Law student is finalist in legal hackathon competition


In the past few years “hackathons” have taken the world by storm. However, given recent news headlines, the word may sound terrifying and invite paranoia about hackers stealing your private information. In reality, a hackathon is an event that brings people together to find creative solutions to common problems through computer programming.

It is in that spirit that Kevin Burwell, a senior in The University of Akron School of Law, is a member of a five-person team that is advancing to the final round of the first-ever Global Legal Hackathon in New York City on April 21.

The event will bring together the best thinkers, doers and practitioners in law from across the globe in support of a unified vision — rapid development of solutions to improve the legal industry, world-wide.

Legal-Hackathon Team

Members of the Legal Hackathon team are, from left, Kevin Burwell, Dana Beveridge, Jackson Biesecker, Mara Hirz and Mark Bruening.

The local team’s name is INCO-herent. It is one of only 14 teams to qualify for the finals, from a pool of nearly 1,000 teams initially. With Burwell on Team INCO-herent are three Cleveland-Marshall Law students, Dana Beveridge, Jackson Biesecker and Mara Hirz, and BakerHostetler technology developer Mark Bruenig.

INCO-herent’s goal is to provide a clear understanding of how to choose and verify appropriate use of Incoterms, or International Commercial Terms, when buying or selling across international borders. Burwell, through his experience in international trade, suggested a blockchain-based solution to narrow down these terms and increase understandability.

The team designed an interactive website, dubbed “INCO-telligent Smart Contracts;” created a slide-deck; and established a social media presence. The software utilizes a set of guided questions to limit the number of legal terms that appear in a business agreement to the five most common. This standardization gives the contract reader a better understanding of obligations and costs upfront, and allows the company to integrate pre-drafted clauses into the agreement that convey their Incoterm choice.

“This project has generated so much attention and buzz,” says Burwell, who credits, in particular, School of Law Dean Christopher C.J. Peters and Emily Janoski-Haehlen, associate dean for academic affairs and institutional excellence, “for being incredibly supportive throughout the process.”

“I have made some great connections at Cleveland Marshall Law as well,” Burwell continues. “My career will be based on my years of experience in international trade, but bringing this experience and knowledge of blockchain technology into the practice will be beneficial to clients needing tomorrow’s solutions for today’s trade and cross-border legal issues.”

Burwell plans to establish an Akron Chapter of Legal Hackers, thanks to this experience, and says that he hopes to continue to work with our School of Law on emerging technology solutions after graduation.

Story by Erica Rymer

Media contact: Lisa Craig, 330-972-7429 or