Spring Conference: Initializing…

§ January 21st, 2013 § Filed under Announcement, Conference § 1 Comment

We’ve been quiet for some time here at the offices of Robot, Robot & Hwang LLP. This has been the result of a variety of factors. For one, our senior partners have been busy upgrading to their legal firmware and moving our offices to an undersea data haven. And, as always, our human associates have been absolutely crushed under the work as of late.

But, we’re glad to say that our long silence is at an end: our firm is excited to announce today that we’ll be organizing a conference at Stanford Law School in association with the good people of the Stanford Center for Legal Informatics, to be held on April 26, 2013.

We’re envisioning this gathering as a bigger, badder, and better follow-up to our 2010 New and Emerging Legal Infrastructure Conference. It will tackle all the massive developments that have happened since that first conference two years ago, and be a meeting point for all the people now working in the space.

This new conference is intended as a place to dive deep into the looming questions at the intersection of law and code, and for the community to share their experiences, collaborate on projects, and plan for the future. We’re excited.

So: April 26. Save the date! More details to come soon.

Letter One: Scoping “Legal Hacking”

§ June 3rd, 2012 § Filed under Correspondence § 1 Comment

[This post is part of an ongoing series of open correspondence with friends of Robot, Robot & Hwang LLP on the legal hacker. Details available here]

So, the big initial intellectual task in my mind is: what is legal hacking? And then: who are legal hackers? The game, as per usual, depends on definitions. Thankfully, those definitions seem to lend itself to a good overall structure of conversation here.

Amidst all the sturm und drang of discussion around “legal hackers” and “legal hacking,” it seems safe at least to say that the least useful definition here — pragmatically speaking — will be one that tries to cut something entirely out of new cloth. Instead, it’ll be more productive to build a definition from the types of things that people refer to when they use the phrase. In my experience, there’s sort of three broad categories of meanings that people try to express with the concept (that each come with their unique baggage). These are:

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Correspondence: Letters on the Legal Hacker

§ May 16th, 2012 § Filed under Correspondence, Legal Hacking § No Comments

The term “legal hacker” and “legal hackathon” have been bandied about for some time now, and its use seems to have gone through a bit of a renaissance in the past few months in the legal technology space.

RR&H views this development with some mixed feelings. On one hand, it’s great. Awareness about the increasing intersections between computer code and the law require some kind of brand – and any common brand that helps spread the word is alright in our book. “Hacker” is cool and a bit subversive, and we’d be lying if we didn’t say that was alright by us.

On the other hand, to be honest – it’s intellectually flabby. No one at all seems to have a cohesive, concise framework for what, indeed, legal “hacking” is or would imply. No one is at all sure if the idea can weather sustained discussion and argument. At present it seems to gesture vaguely at a not entirely coherent jumble of people, practices, technologies, business models, educational approaches, skill sets, and much more.

The obvious question, then, is whether or not it is actually a useful category. Does it describe something truly new? Is it just a weak attempt to paste a neat title onto an industry in flux (or decline, depending on your view)? Are there more effective ways of explaining or describing the space that we’re in? We’re not honestly sure ourselves.

One thing seems clear though: there’s a need to have a better ongoing dialogue about these issues that steps back from the daily humdrum of the latest product or company acquisition.While people like Richard Susskind and the late Larry Ribstein have laid some of the intellectual groundwork – there’s room to stage an ongoing conversation online with a broader scope of participants and a quicker pace of publication.

We’ll be doing exactly that.

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Two Upcoming Events

§ April 4th, 2012 § Filed under Events § No Comments

Phew! It has been awhile over on this here blog — senior partners have been keeping us busy with work on the upcoming release of our CorpBot Toolkit. Anyways, we’re finally getting some fresh air and (trying) to even out our florescent, computer screen tan in the next few weeks. There’s two events that RR&H will be making an appearance at:

Friends over at the Stanford Center for Computers and the Law are doing a small day long get-together gathering the entrepreneurs, scholars, and financiers that are working in disruptive technology in the legal industry in the Bay Area. Looking to be a showcase of a ton of awesome companies that are working in the space, as well as a good chance to unconference and scheme more generally.

The link above mentions that the event is invite only – but give us a holler (tim AT robotandhwang.com), if you want to get on the guest list and we’ll be happy to get you the deets. We’ll be there throughout the day, and then will be doing one of our usual disruptive legal technology dinners/meetups, so if you’re Mountain View-based and want to meet up afterwards, we’ll be all decamping somewhere around 7 that day. Just watch the @RobotandHwang.

John Randall and the team over at BLIP are engaged in a neat experiment: can hackathons be deployed among lawyers to stimulate new ideas and collaborations as effectively as they are in the software/web space? It’s not something that we’ve heard done much in the past, and something that we’re excited to see play out and would love to have more of, frankly.

We’re trapped out (unfortunately!) in the Bay Area, but we’ll be tuning in on Skype big-head-on-a-screen style to give a short talk entitled “Horses To Water” – about battle plans for actually achieving adoption of legal tech in a world full of haters (lawyers). If you’re going to be around NYC, registration is available here.

Anyways, we’d love to hang out at either (or both) of these events. Hope to catch you all around!

Corpbots Seek Robo-Friendly Funding

§ June 1st, 2011 § Filed under CorpBots § No Comments

Greetings everyone! For all of those who came out to our New and Emerging Legal Infrastructures Conference in April, thank you. We had an extraordinary turnout of lawyers, technologists, and other good folks — and we’re still buzzing over here at headquarters about some of the tremendously exciting cross-disciplinary discussions that emerged during the panels.

In the intervening month of May, the partners over here at Robot, Robot & Hwang have been sifting through a variety of different project ideas and trying to figure out what we’ll be doing as we move into the summer months out here in the Bay Area. In partnership with our collaborator Dazza Greenwood (his corresponding cross-post here) the senior partners have settled on a direction and glad to say we can go public with what we’ve been scheming about.

Glad to announce today that we’re officially looking for funding to pursue the deployment of the Corpbot Project, a flexible, open-source toolkit for developers to easily program autonomous corporations.

What is an autonomous corporation you might ask? We’ve been thinking for some time it’d be amazing to develop and deploy real legal entities that can be programmed to execute legal actions on their own without any human involvement. Such a corporation could be designed to self-execute the trading of assets, mergers, the creation of subsidiaries, the bringing lawsuits, and the transfer of funds systematically based on sets of rules or some external stimuli. It’d be amazing to have a community of developers that builds on this tookit, exploring all that can accomplished by floating up these automated legal entities (virtual corporate machines, if you will) and seeing what happens when development on these entities is made widely accessible. This would be a true kind of hacking on legal code: experimenting with various programs that actually influence the behavior of the legal system.

In short, the plan is to bring corporate personhood another step up through technology. The vision is that these corporations could serve a role as actors in a real marketplace, as well as opening up interesting experiments in the space for the management of a whole variety of assets both real and virtual.

So how are we pulling this off? Our initial proposed proof of concept this summer is a project to boot up a small network of autonomous corporations that will manage a formal legal transaction of some asset. Some simple object, then, like a chair or a piece of land, could be rapidly traded among these corporations, changing formal ownership of the object every few minutes. Given the “permissions” given to various individuals, this could make access to that object unpredictably tortious or legal once sold to the network of corporations. Best of all, these corporations could be set to eliminate access to their own servers after a period of time by randomly changing their own passwords, making it difficult to intervene in the action of these legal automatons without completely unplugging the machine driving them (tougher when that machine is in the cloud, too).

We think that’d be pretty neat and opens some fun possibilities. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be showing off this technology at an event in September where we release the code to play around with this stuff.

Robot, Robot & Hwang is fronting some of the cost of bringing on a developer, but we’re looking for an institutional partner to join us to help fund the rest of the development of this project full-time. You can read the full one-pager proposal here on the details (in handy dandy PDF form). If you know of someone who might be into supporting this, or want to help out in some way, definitely drop us a line at tim@robotandhwang.com. To stay in the loop with the project generally, drop us a line and get subscribed at our contact page for updates!

(image courtesy sketcheth)

Complete NELIC Conference Video Now Available!

§ April 20th, 2011 § Filed under Announcement, Conference § No Comments

Had a great time at the conference last week, thanks to everyone who came out!

Due to the efforts of the extraordinarily efficient Berkeley Law AV team, also glad to say that as of today the complete session video from NELIC is now available online! Worth checking out if you missed some of the sessions, or weren’t able to make it to the conference. We’ve embedded the panel on quantitative legal prediction above, and you can watch/embed/download/share all of it on Blip.tv.

Post-Conference Meetup!

§ April 14th, 2011 § Filed under Announcement, Conference § No Comments

For all of you coming to NELIC tomorrow, we’re looking forward to having you at Berkeley Law School!

I’m glad to round out these final few hours before the conference by announcing that we’re officially holding a post-conference get together tomorrow a few blocks from the law school at Henry’s, located on 2600 Durant Avenue (map).

Even if you can’t make it out to the sessions tomorrow, you’re welcome to join us and meet some of the attendees and speakers! We’ll be there roughly from 5 o’clock onwards, depending on whether or not things run over at the conference. Hope to see some of you there!

Conference Schedule Finalized!

§ April 7th, 2011 § Filed under Announcement, Conference § No Comments

We’ve been a bit delayed here on posting on the blog while we get the final details into place for the conference next Friday. But, between the speaker slate and the attendees that we’re seeing register, it’s shaping up to be a seriously great meeting of minds in the legal technology space across the whole spectrum of startups, traditional firms, academia, and beyond. We’re excited.

As of today, glad to say that we’ve finally updated the conference page, which now features the times of the various sessions as well as instructions on how to get to the conference venue (useful!)

Also glad to announce that we’ll be hosting a post-conference meetup for all the attendees at the conference! Still working out the location and other details, but we’ll be posting that here as soon as it gets finalized.

Legal Startups Panel at NELIC!

§ March 29th, 2011 § Filed under Conference, Speakers § No Comments

As promised, I’m thrilled to announce a full session of panelists for the NELIC conference on startups in the legal space, featuring (from left to right):

Moderated by Cole Krumbholz, the panel will cover the dynamic ecosystem of startups springing up to address and attack problems in the legal industry. Who’s funding these ventures? Who will lead this businesses? How will they change the frontier of innovation in the industry? And, perhaps most importantly how might they change the public norms and expectations around the legal practice? Excited — we’re looking forward to get a chance to get their take on how the space is looking at the moment, and where it’ll be headed into the future.

Thrilled to have such a totally stellar group of panelists and sure that the discussion will be fast and fierce. We’ve gone ahead and updated the schedule accordingly. Registration is available here, and student/press passes are available by sending an e-mail to tim@robotandhwang.com.

Personal Data and Legal User Interfaces: Joe Andrieu at NELIC!

§ March 28th, 2011 § Filed under Conference, Speakers § No Comments

Finally rounding out our legal user interface design session today by announcing that we’ve confirmed the ever-awesome Joe Andrieu as a speaker for NELIC!

Joe is co-chair of the Information Sharing work group at the Kantara Initiative, where he’s working to define a technology, business, and legal framework for giving individuals control over the data they share with vendors and online services.

He also serves on the Steering Committee for Project VRM, a research and development project from Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society that encourages the development of tools by which individuals can take control of their relationships with organizations — especially in commercial marketplaces. He’ll be speaking about their work in both implementing the complex legal aspects of managing personal data online, and how they’ve been thinking about implementing it in a way that allows everyday users to easily navigate those transactions.

By our count, we’re hitting the t-minus three week mark on the conference, so expect things to accelerate from here on in!

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