Legal Hackathon recognises technology that simplifies legal language

19 March, 2019

On 16-17 March, the first Legal Hackathon in Portugal was held at VdA’s office in Lisbon. This is a joint initiative of the Vasco Vieira de Almeida Foundation, VdA Academia and VdA, promoted by Startup Lisboa, with the support of Microsoft and OutSystems, and with the backing of UNESCO’s Lifelong Learning Chair. Event partners also included the Portuguese Bar Association, Association of Engineers and Association of Psychologists, along with several academic institutions.

64 students and professionals from diverse backgrounds were selected, from among the 180 applications received, to tackle the challenge “How to bring the law closer to citizens through the use of technology?”. With a 35% rate of female participation, higher than that usually registered for initiatives of this nature, the 16 teams developed tech-based solutions promoting legal literacy, legal empowerment and a more effective exercise of citizenship.

The project O Meu Amigo Jurista (My Lawyer Friend) was awarded the first prize, in the amount of 7000 euros. The team, composed of Mário Santos (programmer), Alexandra Adão (lawyer), Maria Inês Nunes (lawyer) and João Tomás (programmer), created an algorithm capable of not only analysing and classifying the level of ‘legalese’ used in documents, but also making these legal documents more accessible.

Vínculus, a platformdesigned to create contacts in a simple and user-friendly way, was the runner-up, having received an award in the amount of 2000 euros. Third place, with a prize of 1000 euros, went to the project Advogário, an interactive legal glossary that ‘translates’ legal documents from legalese to plain language.

The Legal Hackathon began the morning of the 16th with the constitution of the teams, followed by inspiring talks from 3 speakers – Johnson Semedo, Pedro Pimentel and Richard Kappel – who ‘awakened hearts and minds’ and motivated the 16 teams for the marathon that lay ahead. The participants were supported throughout the two days by a team of more than 50 mentors (from Startup Lisboa, Microsoft Portugal, OutSystems, several startups, the academic partner institutions and VdA, of course).

At the end of the event, the participating teams presented their projects to the jury, which was made up by Arlindo Oliveira (Instituto Superior Técnico), João Vieira de Almeida (Vasco Vieira de Almeida Foundation), Abel Aguiar (Microsoft Portugal), Ricardo Araújo (OutSystems), Daniel Traça (Nova School of Business and Economics), Filipe Santos (Católica Lisbon School of Business & Economics) and Luísa Neto (University of Porto, Faculty of Law).

In the words of Margarida Couto, VdA partner and CEO of the Vasco Vieira de Almeida Foundation, “this pioneering initiative in Portugal – which aimed to develop, through innovation and the use of technology, solutions that help bring the law closer to citizens – was a remarkable affirmation of some of the Foundation’s strategic axes, particularly those of justice and digital citizenship. I can proudly say that this was a promising start to a long journey in pursuit of the Vasco Vieira de Almeida Foundation’s ultimate goals: the promotion of citizenship education and assertion of the essential role played by education and knowledge in promoting human rights and the rule of law ”.

Click here to see the photographic record of the 1st Legal Hackathon.


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