Blockchain-based solutions emerge from all corners of the globe in latest legal hackathon events

Integra Ledger explores some of the proposed smart contract and blockchain-based solutions from the first round of the Global Legal Hackathon

Updated March 8, 2018 —

After witnessing a weekend of intense collaboration and infectious enthusiasm on a global scale, it’s clear that the first round of the Global Legal Hackathon has inspired optimism on several fronts in the legal industry, not the least of which is the broad application of blockchain technology.

From improving legal education to storing police bodycam footage, hackathon teams have come up with a range of blockchain-based fixes to solve uniquely legal problems. For those who want to know more about how blockchain can solve real problems in the legal industry, it’s worth taking a look at some of the blockchain solutions that Global Legal Hackathon teams created over the course of a weekend in cities around the world.

To help multinational companies adhere to employment standards and ensure human rights compliance, Madrid team Cuatrecasas came up with the blockchain-based solution “Panopticon.” Specifically, Panopticon utilizes smart contracts and gathers data on distribution agreements between companies and their subcontractors in “jurisdictions without reliable enforcement mechanisms.”

In building this solution, the team of lawyers and engineers said they wanted to “support the efforts of multinationals to end abusive labor conditions.” Team member Pedro Méndez de Vigo explains, “There is still a big gap between contractually agreed employment standards and real employment standards at the factories.”

“Panopticon aims to drastically narrow the gap…by monitoring such conditions through automated data and creating a mechanism to stop payment to contractors immediately in case of infringement of the agreed standards through smart contracts.”

With regulators and investors paying more attention to supply chain standards, and with major groups like Amnesty International criticizing some industries for poor labor practices, a solution like this could potentially offer the way forward for conscientious companies.

Another area where blockchain has shown promise is in law enforcement and evidentiary solutions. A Seattle hackathon team created “Bodywatch,” a blockchain solution for uploading and storing police bodycam footage. Hackathon participant and legal data scientist David Andrews explains why he began working on this product:

“My goal was to resolve a conflict between a law enforcement interest in keeping body camera videos secret until they have investigated all possible crimes the video may contain, and social justice organizations such as the NAACP, ACLU and #BlackLivesMatter, who have an interest in seeing the videos, but also in archiving the videos so they can’t be altered by police officials.”

Andrews goes on to explain how the camera prototype works: “Video from the camera is downloaded and a secure hash is entered into a blockchain ledger at regular intervals, such as once a minute. Once the blockchain ledger has accepted the secure hash, the video cannot be tampered with unless all the participants in the blockchain ledger agree to change the ledger.” For more information on Bodywatch, read the recent LinkedIn post by Andrews.

In Boston, hackathon participants created a blockchain solution to help resolve child custody disputes. The tool, “jLedger,” tracks information about child custody and care — such as drop off and pick up times and locations, health care, and support payments — and notifies the other parent when the event is logged. Built on the Ethereum blockchain, the tool also incorporates AI pattern recognition to “identify dispute precursors and allow early intervention.” The team has already uploaded their code to Github.

Across the globe at the Melbourne event, one hackathon team proposed “ANIKA” to simultaneously improve access to justice and aid law students in their training. As the team describes it, “ANIKA connects clients seeking legal advice with law students, who will work with ANIKA’s artificial intelligence and human supervising solicitors to provide assessable advice to clients.” The client data is anonymized and stored on a permissioned blockchain, which ensures privacy, automates conflict checks, and “builds a repository of data which will enable ANIKA’s intelligence to improve.”

In addition to solving justice sector issues, blockchain has shown significant promise in improving process and the business of law. Pinsent Masons’ team at the London hackathon came up with a blockchain solution to help partners assess and invest in “innovative ideas.” The tool helps manage workflow in idea development and allows partners to vote on which innovations they want the firm to invest in. They note that the tool could also be used to help partners “quickly and easily vote on other issues too, making it easier to engage them as business owners and enhance governance.”

Another interesting use case was conceived by a team of legal hackers in Singapore who came up with “ProtectR,” a solution that relies on smart contracts to improve wills. As team member Jerrold Soh explains, “A big problem we wanted to solve was to build in ways for humans to intervene when necessary but without undermining the key advantage of smart contracts — immutability.”

“So with this in mind we looked for possible areas where contracts were simple enough to automate but complex enough that one would think twice before setting it in motion without any means of human intervention.”

Although the solution didn’t make it to the next round, Soh says that the team is figuring out how they can continue to work on ProtectR — with one caveat. “[A] lot more work and research into the foundational building blocks of blockchain tech need to be done before a comprehensive solution is possible,” says Soh, “but I think as a team we managed to find a conceptual path towards that for now.”

While these are just a few of the many prototypes and “conceptual paths” forward for blockchain in the legal industry, they showcase the range of potential uses for the technology, as well as some of the hurtles that will have to be overcome. As teams go into the next round, it will be fascinating to see how they address some of these issues, as well as which blockchain solutions will live on well after the finals. If Integra’s own hackathon history is any indication, we suspect there will be many more blockchain success stories to come.

Integra Ledger offers a permissioned blockchain for the global legal industry. Learn more about what it can do here. To get the latest on the Global Legal Hackathon, visit globallegalhackathon.com and follow the Global Legal Hackathon on Medium and Twitter.