Why break the rules once, when you can do it twice?

Or in this case, three times. After the success of the #BreakingLaw hackathons in Melbourne and Sydney last year, King & Wood Mallesons and Melbourne University have united once more to bring the corporate law hack back for 2017.

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Friday afternoons usually mean most people are gearing up for the weekend. They are heading home, hitting a movie, hanging out… and usually it doesn’t mean more work. But not for the participants of this hackathon. At 1.30pm, students, clients, lawyers, and creatives graced the Melbourne Law School for two days of solving problems. These people were eager, ready, keen, to solve problems they face in their daily work, problems in their industry, problems of their future, or even just to solve problems for the sake of making the world a better place.

The hackathon kicked off with Michelle Mahoney (KWM), Professor Jenny Morgan (MLS), Renae Lattey (KWM), and Mick Sheehy (Telstra) talking about innovation, the future, and coming together to hack out real problems. They spoke about the importance of industry working together with other businesses, and also with universities and students. Thinking differently was a key theme presented and the speakers really revved up the attendees.

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Geared up for some hacking

After these inspiring words, it was onto team formation. This was legit one of the fastest team forming hackathon phases I have ever seen. No one got left behind, everyone got the problem they wanted to work on, teams were the right sizes, and everything was perfect. It probably had something to do with the fact that the challenges were posted to participants well in advance, and after some words of wisdom about the hacker-hustler-hipster dream-team-combo everyone was on the same page.

Teams had some time to talk through their ideas, and come up with some really cool names before coming together again to listen to the amazing Ben Crothers from Atlassian. Ben was just incredible! He embodied everything about pitching, ideation, startups, innovative thinking, and hackathons that you’d want. Check my Twitter for more on his presentation – it has pictures! (oh and quotes too).

Ben armed everyone with the tools they needed to get going, and get cracking they did. The rooms were buzzing with excitement, energy, and ideas running around wild. These wild ideas were calmed (or maybe more energised), by all the delicious food available – canapes, cheese platters, fruit, croissants, pies, pizza, sandwiches, cakes, slices, cupcakes… ooo yes the cupcakes. They were branded cupcakes that were moist and yummy, okay you get the idea, the food was BEA-utiful! Thanks to Emily from KWM for all the organising on the food. Food always makes a hackathon. You need to fuel bodies as well as brains for ideas to come out.

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#BreakingLaw cupcakes!

Speaking of food, this is Melbourne, so coffee! On Saturday morning participants were treated to the Coffee on Cue coffee cart, providing delicious coffee, hot chocolates and chai. Couple this with a buffet breakfast of croissants, egg and bacon muffins, yogurt pots, granola, slices, cakes, fruit, and muffins. Caffeined up, it was back to hacking.

Once lunch was done – yes more food (see a theme here?) – I gave my usual “Pitch Like a Pro” workshop to get everyone geared up for the pitches later that evening. There was some laughter (hopefully not at me), lots of questions, demo video and it seemed like everyone enjoyed themselves. Then there was five hours left!

Five hours to practice, refine, or panic. Those were pretty much the only options. Or eat more food. But it was evident everyone look on board some of my advice because when it came around to pitching, every single team completely rocked it!

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Advice seemed to work 😉 Photo credit: Mohsen Anaraki

The challenges solved by each of the teams were so well thought out and clearly presented. Solutions included idea filtering for big companies, making contracts fast and easy, cutting down on confusing terms and conditions, and tailoring policy documents for what you need. What really surprised me was the number of ideas that revolved around helping new businesses and startups get started. Some of these included showing you how the law affects your new company, or helping you break into the global selling market. It really is a testament to how startups and entrepreneurs have influenced every aspect of our economy and how everyone is thinking much more broadly and innovatively. One team even commented on the fact that small businesse make up 97% of companies in Australia.

Anyway, after 12 fantastic presentations, it was over to the judges to make a very hard decision. Whilst they deliberated, we had more food… so much food! So after a couple of drinks, some more cupcakes, and canapes, it was back downstairs to hear who our glorious winners were.

The judges got up and talked about how hard the decision was, and how close it was. Before announcing the winners, they gave a Special Mention to Ether, the team that had come up with a way to filter out ideas and present the best ones to big companies such as Apple or Uber. The judges were so impressed with this solution that they offered to take this team to the CTO of Telstra on Monday – pretty neat outcome for 2 days at a hackathon!

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Team Ether will be taken to present their ideas to Telstra!

Onto our winners, 3rd place was Terms & Magicians for helping make Ts&Cs far less confusing and more engaging, 2nd place was the Wheel Deal for their solution on centralising Ts&Cs and updating them in real time, and finally, the winners, and the recipients of $5,000 cash, was Bunch of Hacks for their web-based solution for easily approving legal documents. It was great to see so many fantastic ideas and seeing people get up in front of their peers to present. What attendees can do in just two days some how seems to blow my mind every time I do these hackathons… it really is incredible. Some of the remarks from the judges were “I wish we could show this to our clients… we’d get run over by them all wanting these ideas” or “this is the kind of innovation we need to move forward”.

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Group photo take we took after my pitch session… wait a minute, why am I the only excited one? (see Twitter for all the excitement)

Mike Barker (KWM), and Jason Bosland (MLS) closed out the evening with many thanks, and we surprised Michelle Mahoney by singing happy birthday. What a great way to end such a fantastic weekend. Congrats again to all the participants, and to the fantastic teams that put on these weekends, you’re all amazing and it makes my life so much more amazing that I can be a part of some crazy awesome hackathons!

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Hackathons don’t work unless you have a great team running them

Until next year… Hackathon Queen is out (well for #BreakingLaw); check out my Twitter feed to see me drop in on UNIHACK. Don’t worry there are plenty more hackathons until the end of the year!

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Had to drop into UNIHACK on the way home
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