Monash law students bring innovation to access to justice problems

Written by Zoe Kerwin and Olivia Bakyew

Only a few weeks out from exams, a group of law students could be found furiously throwing post-it notes across the table at the Monash GENERATOR. The GENERATOR is an initiative of Monash University that provides support and skills development for  students in entrepreneurship, creative problem-solving and entrepreneurship. On this occassion, 27 students participated in the legal hackathon event: ‘The DELINEATOR: Reimagining Access to Justice.’ Participants were guided through the process of innovative design, drawing from user experience, hackathons and expert speakers. Hackathons are a way to quickly form ideas and teams with the end goal of pitching to a panel of experts and investors. The DELINEATOR is a modified version of a hackathon that acts as an introduction to ideation and builds entrepreneurial skills required to begin a start-up.

Reimagining Access to Justice
Students coming up with solutions for improving access to justice.

Throughout the DELINEATOR, students were asked to think outside the current operation of the legal system and be creative with their ideas, in order to solve issues regarding access to justice. Justine Autour, (Responsible Business Consultant, Colin Biggers & Paisley) kicked off the event by addressing the impact of pro bono legal work in targeting unmet legal needs, and in particular, Colin Biggers & Paisley’s work helping those who have experienced domestic violence to engage with the legal system. Autour highlighted that the future of access to justice involves behavioural, cultural, systemic and disruptive change that is far-reaching, aided by technology, social-entrepreneurship and grassroots campaigns.  

Students also heard from Daniel Nguyen, Program Manager of the long-running Prison Legal Education and Assistance Program (PLEA). The program is student-run and provides legal information presentations in centres and prisons around Victoria. Daniel’s talk provided students with an example of an innovative way to improve access to justice and helped students identify how they could play a role in legal education.

As noted by one participant, Kirsty Foster, Juris Doctor Candidate;

“Innovation is increasingly important to teach at university because it opens up employment opportunities beyond the traditional grad programs. As a law student, much of the degree covers substantive law and so it’s very important for students to seek out opportunities to develop other, practical skills. At the delineator I learnt valuable skills about how to succinctly and effectively pitch an idea, as well as have time to think about ideas in the law I am passionate about.”

Students and stickynotes
Students brainstorming solutions to access to justice.

This event provided students with the opportunity to apply their knowledge to the area of access to justice and pitch to a panel consisting of: Dr Genevieve Grant (Co-director of ACJI), Viv Lister (Law Squared), Daniel Nguyen (PLEA’s Program Manager) and Kish Thurairasa (Monash Entrepreneur In Residence). The event was organised by Monash Law Generator ambassador Olivia Bakyew, with assistance and support from ACJI. Our judging panel emphasised that the most important part of hacking is to identify and really understand the problem being addressed. It was encouraging to know that students were able to realise the core issues and thus build an idea from a strong foundation.

The DELINEATOR provided students with the opportunity to learn skills that will be increasingly valuable in their future careers.  As the legal industry changes through technology and automation, lawyers of the future will need to think creatively and innovatively in order to remain relevant and to serve legal need in society.  Zoe Kerwin, Bachelor of Commerce/Law reflected that;

“I learnt that my ideas don’t have to be perfect from the outset, because there is a lot of support in place to help refine them – such as people from the Generator. That also helped improve my confidence in my ideas!”

Students were creative in their pitches. One noteworthy idea was an app named ‘Court Mate’ which acted as a guide to the court system, giving explanation of procedures, which room to go to and important contact information. Another group addressed the issue of misrepresentation of legal procedures and the profession on the whole often fueled by pop culture representation or mis-reporting. The group pitched a new TV show which would be detail orientated to set the record straight on how the legal system really operates.

Opportunities like the DELINEATOR, allow students to think outside the box and not feel limited to the way the legal system currently operates. Creating spaces where students can experiment will in turn optimize innovation in law and ultimately lead to improvement in our legal system.

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