The Workchop Conversation with Themba Mahleka, Co-head at HiiL Southern Africa

The Workchop Conversations is an ongoing series of conversations with different players in both the law, tech & justice tech space, sharing about their work and innovative role within the space, promoting access to justice in Africa.

This week, we have Themba Mahleka, co-head at HiiL Innovation Hub Southern Africa. He is responsible for identifying and supporting legal start-ups whose innovative and/ or technological solutions help improve access to justice. Themba is an attorney by profession and simply passionate about legal tech and innovation. He does not believe that, as attorneys, “the robots are coming to take our jobs”. Instead, legal practice and the delivery of legal services are evolving and in doing so, becoming more accessible. He says that working with HiiL presents a unique opportunity to not only work in legal innovation but to do so for the benefit of those members of society who need access to justice the most.

What is that one idea that shaped how you perceived access to justice through tech?

There are many ideas that have informed my perception, one that stands out is the use of technology as a catalyst for existing solutions. An example of this is Online Dispute Resolution which takes the principles of mediation or arbitration and leverages technology to break down certain geographical or logistical barriers. It has been great to see this in action during the pandemic. 

How do you allocate time for work and other things? How do you deal with distractions?

The truth is I am still figuring this out! I have improved over the years though and being in the moment has helped. Setting goals and focusing on bite-size tasks one at a time, for me, has been more progressive than juggling multiple tasks and not having achieved much at the end of the day. Discipline is key here and that includes the discipline to unplug and recharge your mind and body.

How do you recharge or take a break?

Family. I find taking a walk with my wife and son, going to the dog park, and having dinner at the table (away from technology) as great ways to unwind at the end of the day. I took up boxing at the beginning of the year and this has quickly become one of my favorite things to do.

What is that one advantage of the Innovating Justice Challenge 2021 that you believe justice entrepreneurs must not miss?

HiiL has developed an amazing program with many benefits to offer. One such example is the community. We have found, particularly in Southern Africa, that many justice entrepreneurs feel that the space is so small that they are on the journey alone. Meeting other justice entrepreneurs and being able to tap into HiiL’s global network has resulted in some meaningful and lasting collaborations.

What are you currently reading, watching or listening to?

I am currently reading, “The Corruption Cure: How Citizens & Leaders Can Combat Graft” by Robert I. Rotberg, watching, “Last Chance U: Basketball” and listening to, “Bob Marley: Chant Down Babylon” 

Who would you like to answer these questions?

I’d be interested in hearing from Jackie Nagtegaal.

THE USE CASES OF BLOCKCHAIN IN INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

A blockchain is a decentralized ledger of transactions that is duplicated and distributed through the blockchain’s entire network of computer systems. The method of protecting intellectual property has become much more simplified since the introduction of this blockchain, which eliminates any doubt on where copyright belongs. All parties involved, including content creators, IP owners, distribution partners, and end users, would benefit. By reducing approval wait times and necessary capital, blockchain has the potential to disrupt the patent and trademark process.


Use cases of Blockchain in Intellectual Property.

  1. Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs: are a critical blockchain-based intellectual property innovation. NFTs are cryptographic tokens that can be used on a blockchain to represent unique properties. Innovators or developers of a piece of work may use blockchain to upload, record, and time-stamp their original work on a public ledger, resulting in undeniable proof of ownership.

2. IP lawyers can use the blockchain to provide proof of first use, creation, and rights management, reducing the number of cases of intellectual property infringement. A lawyer may use the blockchain to set up the terms of sale and license of an IP for his or her client, and the blockchain’s secure, transparent, and immutable features protect the client’s IP rights. Blockchain is one such technology that has the potential to meet the demand for IP protection by providing both security and proof of
ownership for intellectual property. Many businesses have already begun to provide blockchain-based time stamping and authentication systems to protect digital assets.

Case study: TinEye, Binded, Pixsy, and Mediachain – These companies allow the registration of copyrights on the blockchain where they can be monitored.

3. Innovators and content creators may also put their copyrights on a smart contract, which will pay out if certain conditions are met. A smart contract is a Blockchain-based computer program that runs automatically whenever a predetermined condition in a transaction is met. As a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), blockchain can be used as a possible platform for inventors to list their inventions/digital works in the form of ledgers with brief descriptions, effectively serving as an IP
marketplace. In addition, inventors/patent holders may use Blockchain to find potential licensees for their inventions’ related know-how.

Case Study: PATENTICO and IPwe – these companies offer a platform where intellectual property funding/distribution could be done.

4. During the lifecycle of digital assets such as patents, copyrights, and publications, there is a need for a technology that allows different copies of digital assets to be linked together. Blockchain technology can be used in systems where users can use blockchain’s ledger technology to connect all versions of their digital assets and potentially use it for asset end-to-end lifecycle maintenance.

Case Study: Bernstein IP – This company offers a public register of every of one’s digital assets.

The use of blockchain would result in significant efficiencies in the management of rights and royalties and the creation of potential capabilities based on a new set of technological principles. Intangible assets are becoming increasingly critical to a company’s value, and performance hinges on the ability to maximize return on investment.

The Workchop Conversation with Keyukemi Ubi, Co-founder at DigiLaw

The Workchop Conversations is an ongoing series of conversations with different players in both the law, tech & justice tech space, sharing about their work and innovative role within the space, promoting access to justice in Africa.

This week, we have Keyukemi Ubi, co-founder and head of operations at Digilaw. Keyukemi is a Law graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University. She is currently working as a paralegal freelancer. She loves listening to music, blogging, and engaging in intellectual conversations. Keyukemi aspires to have a long-term effect on the future of Technology law in Nigeria and the world.

How is a typical day like at DigiLaw?

Digilaw is a legal ed-tech startup, and our goal is to bridge the gap between law and technology. So we use channels like articles, research papers, videos, and podcasts to educate both legal and non-legal personnel on the nitty-gritty of legal technology. As head of operations, I keep the engine running. I manage communications with our writers and contributors. I also double as an editor, so I have to make sure that content is well primed for the audience. I have to do some editing and restructuring of articles, make sure they are Search Engine Optimized, create promotional pictures for social media while ensuring we are not violating any media laws or ethics. 

On some other days, I am hustling to make sure that we put out content for the Fit and Proper Podcast (a podcast to help Nigerian Law School Students). I function as the director/ host, so I have to communicate with co-hosts and make sure episodes are recorded, then my partner takes it from there. Some days are quite a roller coaster, and other days things are just slow, but we have to keep moving. 

What apps or gadgets have you been relying on to work, and how do you use them?

Hmm, for gadgets, I would say my phone and laptop. They are my best friends and work buddies. I use my phone for communications, i.e., calling, texting, and emailing stakeholders, depending on my deliverable. I also use calendly for scheduling and zoom for meetings. I probably shut down my laptop like once in two weeks because there is always something pending. 

What is your favorite hack on staying productive?

Daily to-do-list!

I easily get overwhelmed. I know people like to say, “I work well under pressure,” but I can’t say the same for myself. I can survive working under pressure, but I’m not too fond of it, and I would rather plan each step meticulously, so I don’t have to live using the fire brigade approach constantly. So, I have weekly plans and achievements, and then I break them down into small daily plans with designated hours to spend on them. I prioritize the most important and urgent ones and look for how to deal with others over time.  

I also have a daily routine that I try to follow to keep up with my personal development goals. 

How do you recharge or take a break? What do you spend time doing besides work?

I like to take breaks, especially because life is too short for you to work so hard and not enjoy yourself. I don’t go out much so I watch movies, chat with my friends or take long walks. Sometimes I do yoga, and other times I sleep because that’s all I need to recharge. 

What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?

I like sitcoms, so right now, I am watching The office; I just started season 8. I watch one or two episodes a day. an episode is like 20 mins. I have been alternating between books, so I read One or two chapters of a book and then go to where I stopped in another. So right now, I am concurrently reading: 

– Range: how generalist survive in a specialized world by David Epstein 

– The Singapore Stories, Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew

– Venture Deals by Brad Feld

I don’t listen to podcasts as regularly as I used to, but I Like Business wars and I Said What I Said podcasts. 

Who would you like to answer these questions?

My partner, Akin Agunbiade. He is more interesting

LegalTech Communities for Lawyers in Africa

Image Source : legalmart.com

As legal practitioners in Africa seek a better understanding of what is happening at the cutting edge of law and technology, as well as exploring opportunities to participate in the development or adoption of new legal technologies, there is no shortage of communities to which they can turn. 

Lawyers can join a legal community platform (more virtual than physical) in order to gain access to accurate information and knowledge sharing. Today’s world revolves around interactions and personal relationships, hence being a part of such communities is critical to building a high-quality network of colleagues for situations where you need guidance, advice or suggestions.

After all, who wouldn’t want to be a part of a community that offers free and private connections while still providing opportunities to learn and share information on a daily basis?

Changes in the legal industry brought about by technology have spawned a fascinating network of communities devoted to legal innovation in all its forms:

  1. The Innovation Law Club Africa

The Innovation Law Club Africa (“ILCA”) is a global network of technology law experts. The ILCA was founded to educate and empower lawyers and law students on a wide range of technology law topics. ILCA recognizes the need to train a new generation of African lawyers who understand how the law responds to the growth, challenges, and opportunities of innovation. The ILCA has organized a number of insightful events in line with their objectives. For instance, the conversation with Rajan Gupta, Head of Legal Technology, Facebook. Also, the fireside chat with Aaron Fu, Head of Growth at the Catalyst Fund, and many more. Join the community .

  1. The Africa Law and Tech Network

The African Law & Tech Network is a group of legal industry experts and connectors who collaborate with law firms, regulators, and governments all over the world. The ALT Network’s mission is to strengthen Africa’s legal and technological ecosystem by promoting the growth of enabling legislative and regulatory environments for tech innovation across all industries. Membership of this community comes both in the free access and the paid access. You can get more information on being a member of the community here.

  1. Africa Legal

Africa Legal was created in 2018 with the aim of making it easier for African legal professionals to advance their careers, stay up to date on industry news, and take advantage of digital courses all in one spot. Africa Legal’s mission is to become the go-to resource for African professional careers at any time and any place.

  1. Legal Hackers

Legal Hackers is a global movement of lawyers, policymakers, designers, technologists, and academics who explore and create innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing legal and technological issues. Legal Hackers identify challenges and opportunities in the practice of law through local meetups, hackathons, and workshops. In Africa, there is Legal Hackers Lagos, Legal Hackers Abuja, Legal Hackers Cape Town, Legal Hackers Accra, Legal Hackers Kampala, and many more.

  1. Lawyers Hub Kenya

The Lawyers Hub, Kenya is a Legal-Technology Policy organization whose mission is to provide creative and technology-driven solutions to policy, legal practice, and access to justice, with an emphasis on technology-driven businesses and policy alternatives. HiiL, Google, Omidyar Network, Scale My Hustle, Amnesty International, and others have lent their support to this community. The Lawyers Hub, Kenya has a telegram community platform that you can join here.

  1. Africa Innovation Law and Tech Academy

The academy equips students with the legal expertise and technical skills necessary to comprehend the relationship between law, technology, and innovation.

7. Lawyers in Tech

The Lawyers in Tech community has a mission to ensure that new generation of lawyers are well-prepared to practice law in this digital age. They believe that lawyers must be bilingual; they must understand both the language of the code and the language of the law. For anyone interested in being a part of this community, you can send your names and phone numbers to faithbose.obafemi@gmail.com.

  1. Africa Law Tech Association

This association was formed by the Lawyers Hub with the aim of engaging Individual members, institutions, law firms, tech firms, development partners, other relevant organizations across the continent on law and technology spheres. The association is also the organizer of the annual Africa Law Tech Festival, an annual conference designed to appeal to a wide array of players in the legal tech space through a multifaceted approach to conferencing. The Festival brings together like-minded individuals to lead idea-focused conversations and further innovation. Join the community here.

It is important and beneficial to be a member of any of the communities as even the African proverb says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

The Workchop Conversation with Bright Oleka

The Workchop Conversations is an ongoing series of conversations with different players in both the law, tech & justice tech space, sharing about their work and innovative role within the space, promoting access to justice in Africa.

This week, we have Bright Oleka, Head of Product at JUDY. Bright is a graduate of statistics from Abia state University but fell in love with tech. He started out as a web developer, and he then tagged along his cousin Vincent Okeke in creating West Africa’s first e-learning platform called doviLearn.com. He is also a lover of great design and is obsessed with client relationship management.

What is the problem you aimed to solve when starting Judy?

My Co-founder is the son of a Justice of the Appeal Court of Ghana. Growing up, he was often tasked with assisting his father in bookmarking cases in law reports, pointing out inaccurate citations, and other paralegal duties. Over the years, he came across various software that were supposed to make his ‘job’ obsolete, but they were all clunky (old-fashioned). After completing his CS degree, he investigated the issue further, only to find that the problem stretched far beyond Ghana. Hence, JUDY was born.

What does your work as a Product Head involve?

As the head of product, I work closely with the tech team in creating some user-centric products we have launched over time like our desktop application, JUDY Lite and our most premium feature: JUDY Plus. I’m also heavily involved with customer relationship management.

How does Judy work in making legal research faster and efficiently to lawyers?

We have obtained, digitized, and uploaded over 70,000 cases from the Supreme and Appeal Courts of Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya to our database. After digitization, the cases required additional formatting and grammatical corrections. Therefore, we built an internal Editorial Dashboard where our team of lawyers edit, format, and annotate principles established in a  case. 

This enables us to present cases to users in a properly formatted, navigable structure. We then use our lawyers’ annotations as labeled training data (about 10,000 data points so far) to subsequently develop insights for end-users, such as finding cases with similar principles, or similar issues. Each data point (of the training data)  generally consists of a specific legal principle and the corresponding passage where that principle is applicable. With sufficient training, our model is able to identify all relevant legal principles in a given case judgment.

Search results are further prioritized by how frequently a case has been referenced, therefore, landmark cases rank higher.

With a well-trained AI, we will scalably derive insights from cases and forgo a large editorial team. We have also developed a method to fine tune our algorithm to generate case summaries.

What apps, gadgets or tools have you been relying on to work and how do you use them?

Due to the pandemic, I work remotely and the tools below are what I use to effectively carry out a lot of my day-to-day tasks.

  1. Google Meet & Zoom for communication
  2. Slack  & Airtable for Project management
  3. Intercom for client complaint resolution and feedback
  4. Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator & Premier Pro for designs & video editing

What are you currently reading, watching or listening to?

I’m not reading any book at the moment but my daily addictions are on podcasts & YouTube. I listen to a lot of content from “The Business of Design” Podcast and also Alex Harris material’s because of his knowledge on Product growth, user engagement & design.

Who would you like to answer these questions?

I would recommend Charles Thompson, Chief Technical Officer, JUDY.