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On June 6, we were delighted to host one of our favorite and most highly anticipated events of the year: the annual Legal Startup Event. This year, students exemplified design thinking and pitched seven original startups to legal tech enthusiasts, legal designers, fellow students, and investors from Amsterdam and beyond.

Innovating Justice: Tech and Beyond

Similar to last year’s event, this year’s startups embraced legal tech and showcased innovative approaches that are helping to transform the legal landscape. While law and innovation may seem antithetical, our students demonstrated otherwise: CaseCanvas is an AI-powered storytelling app that empowers survivors of sexual and domestic violence to fully tell their stories during the fact-gathering stage of a case. To help refugees navigate the complex legal landscape with confidence, RefugeeBuddy provides clear, empathetic, and personalized guidance through its AI chatbot. EduHelp also aims to support refugees and asylum seekers by organizing and translating legal advice in their native language. 

On the other hand, several of the startups demonstrated that innovation can also be analogue, and that non-digital solutions can be equally transformative. Let Us Speak uses hands-on workshops, games, and film screenings to empower individuals to protest confidently and connect with fellow change-makers, as well as track the progress and impact of each protest shared on its platform. Through education, engagement, and advocacy, Our Rule of Law Foundation creates opportunities for students to collaborate with experts and professionals on issues of democratic erosion in Europe and to play an active role in defending the rule of law. PolaReis aims to support newly arrived students by connecting them to resources related to housing, debt, and mental health. Amplify is a social justice communication studio that produces podcasts on strategic litigation involving affected communities in the creation process. 

The winning ideas

The budding justice entrepreneurs pitched their startup ideas to an esteemed panel: Farshida Zafar (Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship), Pablo van Klinken (Stichting Allemansrecht), and Jan Dijk (Amsterdam Law School, UvA). The panelists presented challenging but thought-provoking questions to each team. 

After careful consideration, the panel awarded the first prize to CaseCanvas, recognizing that the app would address a very real and pervasive problem. Following the first prize, the access to justice award was given to RefugeeBuddy, and PolaReis took home the coveted audience favorite award. 

The Promise of Design in Legal Innovation

In addition to the pitches and jury deliberation, the event included a panel discussion on the role of design and creativity in legal innovation. The panelists represented a broad sample of the legal design world: Lieke Beelen (Visual Contracts), Suzanne Dings (Hogeschool van Amsterdam), and Elena Kuran (NuLawLab). 

Through an informal and lively discussion moderated by the Law Hub’s Frances Singleton, the panelists shared insights into the value of design in the legal world, from the conceptual to the concrete. They discussed design’s underappreciated role as the facilitator between law and tech, highlighting its importance in legal innovations. They also emphasized the importance of critical, community-led legal design efforts, to avoid enshrining existing biases.   

Looking Ahead

The Amsterdam Law Hub is humbled and excited to have hosted another Legal Startup Event, and looks forward to continuing working with students this summer to develop their justice innovations. We offer these startups the opportunity to grow into our Incubator programme where they are intensively coached in entrepreneurship for a year. 

Check out this page to learn more about our programmes and our working methode, or reach out to us directly!