Future in Very Good Hands: The Inaugural Legal Innovation Tournament

By Brandon Vogel

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A groundbreaking event. A rewarding experience. Legal education for lawyers at its finest.

These were just some of the descriptions given to the inaugural Legal Innovation Tournament, hosted by the New York State Bar Association, Hofstra’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law and Fred DeMatteis School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Thirteen teams from eight New York state law schools registered to compete in the first Legal Innovation Tournament.

The goal of the interdisciplinary tournament was to develop apps that help serve the underrepresented and change the face of dispute resolution. Law students were matched with legal experts in the areas of dispute resolution and access to justice, as well as Hofstra computer science students to help develop their app ideas.

Hofstra Law students Jordon Flanigan, Suzanne Hassani, Nicole Kelly and Veronica Patel took top honors for their app to simplify the complex debt collection process. The team worked with Hofstra computer engineering student Reina Eustache to develop the app.

The second-place team featured Hofstra Law students Avery Brogan, Jade Garza, Leigh Merrill, Nicole Wong and Hofstra computer science student Alexander Sutter. They developed an app to assist individuals in finding an attorney or mediator to discuss their legal options.

Both teams received plaques and prizes of $500, courtesy of the NYSBA Dispute Resolution Section. Eight plaques were given in total.

“It was my great privilege to be a judge at the Innovation Tournament. I saw firsthand law students harness their creativity and ingenuity to find new ways to help both the legal profession and the public we serve,” said NYSBA President Scott M. Karson, who judged the final round. “The future of our profession is in very good hands.”

Other judges included: Hon. Rolando T. Acosta, presiding justice, New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department; Hon. Dora L. Irizarry, United States District Court Judge, Eastern District of New York; Judge Gail Prudenti, dean, Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University; and  Sina Rabbany, dean and The Jean Nerken Distinguished Professor in Engineering and Professor of Engineering, Fred DeMatteis School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“The Innovation Tournament brought NYSBA’s relevance directly to the law students of New York State,” said Mark A. Berman (Ganfer Shore Leeds & Zauderer), who organized the tournament. “This interdisciplinary tournament took fresh ideas from our law students, combined them with the power of technology from computer scientists, and with the help of seasoned dispute resolution practitioners and thought-leaders in the access to justice space, computer ‘apps’ were designed to reimagine how our legal system can better the lives of our citizens.”

Berman said that the dispute resolution practitioners learned as much as the participating students, and enjoyed it as well. “They will work with students and computer science students during the spring to bring the apps to life,” he said.

The tournament was sponsored by the NYSBA Dispute Resolution Section, JAMS, American Arbitration Association, and CPR: International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution.

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