Last Wednesday, the Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown Law held its latest Iron Tech Lawyer Competition, livestreamed for those of us who couldn’t be there in person. Throughout the semester, six teams of students came together to collaborate with legal service providers and public interest law organizations to build legal expert systems that promote access to legal processes and the legal system. The systems are then developed into apps using Neota Logic technology, and the teams present them to judges during the competition who determine a winner.
The competition is the culmination of a class at Georgetown Law called: “Civ Tech: Digital Tools and Access to Justice,” taught by Professor Tanina Rostain and adjuct Professors Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net’s own Executive Director, and Kevin Mulcachy. The competition is made possible through the Georgetown Law Center and donated technology by Neota Logic.
Iron Tech Lawyer Award 2019
This year’s Iron Tech Lawyer Award went to the Whitman-Walker Health D.C. Name Change App developed for Whitman-Walker Health. The target users for this app are D.C. residents who are trans or gender expansive, and created to help a community that is often times overlooked or undermined. The app is designed to access the user’s eligibility to change their name in D.C. and then walk the user through entering the information needed for their name change application. It then generates a Motion to Seal, the user’s name change application. This app allows a user to petition for a name change simply and easily, empowering them to access an important legal right.
The winner of the Excellence in Design Award was my personal favorite, The Legal Check-Up, developed for Georgetown’s Health Justice Alliance. This app identifies the legal need of cancer patients, helps patients consider necessary actions with respect to wills, power of attorney, and custody dependents when their illness is terminal. It then provides a report identifying legal needs of the patient for a social worker to connect the patient with the appropriate legal services. This team’s app really impressed me. It helps those going through an already difficult time to identify and navigate possible legal issues. This organized and accessible app uses the help of social workers to get cancer patients through any legal issues that could arise from their situation.
After the teams have presented their apps and while the judges are deliberating, a call goes out to us watching on livestream to vote for our favorite project. The one that gets the most votes wins the Social Media Award. This year’s winner was the Navigator: Your Guide to the Illinois Conviction Registries developed for The Illinois Work Group on Public Convictions Registries. This app helps people with convictions in Illinois or their family members and friends by informing them of the vast and complex Illinois registry laws as well as supplying a means of determining which laws apply to a person. It provides resources, user stories, and advocacy information and allows users the ability to contribute to crowd sourced information.
The solutions the teams developed based on the challenges they saw were both impressive and unique. It’s exciting to see the next generation of lawyers take on public service challenges and find good solid solutions. As I watched the livestream, I was struck by the hard work, dedication, and creativity that went into these apps. Every one of these projects could make a major difference in the lives of people in need across the country.
I am always intrigued and inspired by the way technology can be used to help those with a legal problem. The legal system can be difficult for the average person to navigate on their own. For underserved communities to have access to tools that help them navigate our legal system makes an enormous impact.
The judges panel consisted of Maha Jweied, a legal consultant; Mirenda Meghelli, Pro Bono Net’s Partnerships Manager; and David Bonebrake, Program Counsel at the Legal Services Corporation.
Community Navigator Issues Spotting Tool developed for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
Team members – Natalia Benitez, Harry Shen, Jack Siverman
WomensLaw.org Resource Finder developed for National Network to End Domestic Violence
Team members – April Paredes, Caroline Shipman, Clara Troyer, Yustina Zakhary
TEXpunction and Nondisclosure Eligibility developed for Texas Legal Services Center
Team members – Socrates Boutsikaris, Kristen Friel, Zakari Hassanaly, Anna Schamberg
You can learn more about the teams, apps and judges by going to www.irontechlawyer.com