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London Legal Hackathon bend the rules?

London Legal Hackathon bend the rulesMy last post ‘Hack the Law to Reinvent the Wheel?‘ generated a lot of debate on Twitter and LinkedIn yesterday (social media comments have now been incorporated at the end of that post).

It also brought out some interesting answers to the question “Why blockchain?” (asked following Pinsent Masons winning the London Legal Hackathon with a blockchain solution to partnership voting).

It has become clear that the competition criteria set by the organisers/hosts of the London Legal Hackathon (Pinsent Masons i.e. they organised/hosted the event and won it) do not necessarily follow that set by the Global Legal Hackathon organisers.

The criteria in London was:-

  • The goal is to apply innovative ideas and emerging technologies to progress the business of law or facilitate access to justice for the public.
  • Teams of 3 to 6 (maximum 10) will come up with a prototype or proposal at the end of the hackathon to present in front of a panel of judges.
  • We expect ideas using technologies like AI, Machine Learning, Chatbots, Blockchain, or the Internet of Things.

The first and second of these correspond with the Global Legal Hackathon criteria but the third does not.

The Global Legal Hackathon’s rules do not limit the technology in any way to specifically those “like AI, Machine Learning, Chatbots, Blockchain, or the Internet of Things.”

Indeed when interviewed by Richard Tromans one of the co-organisers of the Global Legal Hackathon, David Fisher, stated that they had:-

not been technology specific. Been very, very careful about keeping it open. And that is in terms of technology categories. So it could be AI or blockchain or just traditional development. So we have not taken a position and Aileen [Schultz – the other co-organiser] very much to her credit has kept it wide open and agnostic. We felt this was the right way to do this to engage the largest community.

When I put the criteria used in London to the Global Legal Hackathon they suggested:-

The meaning of the word here was likely “expected” as in “anticipated”… accurate given the current legal industry landscape. Not “expected” as in “mandatory”.

We apologize if it lead to confusion, and suspect what was meant was “anticipated”. Note however, hosts were entitled to frame up their focus areas if they wished.

We hope there was never any confusion around the goals of the #GLH2018, it has been open from day one, use of any technological solution welcome across the board.

There was a global judging rubric intended to keep consistent criteria across the board. However, judges were permitted to “debate” their decisions and scores to come to a consensus of the winning teams.

I don’t think “expected” can be interpreted as meaning “anticipated”!

The definition of “expect” includes:-

  • regard (something) as likely to happen
  • require (something) as rightfully due or appropriate in the circumstances
  • require (someone) to fulfil an obligation

The definition of “anticipate” includes:-

  • regard as probable; expect or predict.

I believe competitors seeing as part of the criteria “We expect ideas using technologies like AI, Machine Learning, Chatbots, Blockchain, or the Internet of Things” would proceed on the basis that they had to use “technologies like AI, Machine Learning, Chatbots, Blockchain, or the Internet of Things”.

Immediately that limits the range of technology and might therefore go someway towards answering the “Why blockchain?” question.

Orlando Conetta who led the winning Pinsent Masons team has written about his experience of so doing on LinkedIn.

Orlando also seeks therein to answer the “Why blockchain?” question:-

Like children presented with a large box of Lego, we wanted to have some fun by constraining ourselves on the tools we would use. In this instance we would focus on blockchain. The challenge would be to find a problem for which blockchain could be a natural fit.

So, rather than identifying a problem that needed resolved and then applying appropriate technology to it, team Pinsent Masons did it the other way around. They focused on one of the technologies from their now restricted list and then found a problem they could use the technology to solve.

Therefore the “Why blockchain?” question was answered in that it had to be blockchain. That was a given regardless of whether the ‘problem’ could be solved using other technology.

However, Orlando probably doesn’t see it quite like that and tried to answer the “Why blockchain?” question thus:-

There are other vendor solutions in the space of polling and collaboration, but from our analysis they are not ubiquitous and innovation polling is far from a solved problem. We think the application of blockchain is relevant and unique amongst existing players in the market, and would offer anonymity to voters and integrity in the auditing of results….

Is the use of blockchain a sledgehammer to crack a nut in this instance? Well, I would say not as blockchains are not as complex as one may imagine to deploy, integrate and manage. Indeed, there would be a similar amount of complexity and effort required to scale anonymity and ledger integrity using other technologies.

I will not try to challenge that as I am nowhere near technically adapt on the question of blockchain to even try. I will leave other techies, who are, to come in on this point if they so wish. However, I do wonder if Orlando’s team checked out doyouneedablockchain.com first.

One other interesting point that Orlando revealed was:-

For our prototype, we used the existing tools we have within Pinsent Masons to develop the submission curation workflow. So, while the process functioned, it did so through technologies we could not share.

Hmm… Is such use of already developed proprietary tools allowed in a hackathon?

A look at the official global rules (although we now know they might not mean a lot in London) suggest perhaps not. These three entry requirements might be relevant:-

Do not include or make reference to any external data, except those specifically designated during the Competition, or those available through
open sourced and public platforms.

Entries that attempt to harm the Sponsor or otherwise create an unfair advantage over other entrants will be rejected.

By submitting an Entry, you warrant and represent: (a) that it is your (or your team’s) original work; (b) that it has not been previously published, sold or submitted in any other competition, promotion, or contest; (c) that it has not won previous awards; and (d) that it does not infringe upon the copyrights, trademarks, rights of privacy, publicity or other intellectual property or other rights of any person or entity; (e) that is was not developed in any substantive form prior to the event, though ideation, research and material gathering are permitted.

It is also the case that the organisers provide all entrants with access to the same resource toolkit for fairness. Bringing your own just might not be cricket.

Whilst looking at the rules can a host/organiser also compete? The rules state:-

Entrants who are employees, officers, directors, agents, representatives and their immediate families (spouse, parents, children, siblings
and each of their spouses regardless where they live) or members of household of Integra, Inc., the Global Legal Blockchain Consortium, or
their respective parent companies, affiliates, and subsidiaries (the “Competition Entities”) and any individual connected with the production
or distribution of this Competition are not eligible to enter or be awarded a prize.

Are Pinsent Masons, as hosts/organisers of the London event, not in effect agents and representatives of the “Competition Entities” and/or connected with the production or distribution of the competition?

Anyway no doubt different interpretations can be put upon the rules but there has perhaps, at the very least, been a bit of rule bending going on.

You would have thought a firm of lawyers would have checked the Ts & Cs!

David Halliwell of Pinsent Masons has pointed out that “R&D is about lateral thinking, not literal thinking“. When it comes to rules, David, I would suggest that you are best applying those literally and not taking your chances laterally. You just might get found out.

I understand the London event was organised in a bit of a rush at the eleventh hour and this may go someway towards explaining the lack of attention to the detail in the rules. Perhaps next year the organisers will be able to reflect on this year and ensure a better adherence to the global rules.

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  1. Hi Brian,
    I’m late to this, for which I apologise, but as one of the two main organisers (with Rob Millard, as Orlando took more of a back seat as soon as he decided to lead a team) I should have seen this was going on. This is an important debate, but language is very important too. What Joanna called criteria were actually 3 bullet points from my introductory slide from the start of the London Hackathon titled “What is the Goal?”. The word criteria is not mentioned and wasn’t used when I was presenting that slide. Our website for the event very clearly points to the rules and criteria. When a member of our hacker audience asked how we will be judged, I referred everyone to the Judging Rubric and read some of the key points from it.

    Can you please correct this post and the one it refers to where you refer to “the criteria in London” incorrectly, perhaps with an explanation of why the confusion was created.

    Words are important. No rules were bent.

    We had a great time in London and Orlando’s team were worthy (close) winners. I’ll be blogging more about it myself and sending people t to these two posts. And here’s hoping this doesn’t stay too long in your moderation.

    1. Thanks David

      A “goal” is defined as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result”.

      To suggest that including as a “goal” that “We expect ideas using technologies like AI, Machine Learning, Chatbots, Blockchain, or the Internet of Things” cannot be seen as part of the criteria for the event is disingenuous to say the least.

      Given that the official global rules do not mention types of technology at all, to produce a slide that specifically states what type of technology is expected as part of the goals of the event is clearly a steer to limit the technology to a certain type and depart from the clearly stated aims of the global organisers.

      How competitors will be judged is clearly very different from “goals” that have been set. The judging rubric contains no guidance on technology to be used.

      In the absence of what technology to use being specified anywhere it was clearly a mistake for you to include a slide that effectively did limit the choice of technology.

      There is therefore nothing for me to correct in my post. Indeed if anything your comments just strengthen my viewpoint.

      Words are indeed important and therefore perhaps next year you will change your slide to make it clear that any technology can be applied by competitors to solve the problem at hand.

      I am sure you all did have a great time and no one has disputed that on the day Orlando’s team were the best team. Whether they adhered to the global rules is still questionable. I note that you have not commented on the points surrounding that.

      1. I note that you’ve taken the @WorldHackathon comment “Wonderful critique” as some sort of complete endorsement of all of your opinion and commentary. Actually, apart from your fake news, I think the rest of your commentary and opinion is both good and interesting except where it strays in to your speculation and conclusions around this one false issue of the criteria.

        You weren’t there. My commentary on what we expected wasn’t taken as some sort of directive or guidance by the 6 teams of hackers. Everybody knows those emerging technologies were likely to be used, just like everybody knows that mobile apps and web interfaces would probably be part of the solution too. They all knew the rules, they all had access to the Judging Rubric, and they all knew that any technology approach was valid inside the rules and guidelines (that they had all signed off on by accepting terms in the Cadence app). That’s why presenting some bullets off a slide as the London criteria is false, whatever dictionary definitions you come up with. Words are important, along with the way they are conveyed. I truly wish you had been there to hear them.

        So I still challenge you to change the wording on both of these posts, because we did not alter the London criteria.

        It leaves me wondering why?

        1. David

          I don’t know where you get that idea from. I have simply said that I was heartened that the global organisers were acknowledging the content of my posts and may utilise my views to improve on future events.

          There is no fake or false news here other than what your slides may have created.

          Words are important along with the way they are conveyed. It is therefore important to have slides that are accurate.

          My post has a question mark at the end of the title and always has done. I am asking the question as to whether rules were bent and providing the evidence I have to hand thereon. People can draw their own conclusions based on that and your comments. There is no reason for me to change the wording. You might not think your slide was significant in changing the London criteria others might think it was. Indeed the global organisers have apologised if your slides led to confusion. Perhaps you should likewise apologise rather than being so adamant about the intent thereof.

          My concern is that there remains a lot of unnecessary hype around solving problems in law using AI/blockchain. The Global Legal Hackathon did not set out to fuel that hype. However, your expectations at the London Legal Hackathon did. That hopefully answers your “why?”.

          1. Hi Brian,
            The organisers of London have looped in the Global team and are discussing things with our 4 judges. We’ll all respond more formally soon.

            Of course I get your “why?”. Tabloid headlines often ask questions in the way you have, so I totally get the controversy angle you are going for. Tabloids love that kind of thing. Of course I’m making it worse by getting angry and insulted, but I totally get that that is your intention. More fool me for joining in?

            Well no. You can keep pulling in extra items like the blockchain thing like all purveyors of fake news who continually shift the subject. The bottom line is that there is more to be said by others about what you’ve inferred about the winner, and London didn’t bend the rules.

          2. David

            Nothing to do with Tabloid headlines. It is a serious and important debate and it is disappointing that you belittle it.

            I have not pulled in extra items “like the blockchain thing”. That is where this debate actually started with the question “Why blockchain?”! You clearly have not followed the debate and unfortunately have no real understanding of what it is really about. Instead you are simply fixated on the meaning/interpretation of your slide deck.

            Hopefully the “others” you refer to will not be so single minded in their approach to this important debate.

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