Skip to main content

Law School and SEAS students team up to virtually present ‘Philaform’ app in Georgetown Law’s Iron Tech Invitational

April 29, 2020

The Philaform app is designed to provide better access to legal services for low-income Philadelphians.

A team of three University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School students and three School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) undergraduate students recently competed in the Iron Tech Invitational, run by the Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown Law.

Zachary Furcolo L’21, Yinran Pan L’21, Maria Tartakovsky L’21, Vincent Gubitosi EAS’20, Natalie Wiegand EAS’20, and Kevin Yin EAS’20 presented their Philaform app, created for Community Legal Services, which evaluates which property abatement programs an individual qualifies for and fills out the application for them.

“We really enjoyed the cross-disciplinary nature of the project,” said the law students in a collective statement. “Working closely with Community Legal Services we were able to customize the application so that it met real needs in the legal community. Additionally, most of us have technical backgrounds ourselves, and this was a unique opportunity to be able to combine those with our legal education.”

The Iron Tech Invitational gives students the opportunity to compete for $5,000 in funding support to advance or complete their technology or data science solution. Projects are evaluated by a panel of experts regarding their access to civil justice, legal design, and technology. This year’s winners were a team from the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law.

The Penn Law team thanked Practice Professor of Law Cynthia Laury Dahl, Director of the Detkin Intellectual Property and Technology Legal Clinic, who first got them involved in the project and dedicated considerable time to their endeavor. They also recognized the support of SEAS Associate Professor of Computer and Information Science Ani Nenkova, Jonathan Sgro from Community Legal Services, and the entire PhilaForm engineering team for all of the work they contributed to creating the app.

“It was a great experience having students from the Law School and SEAS melding their talents to solve an acute problem that disproportionately impacts low income Philadelphians,” said Professor Dahl. “Each contributed knowhow to build a prototype product that is legally sophisticated yet intentionally simple enough to be helpful to users. It leverages the power of publicly available data both to streamline the user experience and to identify and alert potential beneficiaries of the program to increase impact.”

The students will continue to test and implement the Philaform app with Community Legal Services this summer and fall.