can make procedural decision on the same level as a human, taking into account subjective factors? Furthermore, even if we establish special procedure for an A.I. cop catching human suspects, what happens with procedural law when an A.I. is monitoring the activities of another A.I? Do we need a special procedure for respecting A.I. rights and privileges? If we grant such rights, do we put A.I. on equal footing with humans?

The answers to all these questions might also be the answer, whether HAL 9000 may ever come into existence and what rights, privileges HAL will have. After all the unregulated legal status of HAL causes his death in 2001: Space Odyssey. We do not want to kill the rise of the machines, do we?

A step at a time

August 11th, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “A step at a time”

Written by Thomas

Adopting AI in developed economies could double growth rates in just under two decades. In developing economies growth rates could increase even more, research suggests. This is because developing countries are now taking a path different to those taken by developed countries. We are already in a time where technological solutions are used to tackle challenges in developing economies. For example, the internet has become more accessible, thereby making it possible to bring teachers to underserved schools.

AI will likely be able to boost development even more by implementing technologies such as photographic identification of infected crops with up to 99.35% accuracy in the farming industry and complex data analyses that would prevent spill over diseases such as Ebola from spreading. In the legal sphere, Artificially Intelligent machines like the Lex Machina, capable of predicting outcomes of motions and orders issued by specific judges, could provide cheap advice for individuals and start-ups that cannot afford legal counselling themselves. Better access to the legal system would therefore improve the position of such groups and boost growth and innovation as a result.

Of course, necessary infrastructure is imperative for AI to be implemented. Increasing global connectivity is a hot topic in the emerging field of data financing; tech companies are now investing into high-tech power supply and telecommunications systems that would allow them to explore new markets with new consumers in the long term.

Meanwhile, AI is set to become useful in economies where such infrastructure is already in place. Currently, legal counselling is often only affordable to those in middle and upper classes, whilst those from the lower class are usually the ones that need it the most. AI will naturally make legal services cheaper and more accessible in at least two ways. Firstly, AI virtual lawyers could be made accessible online, perhaps government-subsidised. This would allow people to get simple legal questions answered without ever visiting a lawyer’s office. Online legal databases currently exist, but are based solely on keyword searches; this is different from AI. Secondly, AI programmes such as Ross could be used by law firms to decrease the time lawyers spend on sifting through cases and legal documents, and increase their productivity as a result. There is less time lawyers can bill their clients for, hence less money spent by the clients.

So AI is here. And it will change our world, a step at a time.

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