A team of Durban software developers recently scooped first prize at the South African leg of the Global Legal Hackathon hosted and co-ordinated by international law firm Baker McKenzie and TheHague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL). The event is the largest legal hackathon in the world and aims to create a platform for the rapid development of technology-based solutions in the legal industry.
The six, who all work in the software development department of legal content and technology company LexisNexis South Africa, based in Morningside but with offices nationally, beat eight other teams in the South African round.
Tasked with formulating an idea and pitching it around a problem they would like to solve, the team conceptualised an online dispute resolution and mediation solution named 'Kagiso' ('peace' in Setswana).
"We produced a business case supported by market research, together with a simple viable product," said Ezra Pillay - Compliance Author for Lexis Assure, who represented the Legal Information and Compliance division of LexisNexis and presented the final solution to the judges.
His teammates were Craig Wymer - Artificial Intelligence Team Lead, Desigan Naidoo - Senior Software Engineer, Kavish Harilall - Project Leader: Technical Development, Niall T Graham - Data Analyst and Thobani Madonsela - Senior Software Engineer.
Kagiso, Pillay explained, is designed to provide a cost-effective alternative to expensive and time-consuming civil court actions which currently are the cause of large backlogs in South African courts. It would typically be used by mediators, corporate clients and disputing parties whose disputes arise from their mutual relationship.
"Kagiso matches a dispute to an appropriate mediator based on system ranking, demographic (language) specific needs and uses blockchain technology to provide encrypted and unforgeable documents. It works on any physical or digital platform, and also produces court ready documents in the event of no settlement," he said.
The team moved onto the Virtual Semi-Finals on March 15, 2019 where first-round winners from across the globe submitted their solutions as a video demonstration to the second-round judging panel. And while they did not make it into the next round, they described their experience as gruelling yet inspiring and motivating.
LexisNexis Technology and Operations Director, Terrance Naidoo, said their colleagues had made the company proud.
"It's pioneering, fresh minds like these that enable LexisNexis to continue being in the forefront of legal technology. Our aim is to meet the changing needs of our clients in this highly regulated and technology driven world. We're very proud of the Kagiso team for staying true to one of LexisNexis' five core values - Innovation - which sees us strive to deliver tomorrow's software solutions, today, in line with advances in technology. This provides endless opportunities for young talent to apply their minds," he said.