Four USP students impressed the judges at the inaugural NUS Law-WongPartnership LegalTech Competition which took place over two weeks, from 31 August – 14 September. They were in the team that clinched the first prize.
The winning team comprised mostly USP students:
P Srivatsa (Computer Engineering + USP, Class of 2020)
Suresh Viswanath (Law + USP, Class of 2020)
Natasha Tan (Law + USP, Class of 2020)
Melvin Tan (Computer Engineering + USP, Class of 2020)
Organised by NUS Law interest group, Alt+Law, in collaboration with WongPartnership LLP, this was the first LegalTech competition – Code for a Cause. Teams were challenged to design a legal technology platform that could improve access to legal aid and benefit particular groups of beneficiaries including migrant workers, litigants-in-person, accused-in-persons, low income families and youth at risk. Over 60 NUS students from various disciplines participated in the competition and the finale event on 18 September saw the top three teams presenting their ideas.
The winning team comprising mostly our students (how proud are we!) edged out the competition with their NatashaBot, a Facebook-based chatbot that can converse in more than 100 languages and is designed to give migrant workers easily understandable answers to basic legal questions. Key features include an ability to improve itself with increased interaction, as well as easy maintenance without the need for a background in coding.
Our students shared that the opportunity to collaborate with students from another faculty was one of the most valuable parts of the experience. As shared with NUSNews, Natasha said, “It was very intense and very enjoyable. It was a chance to create something tangible with legal knowledge. Usually in law, you most often write and read, it’s very verbal. In this case, we were able to team up with Sri and Melvin to create this bot.” She added that she spent hours with Melvin programming the bot to ensure that the legal knowledge was correctly captured.
For Srivatsa, the experience showed him the opportunity for greater collaboration between the two areas of expertise. “Over the two weeks, we had a better understanding of the legal space and could see how we can bring in technology, and for the law students, I think they saw that technology is not abstract and hard to understand but something that’s very intuitive which you can easily apply.” The team hopes to refine their project in the future, interacting more with migrant workers (to understand their struggles and how they communicate) to enable the programme to become more intuitive and user-friendly.
It is this essence of learning from and collaborating with peers from different disciplines that makes the learning environment in USP so unique. We should all feel encouraged!
Read other coverage of the event in The Business Times.