A Global Legal Hackathon is a place for young women lawyers to learn the importance of using legal tech 

By Mariah Rossi; Edited by Kevin Livingston

The Global Legal Hackathon held a worldwide collaboration and commenced on International Women’s Day. It inspired hundreds of teams in the legal industry to increase equity, diversity, and inclusion in the world’s legal industry.

The Global Legal Hackathon is the world’s largest legal technology innovation competition. Over one weekend, including in Budapest, ideas were formed and technology solutions created to solve the business of law and access to justice issues.

The winning teams will move on to future rounds, where they can present their solution to an international judging panel. There was an inclusivity challenge associated with this year’s Hackathon. Participants and teams were challenged to invent new ways to increase equity, diversity, and inclusion in the legal industry.

This year, however, special attention was paid to mentoring young female lawyers on the need to understand new industry standards in order to excel — a real-world issue not taught in law school.

The Hackathon was staffed by a strong cohort of female mentors who provided their industry knowledge to the teams.

They shared their experiences with the General Counsel Grapevine.

They included Tímea Bana from Dentons, Dr. Anna Fülöp of WoltersKluwer, Anita Mónus and Ellen Hayes from Legalis, KPMG’s Vivien Kardos and Dr. Fanni Márkus, Szecskay Attorneys at Law’s Orsolya Görgényi, WoltersKluwer Managing Director Katalin Kézdi, and Jury member Andrea Miskolczi. Their collective weekend “mentorship strategy” was to be proactive and impart their industry-specific knowledge.

All of the mentors encouraged young female law students and associates to gain legal work experience, preferably international law firm experience.

Bana put it best when she also encouraged them to be, “as geek as possible.” Mónus stressed that law schools really only imparted lexical knowledge onto students and they need more experience to help manage their expectations on what the legal field is really like.

Dr. Márkus also pointed out that the schools lag behind in teaching students how to use AI, but that they will be expected to be acquainted with it in the field. The legal field is no longer seen as immune from technological advances, they said.

Bana and Dr. Fülöp talked about the misconception in Hungary that IT jobs were for men, and challenged women to get into those fields and get ahead.

Dr. Fülöp emphasized that online resources have made it easier for lawyers to gain experience in legal tech without previous schooling. Görgényi added that, “Lifelong learning is the key skill for futureproof professionals: Life-long learning and achieving mastery in a series of topics and skills is what sets professionals apart. It is no longer enough to be a good lawyer, and the biggest advantage of participating in the legal hackathon is that it brings together professionals with different backgrounds: lawyers, software developers, designers, economists, etc. Multidisciplinary teams learn a lot from each other!”

Their advice also spoke to the changing nature of law firms where digitalization is being used to expedite legal processes.

Hayes pointed out that,

“firms are going through a philosophic change on how they provide legal services. The requirements for lawyers to collaborate as a community within their firms are becoming increasingly important and women are strong in teamwork. More than seeking just a tech skillset firms are checking for the innovative mindset.”

Hayes added that legal tech and this mindset speak to both Bana’s and Mónus’ point that legal AI technology gives senior lawyers more time to work on the most complex legal issues, while AI can perform more low-level legal tasks, such as due diligence.

She emphasized that there are concerns among lawyers that technology could make their jobs less secure. However, she said, “innovation creates project work, requiring the growth of teams and improving job security for existing lawyers. We expect the number of in-house departments and law firms implementing technology to increase.” Hayes added that it is all the more reason young female lawyers should stand out in this space early in their careers, as they will be expected to dive into more legal processes upon graduation.

While the technological change in the legal landscape requires more flexibility from new associates, Mónus also pointed out that it has given the flexibility to lawyers who are working mothers. “You only need a laptop,” Dr. Fülöp said. This change is quite exciting for women who are pursuing their legal careers as they now have more autonomy to pursue them from home, while also being with their children. This has allowed for more women to be in leadership positions in firms and each one of the mentors talked about this positive trend.

KPMG’s Kardos explained that “there are still problems within the industry.” Dr. Fülöp and Mónus said some of their peers struggled to be taken seriously from both clients and partners. Both also emphasized that their current companies had many women in management positions and they were proud to work with them. One person in a position of leadership, WoltersKluwer’s Kézdi, talked about how much she enjoyed mentoring young women and watching them blossom in the workplace.

The main takeaway from the mentors was how important a supportive environment is when it comes to pushing women in law to excel.

Mónus, Bana, and Fülöp all talked about how women don’t have to apologize for being women or conform to masculine expectations. The legal industry is an environment that each of these female mentors has fostered or excelled in. For younger women starting out, the future of the legal sector looks bright, but they must be prepared. “By standing together, helping one another, and mentoring each other, women can achieve a lot more than if they only watch out for themselves,” Mónus said.

The winning teams will go onto the next round of the Global Legal Hackathon and Andrea Miskolczi, Cheif Innovation officer at Wolf Theiss has been nominated by the Hungarian team to be a Jury member for the international competition. Miskolczi said that she was “encouraged to see so many teams with female members who were active participants.” She looks forward to seeing international teams’ presentations from countries that are risk-takers in the legal field and have more law firms with legal tech enterprises. She thinks it will be interesting to compare their presentations to her own perceptions that she has gained from attending many conferences and talking to different lawyers.