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Photo finish for Allens Neota UTS Law Tech Challenge

1 August 2018

After five long months of planning, preparation and practice, the Allens Neota UTS Law Tech Challenge for Social Justice culminated in an exciting grand final, with two teams jointly winning the competition.

The challenge, a joint initiative of Allens, UTS and software firm Neota Logic, saw teams develop apps promoting access to justice for those who can least afford or access it.

Five Allens professionals joined up with twenty UTS students enrolled Brennan Justice and Leadership programme to form five teams.

Each team worked with a not-for-profit client - including Refugee Legal, Justice Connect,  the National Association of Community Legal Centres, Arts Law and Community Legal Centres NSW - to identify a problem within the organisation and come up with a solution using their legal skills and Neota software technology.

Chief Legal and Technology Services Officer at Allens, Beth Patterson said the challenge given to the students was difficult.

‘The students had to innovate, be agile and creative. They had to use their legal and technical skills as well as design thinking, brand and pitch like a start-up and run a social media campaign all at the same time.

'The legal industry is at the cusp of a significant paradigm shift. Legal technology is now a $15.9 billion industry. This presents enormous opportunities for improving access to justice - as we've seen in these Law Tech Challenge apps - by making processes more efficient and improving the accessibility and impact of legal services.' 

The team names were B-Hive, Justice by Design, The UpCycle, ThinkForward and Ripple, which they developed and pitched in a design thinking workshop early in the competition.

Each team presented to the judging panel of UTS Law Dean Lesley Hitchens, Allens Financial Services Regulation partner Simon Soljo and Allens' client Blackrock Managing Director Alison Telfer.

Justice by Design and B-Hive were joint winners of the challenge, with Ripple taking the award for best social media campaign.

The Justice by Design team worked with Melbourne pro bono legal service Justice Connect to create a self-help tool, Dear Landlord, for people who have fallen behind in rent.

The Dear Landlord app, which is already being used by Justice Connect, helps users to understand the eviction process, their options under Victorian law, and their rights as a tenant to stay in the property.

It can also help draft a letter to the landlord to negotiate to stay in the property, as well as helping to prepare a review application to VCAT to have a hearing re-heard if it is missed.

The app streamlines the legal process and means Justice Connect can quickly assist many thousands of clients who might otherwise have waited for long periods due to resourcing constraints.

Team B-Hive addressed the needs of the Refugee Legal Centre, which often books clients for visa meetings only to find that they don’t have the proper documentation with them, slowing down the process and increasing their waiting time.

B-Hive's app, Refugee Legal Express, assists users to organise the correct documentation for a visa application, addressing a major challenge faced by the Refugee Legal Centre.

The app steps users through the documentation they require for their application using simple language and visual cues designed for users whose first language is not English. Users are invited to upload photos of the necessary documents prior to their meeting with the Refugee Legal Service, kickstarting the visa application process and allowing advisers to focus their time on higher level advice to clients. A key innovative feature of the app is that it runs on a mobile phone which means it is accessible by refugees with a mobile phone anywhere anytime.

The app has been tried, tested and implemented and has already cut the Refugee Legal Centres’ waiting times by a third.

The award for the best social media campaign went to Team Ripple.

UTS Law’s Dr Philippa Ryan oversaw the challenge with Beth Patterson and said the teams exceeded expectations.

'Their hard work and ingenuity has enabled innovative solutions via elegant and impressive apps. 

'The collaboration between Neota Logic, Allens and UTS creates a unique opportunity for our students to experience practice-authentic team work that supports access to social justice. 

'What impresses me most is how positive and transforming this experience is for everyone involved.'

The Law Tech Challenge will continue into its third year in 2019.

Ends

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Notes for editors.

Allens is a commercial law firm working throughout Australia and Asia. Through its integrated alliance with Linklaters it provides clients access to 40 offices in 28 countries around the world.