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Dayton Engineer

University of Dayton School of Engineering Computer Engineering Student Jonathan Schierl

Dayton Legal Hack Addresses Access to Justice

By Adrienne Zandvoort '19

The Dayton hackathon was one of 40 held worldwide with a goal of rapidly developing solutions to improve the legal industry worldwide. 

Around 35 participants from across Ohio met at the Wright Brothers Institute in downtown Dayton. Software developers, designers, entrepreneurs and professionals from the legal field joined students like Jonathan Schierl, a second-year computer engineering major and first-time hackathon participant.

“I had no idea what to expect, but overall this was a good experience. I met some really passionate people and gained some knowledge in both computer science and law,” Schierl said. “If our solution doesn't end up being a useful tool, I still think that just having the event helped get the conversation started about the need for technology in law.”

Schierl’s team used an open source platform called docassemble to create a guided interview so that pro-bono attorneys can have quicker access to relevant information and documentation. The platform uses machine learning to constantly improve its performance by incorporating user entered fields into the database to make the database “smarter.” 

Teams worked over the weekend to build a prototype and then pitched their project to a panel of judges on Sunday evening. Three out of the four final solutions were focused on access to justice issues. Thaddeus Hoffmeister, professor of law at UD, was one of the panel judges.

“I’m a big believer in the power of hackathons. Whether you are looking to learn or practice a new skill, network with your peers, find a job, start a business or just become more involved in a community, a weekend long hackathon is an excellent opportunity,” said Dave Best, software engineer at Mile Two and event organizer. “‘Banner events,’ like the Global Legal Hack, provide connective tissue between local and global events.”

The Dayton Legal Hack hopes to hold this event annually. For more information about upcoming Global Legal Hackathons, visit https://globallegalhackathon.com.

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