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Code the Deal, UCLA: Legal Hackathons Innovate With Tech

Today is the start of the Code the Deal Hackathon hosted by the UCLA School of Law. Code the Deal LA is the second such event produced by Legal Hackers, which brings together lawyers, developers, professionals, and geeks all around.

Law and geeks. Doesn't that sound like fun? It's a matter of personal taste.

What's a Hackathon?

The term "hackathon" has entered into the public lexicon only very recently. Hackathons are the end result of the cultural spread of hacking as a legitimate set of practical computer skills.

No one knows when the first hackathon really took place, but the events seem to trace their roots to the mid-90s when computer geeks would convene together to solve problems with limited resources: primitive processing power, for example. The Demo Scene is a direct offspring of this mindset. Such events were and have been be an opportunity for programmers and hackers to exhibit their skills.

Legal Versions

More and more technology is being utilized in every aspect of life -- law practice not exempted. Over the last few years, technology has meandered its way into the law by automating some of the more mundane aspects of legal practice such as email response, billings and scheduling. But there's a palpable cultural push, even from many lawyers no less, to integrate innovative ideas in technology to further certain goals. For Code the Deal, these are to "enhance delivery ... expand access ... and advance the legal industry."

Pitches at today's event will be short -- only 30 minutes for Saturday. We're not entirely sure how one idea, let alone many ideas, can be presented in that amount of time, but hey, hackers are smart. Judging will take place Sunday at 3:00 p.m. This means that teams will technically have 15 hours to complete their tasks. Sleep at your own risk.

Why They're Important

Allen Rodriguez of Law Technology Today (also a mentor at Code the Deal) regards legal hackathons as a much-needed tonic to the stodgy and obsolete mindset of lawyers. In fact, he argues, the training that lawyers get drilled with in law school is actually inimical to innovation. Innovation potentially leads to breakthroughs not only without the law, but within it too. Lawyers deal mostly with mitigation of risk, and since innovation is something most lawyers tend to avoid, events like Code the Deal are exactly what the doctor ordered.

So if you're there at the UCLA event, enjoy yourself: you really could be on the edge of a new legal innovation. The themes will be issues in real estate, entertainment law, and affordable housing. Attendance is free, so if you're in the area, it's suggested that you at least walk through.

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