In today's rapidly evolving legal landscape, innovative collaboration, interdisciplinary teaching, and technology-enabled approaches are essential to empower students, faculty, and community members to drive positive change and advance justice and equity in society. Hackathons, in particular, have emerged as a powerful tool for bridging the gap between the availability of legal resources and the individuals who need them the most. 

The Philadelphia Social Justice Hackathon was a groundbreaking, action-packed 36-hour event that united a diverse mix of students, programmers, civic-minded hackers, justice advocates, public servants, community legal providers, and local residents. Co-hosted by each of the law schools in the Greater Philadelphia area, civic and legal hacker groups, and community legal providers, the event aimed to collaboratively develop cutting-edge technology solutions addressing the most pressing justice needs of residents and neighborhoods impacted by social, economic, and environmental injustices in Philadelphia. 

Our panelists will share their experiences and insights on how hackathons have nurtured a culture of community engagement, social responsibility, and transformative learning at their institutions. The session will provide an overview of the event's design, planning, lessons learned, and the inspiring accomplishments of the participating teams. We will delve into the invaluable practical learning experiences gained by students, faculty, and participants, showcasing the vital importance of law students' exposure to cross-disciplinary education and innovative collaborations aimed at preparing them for the multifaceted challenges of the 21st century and igniting positive change by broadening pathways to public service. 

Key discussion topics will include: 

  1. The Role of Hackathons in Legal Education: Discover how hackathons have transformed the learning landscape for students and faculty, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and real-world problem-solving skills. 

  1. Leveraging Technology for Access to Justice: Learn how hackathons enable participants to harness cutting-edge technologies in creating innovative solutions that address the pressing needs of marginalized communities. 

  1. Cultivating a Culture of Community Engagement and Social Responsibility: Explore the ways in which hackathons inspire students, faculty, and community members to engage in meaningful social justice work and contribute to the betterment of society. 

  1. Empowering Students and Faculty through Interdisciplinary Learning: Understand the unique opportunities hackathons provide for students and faculty to develop their legal, technical, and advocacy skills in a supportive, collaborative environment. 

  1. Envisioning the Future of Hackathons in Legal Education: Reflect on the successes and challenges of integrating hackathons into the academic curriculum, and discuss potential strategies for further growth, collaboration, and impact. 


Claudia Johnson
Adjunct Professor at Penn Carey Law; Program Manager, Law Help Interactive at Pro Bono Net