By Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr.
TECHNOLOGY plays an integral role in our professional and personal lives most especially in recent times. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has further reinforced the importance of technology in the modern world.
In retrospect, we can agree that the pandemic expedited a tech revolution that had been well underway for several years, disrupting not only the business sector but every aspect of life.
While COVID-19 left the world nonplussed as to how to cope with the new reality, operations in the tech industry were more focused and intentional than ever as tech companies scrambled to provide innovative solutions that addressed issues occasioned by the pandemic.
With various innovations developed by African tech startups, it is not surprising that fintech, cleantech, healthcare, agritech, data and IT infrastructure, and rank among the sectors increasingly attracting capital from local and international investors according to the Briter Bridges report of 2020.
What the above-mentioned report illustrates is how different sectors of the economy are leveraging technology, consequently raking in socio-economic benefits. Yet, one cannot help but wonder why the legal sector, one of the oldest, is struggling to keep up with this trend.
The truth is that in Sub-Saharan Africa, access to justice is still elusive for many. To address this issue, legal practitioners are gradually moving past archaic practices to the more sophisticated path of computing.
Although efficiency and affordable legal services are being introduced, however, there is still a need for stronger integration of technology into the sector.
To the rescue are startups in the legal tech industry that are bringing about disruption in the sector, boldly revamping the former order. In case you’re wondering about Legal tech; let me briefly educate you on it.
Legal technology, also known as Legal tech, is a concept that describes technologies and software that substantially changes the way we use legal services in our daily lives. Broadly, the term has come to encompass the set of technologies that has dual purposes. On the one hand, it eases the practice of law for attorneys and legal professionals. On the other hand, it enables clients to access legal services or justice.
Fusing technology into the legal sector will enhance efficiency, promote easy research, facilitate resource management, mitigate stress, enhance customer service, and bring overall improvement to the judicial process.
You may have questions such as what are the technologies enabling the legal sector? How does the integration of these tools boost the legal sector? Consider the subsequent headings.
Technologies boosting the legal profession
Artificial intelligence companies are researching ways to build solutions that will manage laborious and monotonous tasks in different industries to achieve accuracy and efficiency. Applying artificial intelligence in the legal profession has brought transformations in a number of ways.
Leveraging AI enables litigators to perform due diligence as they are able to deploy its tools to conduct research, uncover background information and carry out contract review.
AI enhances legal analytics. What this means is that through AI software, lawyers can use data points from past case law, win/loss rates and a judge’s history to be used for trends and patterns.
This technology can aid Intellectual Property lawyers in that it can provide proof of creatorship, provenance authentication, registering and clearing IP rights, and rights management among other things.
It can also track distribution through websites such as Binded, Mediachain, and Pixsy that allow for the registration of material, making the lawyer’s job easier.
Also, these websites can prevent copyright infringement and enforce mitigation by providing a time-stamped copy of the work in question so that a plaintiff can provide it if s/he intends to sue.
A practical example is sourced from an article written by the International Bar Association. According to the source, one of China’s dedicated internet courts, located in Hangzhou and which solely hears internet-related disputes, has granted permission for the use of blockchain technology to present evidence.
The article also reveals that this change in policy follows a copyright dispute, involving an alleged copyright infringement of certain webpages. The plaintiff was able to log the infringement on a blockchain, which was deemed admissible in the court.
Internet of things
IoT refers to everyday devices ranging from cars to home automation to construction equipment that can become internet-connected. It has already made its mark in multiple industries, the legal industry is no exception.
IoT facilitates connectivity to a multitude of information and data sources which will provide lawyers with instant, real-time access to valuable data. As a result, clients’ issues can be resolved quickly and efficiently.
In addition, automation of administrative processes will also simplify lawyers’ task, allowing them to spend more time analysing cases rather than poring over voluminous books or tidying up paperwork.
Spotlighting Africa’s innovative legal tech startups
Launched in 2020 Get Law is a South African digital legal services platform that empowers ordinary citizens to take steps to exercise their legal rights at a low cost. It employs easy-to-use tools in providing its clients with needed legal assistance.
This software solution provider assists law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities, and courts to go paperless. Founded in 2016, the Sierra Leone-based startup ensures and automates the justice delivery process from inception to adjudication while managing the identity of the suspect/inmate using fingerprint technology and mobile-based technologies.
Launched in 2018, Justicebot is a digital platform that connects legal professionals to those in need of legal services in an inexpensive and timely manner. The startup also offers free legal information enabling users to make informed decisions to prevent the violation of his/her rights.
A Nigerian civic tech organisation, Gavel aims to accelerate the pace of justice delivery, achieve transparency in the Nigerian judicial system, and promote access to justice, digital technology, and citizens’ engagement. Through its Podus platform, Gavel connects victims of pre-trial detention to a Police Duty-Solicitor Scheme (PDSS) lawyer.
Taking the African reality into consideration, the full adoption of technology into the legal sector is not without its challenges which range from poor infrastructure, high cost of technology, to the sheer conservatism of some legal practitioners who prefer the traditional method of practising law.
Despite present challenges, I strongly believe that technology is an asset to Africa’s legal system and to reap its benefits, players in this field need to key into the ongoing tech revolution.
CFA is co-founder of techbuild.africa, a platform chronicling innovation & godohub.org, a social enterprise supporting innovation.
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