HackJustice: An Access to Justice Hackathon


Where Access to Justice Meets Technology


On February 3rd and 4th, 2017 students, legal professionals, computer scientists, software developers,  members of the public and professionals of various disciplines came together for a hackathon designed to create technology applications to improve access to justice. The Winkler Institute and the Cyberjustice Laboratory at the Université de Montréal teamed up to organize HackJustice, and it ran simultaneously at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto and the Cyberjustice Laboratory in Montréal.

Participants worked in teams to develop a tech solution to one of three access to justice challenges:

  1. Make it easier for regular people to engage in the policy-making decisions taking place at the municipal level.
  2. Help improve consumer justice by addressing the roadblocks that keep consumers from seeking and getting justice.
  3. Help the public develop the confidence and capabilities they need to deal with everyday legal problems.

The challenges were selected by a committee of experts on access to justice and technology.

 Each of the challenges was presented by an organization with expertise in the field. The “Engage” challenge was presented by Gabe Sawhney from Civic Tech Toronto and Toronto Councilmatic. The “Resolve” challenge was introduced by Assistant Deputy Minister Renu Kulendran from the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services and presented by Ken Whitehurst from the Consumers Council of Canada. Finally, Doug Ferguson from the CBA presented the “Learn” challenge!

Mentors were also present to support participants throughout the stages of the tech development. In Toronto, Alexey Togunov (MAG Innovation), Mona Datt (Loom Analytics), Moira Forbes (Government Services Integration Cluster), Vandana Taxali (Entcounsel) and Monica Goyal (My Legal Briefcase) assisted teams with generating ideas, problem solving and developing final pitches.

After two intense days of building and developing their solution, participants presented their prototypes to a panel of judges that included Lorne Sossin (Osgoode Hall), Rex Shoyama (Carswell and Thomson Reuters), Karim Benyekhlef (Cyberjustice Laboratory), and Marc-Andre Morissette (Chaire Lexum). Teams were judged on usability of the tech developed, creativity and innovation, feasibility, project presentation, and overall enthusiasm of the team.

In Toronto, first prize was awarded to Pre-Resolve for developing a one-stop tool that offers information and resources for people seeking divorce or separation. The app helps self-represented litigants by offering a time and dollar estimate on the cost of different dispute resolution options. It also provides users with personally tailored resources by allowing them to input information about their unique situation. Pre-Resolve won a $1500 cash prize and a 4-month placement at Ryerson University’s Legal Innovation Zone, which provides support and resources to companies and individuals working on justice and legal system solutions.

The runner up in Toronto was LearnMeTO, an app that uses data from the Toronto Councilmatic website and provides information to users based on where they live and the civic issues they care about.

In Montreal, the first prize went to Democrati.ca took for developing an app that helps people circulate petitions to elected officials at the municipal level. The runner up was League of Lawyers who created an app that helps people pay or contest fines, and offers them information about following the proper procedure.

Teams that did not win in the traditional sense still showcased their skills, networked, and used technology to help make justice more accessible. In a survey distributed after the hackathon, several participants described how they made amazing personal and professional connections and learned how technology and innovation can be harnessed to improve access to justice. Put simply, the event succeeded on every front and produced several creative solutions to access to justice problems!

HackJustice would not have been possible were it not for the generous support of our sponsors:

Learn more about HackJustice on our hackathon website: www.hackjustice.ca

Click here to watch CTV News Channel’s interview with Academic Co-Director Nicole Aylwin about HackJustice.