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Do you use technology to improve law? Do you use the law to improve technology? If you answered yes to either question, you might be a legal hacker! Since 2012, Legal Hackers in 50 chapters around the world have been identify exciting new opportunities at the intersection of legal practice and digital innovation—and as we found out last week when we hosted the DC Legal Hackers’ third annual “Le Hackie” Awards, they’re also a lot of fun! After kicking things off with the eclectic sounds of DJ JAZ DÜX, we settled in to celebrate the incredible achievements of a community that’s writing the code—and setting the precedents—for the future of society. Read on below for summaries of the major award winners!
Company of the Year: Upturn
The folks at Upturn are on a mission to explain how technology impacts the world’s biggest issues, and can help to solve some of its most pressing dilemmas. Some of their major projects include working with civil rights groups to ensure that fairness and equality are protected in the era of Big Data, and exploring and proposing new software strategies to circumvent the lack of internet freedom in China. There’s nowhere to go but up for this trailblazing company!
Organization of the Year: TechCongress
Capitol Hill, meet Silicon Valley. Guided by some of the world’s foremost tech policy leaders, TechCongress is laying the foundation for a practical and pragmatic understanding of Washington within the tech community by offering a one-of-a-kind fellowship for early- to mid-career tech professionals. Fellows work directly for a Member of Congress or Congressional Committee for the duration of their residency and may spend their time on technology-related issues like NSA surveillance reform, encryption, cybersecurity or network neutrality. If you’re tech-savvy and looking for experience in government, check it out!
Legal Hackers of the Year: Kat Duffy & Bill Hunt, Sunlight Foundation
The Sunlight Foundation advocates for open government globally, using technology to promote accountability. This year, the organization’s Kat Duffy and Bill Hunt were charged with the formidable task of shutting down Sunlight Labs, a massive collection of solutions and data repositories, after funding dried up unexpectedly. The goal was to close down Labs efficiently, responsibly and transparently, while ensuring that Labs’ products would remain available freely for all. Kat and Bill got to work: converting projects into a state where they could be adopted by others, ensuring that the core websites could continue to function without maintenance from a dev team, and finding new homes for their awesome tools. By the time they shut the doors on November 10, they had accomplished their mission. Major kudos to Kat and Bill, and three cheers for transparency and civic tech!
Everyone loves the drama of a good awards ceremony, but at Le Hackie, it’s clear that the work—and community spirit—comes first. In the warm and collegial environment of this dedicated and inclusive organization, we all felt like winners. We’re thrilled to have been a part of this special evening, and we’re looking forward to Le Hackie version 4.0 next year!
*photos via @Summer_Dawn