Empty Link Skip to Content

The American Chamber Hackathon and Open Law AI

Tom Connor


Matheson's Innovation manager, Tom Connor, took part in the American Chamber Emerging Leaders' Hackathon 2019 at DCU St Patrick's Campus, Drumcondra from 7-9 February.  Over three days, this ultimate networking experience brought together 100 participants from 80 companies to create an innovative product or service.  Read Tom's thoughts below the AmCham Hackathon 2019. 


Thursday, 7 March - Day One

Day one of the American Chamber of Commerce Hackathon has just finished and it has been a fantastic networking experience.  I have really enjoyed engaging with many of the firm’s clients and other young emerging leaders’ from businesses across a wide range of industry sectors.

The day started with attendees being invited to pitch their idea to make an innovative, practical and applicable solution that enhances Ireland as a great place to live and work – in more distributed, international, remote and dynamic environments - in the office, at home, and on the move. 

The standard of pitching was very high with some excellent ideas coming from the participants.  Luckily, my pitch which focused on “Leveraging artificial intelligence and service design to democratize access to justice in Ireland” was selected by popular vote.  We have formed a multidisciplinary team consisting of lawyers, technologists, project managers, finance analysts and business professionals to work on bringing the idea to life over the next two days.

We spent our first few hours together ideating and refining the problem statement.  The team will start building the foundation blocks of the solution tomorrow morning.

Overall, day one has been a very positive experience and I’m really looking forward to working with the team to turn the concept into a reality. 

An exciting day ahead tomorrow! 

Friday, March 8 – Day Two

The morning after I pitched the idea of ‘leveraging the power of artificial intelligence and service design to democratise justice in Ireland'. I spent much of the night formalising the concept and when I woke up things were a lot clearer in my mind and I began to connect the dots.

I arrive back at St. Patrick’s DCU campus at around 9:00 am, grab a coffee and join the team. The auditorium is noisy and we can’t hear each other so we decide to relocate our HQ to a nearby room. We analyse our emergenetics profiles and discover that the team has a disproportionate number of conceptual thinkers. This imbalance means we have a shortage of analytical, structural and organisational thinkers. We decide to appoint the structural and analytical thinkers to the role of project managers. It works and we begin to make progress!

The newly appointed project managers assign the tasks to the group and I break off to storyboard the logistics of OpenLaw AI which is a justice innovation project that leverages artificial intelligence and service design to democratize access to justice in Ireland. We gather around the flipboard and, for the first time since our team formed, I manage to articulate the vision to the rest of the team. While the mechanics of the solution were technically and legally complex, the proposition of Open Law AI was straightforward when viewed from a problem versus solution perspective.

The Problem

  • People in Ireland often struggle to afford legal advice on civil law matters;
  • People often struggle to interpret the publicly available information online;
  • People are often frustrated by the long wait times to get an appointment at a free legal aid clinics; and
  • People often endure an emotionally challenging experience when they encounter a personal legal issue which is compounded when they cannot access legal advice.

The Solution

  • Our proposed solution to these problems was ‘Openlaw AI’, a solution that harnesses the power of deep learning artificial intelligence and the principles of service design to provide detailed legal information and guidance in a simple, emotionally intelligent and visual way.
  • During the afternoon, the team deliberated the technical and legal challenges of what was proposed. We made some tweaks and set about bringing the concept through the design thinking process which included: mapping the user journey, identifying the various stakeholders involved, creating empathy maps and carrying out enthographic research.

Saturday, March 9 - Day Three

A number of mentors then visited the group and give us fresh perspective and valuable insight. I lost count of how many times we iterated or pivoted away from an original assumption. Brendan Bonner, a technical consultant with IDA was very helpful in terms of helping us think through the technical logistics of what we were trying to achieve. Catherine Evans, RDI Collaboration manager at FEXCO and Eimear Michaels, Business Manager at Microsoft Ireland were both equally instrumental in helping us refine the proposed business model. The Openlaw AI team practiced our pitch and presented to the panel of judges in the afternoon.

Team “ShareDrive” were deserving winners and had pitched a government funded initiative to encourage safe and convenient commuter carpooling. Overall, the 2019 AmCham Hackathon was an incredible experience bringing together so many incredibly talented people with one single goal – to create a solution that makes a Ireland a better place in which to work, live and do business. I’d like to thank the American Chamber and DCU Ryan academy for what was a very enjoyable experience.

I leave the Hackathon having enjoyed exploring how disruptive technologies and the principles of service design can help transform how people access legal information and guidance in Ireland. Three days working closely with so many talented emerging leaders will no doubt help me in my future career with Matheson and in my current role designing digital experiences for our clients.

If you would like to find out more about the Openlaw AI justice innovation project, you can contact the group on Twitter @Openlaw AI or contact Tom directly at Tom.Connor@matheson.com.