Veterans hackathon and startup competition kick off ABA Techshow

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ABA Techshow


ABA Techshow

March Madness has come to ABA Techshow.

The annual extravaganza kicked off on Wednesday from the Hilton Chicago with a couple of competitions: A tournament-style pitch contest between legal startups and a Hackathon focused on improving access to justice for veterans.

Tech For Justice Hackathon+Veterans will take place over the next couple of days, with the winners announced Saturday. The first-place team will get $5,500, with second place getting $2,500 and third place receiving $1,500. According to the Hackathon’s Github page, some of the possible projects include an app to help aid victims of military sexual trauma, a panic button for veterans suffering from PTSD, and a social platform connecting disabled vets and veteran disability experts.

One of the Hackathon’s co-organizers, Jeffrey Aresty, president of Internetbar.org, told the ABA Journal that the event represents the collaborative possibilities of law and technology to help those in need lead more fulfilling lives.

“In the case of veterans, fulfilling a mission of serving others to live in peace is in most cases why they joined the military in the first place,” Aresty said in an email. “In today’s world, where there is so much conflict and division, and so many people who are suffering immeasurably from the scourge of wars, veterans more than any other group want to continue their mission to make the world a better place.”

Aresty said the justice system must give veterans needed support without delays. “Our hackathon projects will give hackers, lawyers and all interested in justice the chance to support our mission to give veterans the chance to be powerful agents of change once again,” he said.

Meanwhile, the inaugural “Startup Alley” competition, which was hosted by Bob Ambrogi of LawSites and Mary Juetten of Evolve Law, pitted 12 legal startups against each other in a knockout-style contest with audience members voting for the winners.

All 12 competitors, which were narrowed down from a larger list of entries in December, got a discount to exhibit their products in the Exhibit Hall with the first place winner of the competition getting a $5,000 advertising package with Above the Law. The participants include trust accounts simplification tool TrustBooks; lawyer matching services LegalClick, AggregateLaw, and Court Buddy.

First place in the competition went to Ping, an automated timekeeping program that allows lawyers to automatically track and bill their hours. According to Ping CEO Ryan Alshak, most lawyers have to keep track of time manually and rely on a lot of guesswork when they do their billable hours. It was a phenomenon he knew all too well.

“I was a BigLaw lawyer for three years and I was the worst timekeeper in America,” he told ABA Journal. “I’d wait until the end of every week and then go back and guess what my billable hours were. I knew I was leaving a lot of time on the table.” By his estimation, lawyers can lose up to $15,000 a month simply because they aren’t tracking their hours accurately.

In addition to timekeeping, which Alshak says Ping is fully automatic and doesn’t require the user to start or stop a timer, Ping also tracks data so that lawyers can gain more insight into how their practices work and create more accurate budgets. Ping started last May—a month after Alshak quit his law firm job—and it is currently part of a pilot program with a law firm of 40 lawyers. His goal is to go to market by the summer.

Second place went to Doxly, a secure portal and management platform for corporate transactions. UniCourt, a program that provides easy access to state and federal caselaw and legal analytics, finished third.




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