Our cohort this year consisted of five diverse legal tech startups, and culminated in a Demo Day in late November, where they pitched to a panel of judges, and a roomful of members of the legal tech community. The two prizes, Best Pitch and Most Ready for Investment, were both awarded to Formally, a company focused on simplifying the process of filling out forms for asylum seekers.
The new year will also bring in a new group of startups to LexLab, and we will welcome our third cohort to the program. On that note, applications to be a part of our Spring 2020 accelerator program are now open! If you are part of a legal tech startup that is looking to take your company to the next level, then LexLab may be the place for you to develop your business. Please share this application with anyone you know who may be a good fit for our accelerator. We are seeking a wide range of legal tech startups in the Bay Area.
Fall Event Highlights
Building on the success of last semester’s programming, we balanced our calendar with events that were specifically aimed at helping our startups strengthen their companies, as well as informative events for the whole UC Hastings and Bay Area legal tech community. We continued our weekly speaker series and also included a few topical events about upcoming changes in California law.
In October, our ATILS Taskforce Panel explored the recommendations that the California Bar released for rules governing the practice of law. This lively event featured speakers Dan Rubin, a member of the ATILS Taskforce; Micha Star Liberty, President-Elect of the Consumer Attorneys of California; and Cynthia Chandler, director of the Bay Area Legal Incubator. The panel discussed the recommendations of the task force and provided their own takes on the recommendations.
Additionally, we hosted an expert panel on the California Consumer Privacy Act, featuring Mary Stone Ross, co-author of the ballot initiative that became the CCPA; Lothar Determann, UC Hastings professor and specialist in International Data Privacy; Alexandra Ross, Director of Global Privacy at Autodesk; and Rehan Jali, CEO of Security.AI to discuss and debate the expected impact of the upcoming changes. Events like this remind us of the joy of being part of the UC Hastings community. Spirited conversations and thoughtful questions and answers were the reason that so many of these events were successful.
Other events included a panel discussing new legal services business models, a presentation on startup financing, and a presentation that explored the legal implications of technological bias. One of our most popular events was the UC Hastings Alumni Panel, which focused on the question ‘“So you want to be a GC?”. Students heard four UC Hastings grads about the different paths that each took to their current position as general counsel. As we work to develop programming for the Spring semester, we’ve updated our calendar of events to continue to include interesting, relevant, and engaging events.
We also had a new and particularly exciting event this semester as part of the Hack Homelessness initiative. Our first ever Hack Homelessness event took place at the end of October, and was a hackathon focused on the legal issues facing people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco. A diverse group of approximately 60 people joined us to work collaboratively in search of solutions to some of the legal issues confronting those experiencing homelessness. Participants formed teams that included UC Hastings law students, software engineers, architects, legal tech product developers, UX designers, as well as many others. Most were residents of the Bay Area but we also had an attendee from Australia, and several from other parts of the US.
The work of the teams was also made possible by the mentors who came and acted as a resource for participants. We want to extend a special thank you from the members of IDEO, the engineers of Make School and OneDegree, and the representative from the SF Bar’s Conflict Intervention Service, all of whom provided valuable information to the participants.
We also had a terrific panel of judges: Lawrence Grodeska founder of Civic Makers, Sameena Kluck, Head of Business Development for Paladin, a legal tech startup, Anel Muller, Design Operations Lead for Paypal, and Gloria Chun, Director of Pro Bono Projects at the Justice and Diversity Center. After an in-depth discussion, the judges announced that the winner of Hack Homelessness was “Refuge”, a team focused on extending the five-day window that tenants are given to respond to their landlord’s intention to formally evict them. Tenants who do not respond within that time period are issued a non-appealable Final Notice of Eviction.
Comprised of Linden Chiu, Melody Liu, Matt Mo, Sima Ohadi, Hans Paul Pizzinini, and Randi Willis, the Refuge team delivered a concise and informative presentation that clearly outlined the problem they wanted to solve (the short time period given tenants to formally respond to the court after receiving notice from their landlord) and their solution to that problem. As winners of the hackathon, Refuge received the prize of $1000 to be donated to the service provider of their choice. The team chose to direct their donation to the Housing Advocacy division of Arc San Francisco, which provides assistance in finding homes and developing new housing options for individuals with developmental disabilities.
The judges awarded second place to “Food Do-Gooders”, a team that developed a website to encourage restaurants with excess food at the end of the business day to donate that food to nonprofits that serve the homeless and hungry in San Francisco. This team was comprised of Chiara Iacopelli, Ana Dragojevic, Maria De Florencia, Courtney Chew, Marta Armenteros, Penelope Barr, Joshua Wong, Gregory Han, Lassarina Ho, Musa Akbari, and Ernesto Diaz.
Hack Homelessness was a huge success: one student wrote “I think this class was incredibly valuable. There is no doubt in my mind that law school should include innovative classes like this one that emphasize collaboration, compassion and creativity. It is a breath of fresh air for those of us who want to tackle systemic inequality outside of the courtroom.” One of the software engineers said “I have been to many other hackathons, but this one has meant the most to me.”
Whether you’ve been with us from the start, or you are relatively new to LexLab, LexLab is made possible by the support of people like you. Without you at events or showing an interest in legal tech at Hastings, this work would not be possible. We look forward to continuing to evolve as a community on campus, and this year has been one of growth and excitement. Thank you for being a part of this journey and we can’t wait to ride into the next decade with LexLab. Happy Holidays!