Bierens Superheroes Hackathon: talented students, 36 hours of work and brilliant ideas

4 min.

Have you ever heard of a hackathon at a law firm? Probably not. A Hackathon is usually a competition for computer programmers, software developers and engineers working on a software project. Not exactly an event for law firms. There has never been a Hackathon at a law firm before.  

Why not? That’s what Bierens Debt Collection Lawyers thought. The eccentric law firm that specialises in international debt collection is constantly looking for new, creative ideas to improve the organisation. And what better way to do this than a Hackathon? Young students and recent graduates bringing a refreshing look to the law firm. 

That is why Bierens organised a Hackathon on 31st October and 1st November. Not only for software developers, but for all students who wanted to participate in this challenge. Because the more diverse the perspectives, the better. For students, this was the perfect way to work together and network with other students from a completely different study programme. 

Hackathon challenge: bring justice to a higher level 

Around 20 students came to the head office of Bierens in Veghel to take part in the Hackathon challenge. The background of the students varied considerably: from law students, IT students, marketing students to Data Science students; they all wanted to take on the challenge of winning the coveted prize: a cheque of €2,000 for the winning group and the possibility to implement the winning idea within Bierens. 

What did they have to do?  

To come up with an innovative idea or concept that takes justice to a higher level. Justice is in fact an important value for the law firm, which strives for fairness in payment behaviour. The students were given complete freedom to complete this challenge as they saw fit. Anything was possible!  

Many students were still completely unfamiliar with the company. A good introduction to the Bierens Family, provided by Laurens van der Lof (International Marketing Manager) and an extensive explanation of our services by Raymond Arnoldus (Lawyer & Trustee) were the building blocks.  

36 hours of non-stop work  

Groups were formed, after which the participants went to work for the next 36 hours. The diner at Bierens office, which has an American hamburger bar theme and decor, was converted into a Hackathon room for the occasion. Of course, this colourful environment was also the perfect space for all kinds of creative ideas to bubble up.  

In the meantime, the participants were able to spar with various employees of Bierens. Whether they had questions for the marketing department, IT department, HR or the lawyers: employees from each department were present to help the participants with their ideas.   

And for the students who became homesick for a lecture theatre: the law firm had also hired a number of external speakers who provided informative sessions for the participants. Herman Sjoerds, initiative lead at ING Global Accelerator, gave an interesting presentation on customer’s journey and user experience design. Alexander Suma, CEO of IBIS Power shared his experience on sustainable business and disruptive innovation.  

Organising events; a Bierens speciality. Whether they organise a Credit Summer Event or open their offices for the local Sinterklaas entrance: guests are always well pampered. The same was true for this event. Because, of course, good ideas don't always come naturally, they require fuel and inspiration. And so, the students could eat and drink as much as possible during their journey to the perfect idea.  

Yoga, gaming and table tennis 

Working for 36 hours on one piece, that's almost impossible, isn't it? At least that's what they thought at Bierens. That's why the students could use all the facilities in the office to relax. They could use the game room, fitness room, volleyball field, table tennis and on Friday morning, a yoga instructor came to give the students a new energy boost. However, all this extra service turned out to be superfluous: the fanatical students wanted to make the most of their time: no time for relaxation, no time for sleep. All for the best Hackathon idea!  

Final presentations: the hackathon ideas!  

Friday afternoon it was time for the final performances. Full of enthusiasm and surprisingly energetic – after all, the students had spent the entire night working – the participants presented their ideas to the public.  

The first group consisted entirely of law students. Their idea was to improve the transfer of a debt collection. For example, text is replaced by visuals and certain steps are better described. In this way, they ensure that the number of customers will increase.  

Group 2 consisted of IT and law students. They had developed a marketing concept to better bring out the core values of the organisation and to further emphasize the family aspect (Bierens is a family business after all). They also developed a script for a film.  

The third group consisted of IT and design students. This group came up with a data driven approach to improve the process within Bierens. Using data, predictions can be made for the handling of debt collection cases.  

Group 4 consisted of IT, law and psychology students. Their concept was aimed at approaching the debtor emotionally. By interweaving emotions in the message, debtors are more inclined to pay the outstanding invoices.  

Although all the ideas were incredibly good and useful for the organisation, only one group can win. Selecting a winner was not an easy task for the jury, which consisted of owner Sander Bierens, lawyer Raymond Arnoldus, international marketing manager Laurens van der Lof and creative designer Tan Tran. The jury deliberation therefore took much longer than planned… 

The winner of Bierens first Hackathon 2019 

But finally, the judges agreed on a result: group 3 was the winner of the Bierens Hackathon 2019! These superheroes received a cheque of €2000 which they could divide between them. When asked how the winning idea came about, Michael de Borst said: "It was really nice to work with new people who have a totally different background. The chemistry in our group was good and the skillset was very diverse. I think that our idea will make a good contribution to making the process within Bierens a lot easier. 

But the winning idea wasn’t the only valuable one for the organisation. "All the ideas surprised us a lot. Although there can only be one winner, there were elements everywhere that we could apply in our organisation. What's more, it's very inspiring to have people look at our organisation from outside and come up with new ideas," says Laurens van der Lof.  

That was the end of the 36-hour Hackathon. Because the office was so grateful for the great input, in the end all participants received a nice gift before they went home and could finally go to bed.