#GLH19: Observations from the semi-final judging process

It’s been great fun judging the semi-final of the 2019 Global Legal Hackathon #GLH19 and I’m honestly blown away by the quality of many of the entries. Within the space of a month (since round one of the hackathon on 22-24 February) the teams have in many cases pulled together slick videos demonstrating their concepts and fledgling products, all on top of their various day jobs.
The semi-final judging has all been done virtually by judges across the globe and the GLH19 team now has the task of pulling together the results today, 25 March. We’ll bring you the winners as soon as they are announced, but I wanted to share two observations from the judging experience.
One, is that as I went through the entries at my desk, the videos transformed what could otherwise have been a solitary, one-dimensional experience into something really enjoyable and interactive. The better and slicker the video, the more pre-disposed the judges will have been to the underlying product – it’s a demonstration of both capability to deliver the product and effort. That is something that every vendor and law firm ought to be bearing in mind in this very visual age as they look to win new work, win awards and present a tech-first face to the world. I’ve judged law firm innovation awards with not a video in sight and now I’m wondering why that is.
Two, is that start-ups almost always think they are the first to market with their product. One of the key #GLH19 semi-final criteria was how good the team’s competitive analysis was. In many cases it was entirely missing and that is something I’ve seen regularly in presentations across the many legal industry incubators and labs. Competition is not a bad thing – quite the opposite in fact. It will always be harder if you are first to market with an idea. So startups, this is for you: you have to understand what is already out there, and how your product is differentiated. At the risk of sounding like I’m quoting Michael Jackson lyrics, you are (quite possibly) not alone.