The Workchop Conversation with Eliz’beth Layeni, Associate Counsel, The Longe Practice Advisory

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 Eliz’beth Layeni, an Associate Counsel at The Longe Practice Advisory She is self-driven, a tech-enthusiast who loves researching emerging areas of law and believes in the power of technology to create impactful solutions and contribute to a country’s development. She also has keen interest in cybersecurity, data protection and privacy, intellectual property law, and corporate legal practice.

Could you share your journey into tech lawyering? Were there any pivotal moments?

I knew that in my penultimate year in the University, I had keen interest in Cyber Law. This was not too long following the enactment of the Nigerian Cyber Act 2015. At that time, my perspective of the tech-law ecosystem was very limited and for all I knew, I wanted to be a lawyer that protected the digital and cyber rights of citizens. But taking CISCO courses on cybersecurity and working with key players like Ridwan Oloyede and Mallick Bolakale gave me a clearer picture that there was so much that one could do as a lawyer in the tech ecosystem

What does your role at The Longe Practice Advisory entail?

As an Associate Counsel with TLP Advisory, I typically help startups and entrepreneurs start, grow and scale their business to be in compliance with the laws and regulations of any jurisdictions they intend to set up in. My role entails providing general advice on compliance matters and advising investors on the best possible means of structuring their investment securities. I also draft and review legal documents just like every other lawyer and advise on fundraising and perform other company secretarial functions.

Could you share a few tips that has helped in your journey so far? Any particular advice to law school aspirants?

Almost everything is an endless learning curve. You realize that the more you open up yourself to learning, the little you know. For me, I tried to take up courses and internship placements that revolved around my area of interest. Having a mentor or some sort sort of guidance as you grow cannot be overemphasized. I would say that budding lawyers should open up themselves to learn as much as they can in their area of interest and inclusive of your learning process is connecting with and following the activities of key players in the ecosystem you’re interested in.

What is your favorite hack for productivity?

My favorite hack(s) for productivity is having a to-do-list, enabling the work mode on my phone, and using my Google Calendar to keep track of my deadlines and activities.

What are you currently watching, listening or reading?

I am currently watching “Red Notice”, “True Story” and “The Harder They Fall”. I am not listening to anything currently, but I am reading “Camino Island” by John Grisham and “A Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren.

Funny question, if you had to work, but you didn’t need the money, what would you do?

If I didn’t need the money but I had to work, I would travel the world journaling and still be a Technology Lawyer.

Who would you like to answer these questions?

Tojola Yusuf.

The Workchop Conversation with Ahbivardhan, Founder, Artificial Intelligence & Law

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 Abhivardhan, the Managing Partner at Indic Pacific Legal Research LLP and the Executive Director, Media, He is also the President & Managing Trustee, Global Law Assembly, the Chairperson & Managing Trustee, Indian Society of Artificial Intelligence and Law. He serves as the Editor-in-Chief at the Indic Journal of International Law and the Indian Journal of Artificial Intelligence & Law. He is an author, and a bilingual poet. As a policy entrepreneur, he works in the field of technology law and policy.

Could you briefly talk about your legal background and your journey into Law and AI?

I have pursued law in India. I work in the field of international technology law. As the Chairperson and Managing Trustee of the Indian Society of Artificial Intelligence & Law, I have been contributing to the research building blocks of the Indian policy consensus in technology law, especially the ethics and policy of artificial intelligence. I have worked specifically in the anthromorphic impact and value of AI systems in the field of law & international relations. I have developed the academic proposition to define AI regularization approaches, in line with India’s cultural philosophies, & in line with the economic priorities of the Indo-Pacific region, in my initial works. I am of the view that AI can be entitled with rights, hut every AI is a specie itself.

What would you say influenced your drive for Law and AI?

The fact that artificial intelligence is a comprehensive technology, covering many species of disruptive and non disruptive tech, makes me motivating to work in the field of AI and Law.

Compared to popular belief, what does “Legal research” entail? What is the nexus between Legal Research and AI?

Legal Research is not mere usage of flimsy political and legal ideas. Policy, the science of politics, which differs nationally, and often internationally, shapes legal research. Yes, there are common threads such as understanding legal methods, like drafting, rules of interpretation, the judicial and administrative machineries and so on. However, addressing substantive and operational issues, is done by understanding policy realities, and shaping the law’s interpretative position & focus in the most appropriate way. As far as AI is concerned, my interest stems up simply because there are two aspects to the answer. The first aspect is the accessibility question, which is true. AI helps in making legal method simpler and effective. However, the second aspect inspires me more. So, in general, the comprehensive legal persona of AI and its “species” inspires me more per se, which is the second nexus.

What are your predictions for Law and AI in the next 3-5 years? Do you see AI replacing lawyers in the near future?

Nothing big is expected as far as the technological evolution of AI tech is concerned. It depends as to what kind of replacement AI will do also. The myth that Artificial General Intelligence will become overreaching, is not true, because AGI would not be 1 system, but a cluster of various micro-species of what we call as AI within the scope of ML. In law, regulatory challenges emerge as usual, so manual human autonomy of lawyers, will always be needed. The best AI can do is to ease it down and make it more “technically un-superfluous”. Let us see. I see the role of AI in legal research, but not enough to replace lawyers and even judges.

How do you relax after the day’s work?

I am an avid Indo-European culture enthusiast. I hear some Carnatic, Hindustani and Slavic music. Otherwise too, I dedicate myself to some creative work, and maintain my health at my best.

Funny question, you’ve been given a yacht. What do you name it?


Who would you like to answer these questions?

Sanjay Notani, Partner at Economic Laws Practice, Dr Jeffrey Funk & Akash Manwani, Chief Innovation Consultant, ISAIL.

Q & A With Mayowa Adegoke on Lawyering and Entrepreneurship – the Journey so far

Mayowa Adegoke, Esq., AICMC is a lawyer and chartered mediator. In addition, he is a startup founder, self-taught programmer and strategist who has built several prototyped and released consumer applications. Mayowa generally has passion for activities that revolve around art, technology, music, space exploration and business. He also loves to write on tech, digital privacy and regulations, and is a published writer of foreign publications such as The Capital and DataSeries. In his spare time, he watches football and casually reads on a wide range of topics that may not be connected to his core interests.

Could you introduce yourself, explain a bit of your journey and how you got to where you are today. Was studying Law a choice of yours?

I am currently a lawyer, with several tech projects under the belt, but it wasn’t always like this. While my journey into law was deliberate from day one, my traverse of the tech space started as an accident. When kids write JAMB, WAEC and NECO in Nigeria, after exams are over, there’s usually this 3 to 6 months that kids wait for before results are out. During this period, I got my first phone (a cheap Nokia) that could browse the internet with the popular Opera Mini browser at the time. This also meant that for the first time, I could get answers to several tens of stuff that I was curious about on a daily basis. I probably did around 40 to 60 web searches everyday, asking all manner of questions.

Some time while on my question-asking expenditure, I discovered that Facebook actually earned from ads, not the sums we spent on data subscription. This got me superior curious about the company’s business model, revenue, mode of operations etc. Soon enough, I got wind of another company called “Snapchat”. And during this period, I learnt that Facebook was ready to pay Snapchat $3bn for some app. I got even more curious about what exactly was going on. I basically learnt more and more and more until my 200L in uni when I felt confident enough to want to build my own thing. I really have to credit the internet — Quora, Reddit, TechCrunch etc for educating me up to this level about how things work in tech.

Studying law for me was a choice — I loved the whole idea of human rights lawyering. But as I grew older, I became more interested in solving problems at scale than being purely focused on a particular method (e.g. law or even tech) as the sole means of solving problems. Currently, tech remains the most efficient method of solving problems at scale. As a lawyer, at best, from now till I’m 60 or 65, I can directly impact in the lives of 15,000 or 20,000 people. But as a techie, I can touch the lives of billions. If tech becomes less efficient and scalable in the future, you can be sure that I’d develop interest and “jump ship” to the next field that allows for more efficient problem-solving.

From being a Lawyer to a founder, what spurred the change? How was the journey like? Being a lawyer, has it made your role as a founder easier? Which would you say requires more attention?

Initially, I tried to keep my law and tech lives separate. It meant a lot of context switching — I would literally be Tech Clark Kent on some days and Legal Superman on other days. But, later on, I became better at moulding both sides into one — I use my legal knowledge during negotiations or tech contracts and I use my tech efficiency side when trying to cut down on cost of building projects. I “switched” from just being the legal compliance guy to being an active part of the founding team because of how I got into tech law. My tech law journey started with me as a founder before becoming a lawyer and eventually merging both.

It’s, as such, difficult for me to entirely ignore that founder side — so if I’m in a meeting with product managers, I can’t just sit there and only concern myself with discussions on what the law says about some feature being built. I would rather discuss the applicable regulation, as well as how the product itself can be made better to generate more revenue, scale more etc whilst requiring the least amount of regulatory overheads possible. Attention-wise, law currently takes most of my time at the moment because my day job is being a lawyer. But in terms of love for both fields, I’d say I love tech and law equally.

Given, it is not so easy to run a sustainable startup in Nigeria, you not only run one but two startups, what was your motivation behind HelpTalk Technologies and Sky Music or was it something you have always had an interest in?

It is definitely not easy to run a startup in Nigeria. And being a lawyer, I can see firsthand the amount of regulatory and compliance headaches involved, even outside fund raising, user acquisition and retention etc.

Sky Music was my first shot at creating a tech project from the scratch. Before then, I mostly built and ran websites and blogs that used existing backends like WordPress. When I built Sky with my cofounder, I was really interested in music at the time and felt I could introduce a badly-needed social layer for music. We have a social layer for photos and videos, but none for music, despite music being a huge part of our lives. Utimately, the project failed, not because the idea was bad (I still plan to revive it at some point later), but because we didn’t have a team strong enough to build a solid product in the pretty competitive music space. Because we had literally zero cash, we also couldn’t directly broker deals with artists to have their songs on the platform. We had to rely on users directly uploading songs while we sort of tracked songs behind the scenes for payment to right holders down the line.

Downloading and uploading song made sense for the years up until year 2010, not now that we’re in the golden age of streaming.

HelpTalk, on the other hand, was built as a charity project. On my way back from work after I won a hackathon with a different project, I heard people discussing domestic violence over the radio. I don’t know why that conversation stuck with me, but it did and I got motivated to build a product that could provide more practical solutions to the problem instead of just discussing it like everyone. While sketching out the idea on my way home, I discovered that the idea could be expanded to cover more than just domestic violence.. and HelpTalk was built to cover domestic violence and about 30 or so other areas.

I’m currently building mLaw, a pretty cool education app for lawyers. I’ve hope to have this out some time in July or, at most, August 2021.

Was there any point people were skeptical about having a lawyer as the founder/employer? How was that like? How is funding for these companies?

I haven’t really had issues with skepticisms because the way things work with me, my eye is always on the prize.

When I’m building a tech project, I wouldn’t build it “the way it has been built” or “the way lawyers build it”. Rather, I would build it “the way I believe it should be built”. As such, there’s usually very little focus on my background/profession. The focus is more on what exactly is being built.

Funding has been interesting. For my first startup, I was interested in funding, but I had no idea how to go about it. So I tried getting a volunteer cofounder to join me and get equity stake in the business first, believing that after it gets built, I can shop the product to investors for investment. In hindsight, I should probably have raised funds first.

For my subsequent startups, I’m more knowledgeable about how funding works… How it isn’t as glamorous as the media paints it. As a result, I’m really more into bootstrapping than raising funds now. Nonetheless, when I really need to raise money, I would, on great terms.

To build these companies, was learning to code a necessity or a longtime interest for you? Would you advise law students/lawyers to do same?

Learning to code was never an interest. I learnt the basics of how coding worked because I needed to understand what exactly these engineers were doing under the hood. It is easier to negotiate, set deadlines etc, when you know exactly the work to be done. So it’s really more of a necessity.

I don’t think lawyers need to know how to code. For a lawyer who just wants to do compliance, no need to know how to code. But for a lawyer who wants to create a company, if he or she doesn’t know how to code, then he or she needs a get trusted technical person who can efficiently run the coding side. But when a lawyer can code, it makes any kind of work that he needs to do a lot easier and backed with confidence. Imagine writing 15-page documents about APIs when you can’t even identify an API if you see one.

Where would you have intensified your efforts as regards your company  if you had fore knowledge of the challenges you have encountered? What do you believe founders lose sight of while starting out?

I can’t really say I made grave mistakes in my early journey as a founder, even in hindsight. But I think if I was lucky enough in some areas, I would have had it easier. Early on, I had no safety net. It meant that I had to be very cautious about risk taking. And I was just a uni kid with middle class parents and no source of income outside pocket money.

Now, it’s a bit easier because I have options. My experience during & after the law school really opened my eyes into how things worked outside the whole “Silicon Valley perfect founders’ world” that TechCrunch paints. Currently, I think founders focus too much on solving problems “as they have always been done”. No one questions fundamentals. Today, open any iOS app and you see the same 4 or 5 tabs at the bottom. No one questions why those tabs must be used in the first place… Everyone just use it.

Why did Snapchat open straight into the camera instead of just doing what everybody did at the time to open to feed first before the user can tap some button to open camera or post editor? But that’s not even that main issue — I think the major distraction for founders today is the extreme focus on the hype — announcing fundraising etc — than the substance — how much of the company do you have left if you’ve raised $10m at $15m valuation? Do you even still own the company at all, when you have just 5% of the company after Series B? How many users are really using the product, and how many are you literally paying/burning cash on ads for to get them to use the product?

These are the hard questions founders don’t ponder about. And investors have no incentives to help founders focus on that. As long as you continually need their investment (which means more stake in the business for them) and someone else is continually willing, due to the hype, to pay a higher price for the shares, then that’s awesome for the investor.

What major problem/problems would you like to solve? What app/solution are you surprised, it hasn’t been built yet?

The two biggest problems I want to solve before I retire have nothing to do with apps. Like I hinted earlier, for me, apps, tech, law etc are just means to the end. The end is the actual problem being solved.

First, I want to solve the problem of hunger in the world. I still find it weird that we waste food when some others don’t even have food. Why does food expire at all? Why is it so expensive to grow food. In answering these questions in the affirmative and building technologies to get these issues fixes, I think I can, with a great team, solve the problem of hunger in the world.

Second, I want to put Nigeria on the map in space exploration. We’re currently very very very very bad at it. And we shouldn’t be. The future is humans becoming multi-planetary. We cannot be a third world country on earth and still go ahead to continue being a third world country even in Mars when humans finally colonize that planet. That would be double jeopardy. We have the opportunity to be at the forefront of this colonization and planets thingy, since everyone, including the U.S. etc, are still figuring it out too.

For lawyers looking to build their own startups, what should they expect and what is your advice to them?

Lawyers are not used to being scrappy. It is not unexpected for a lawyer to spend 3, 4 months writing a 50-page business plan even when a single line of code hasn’t been written for the product itself. A lawyer that wants to succeed in tech needs to drop habits like that. Lawyers need to focus on core tech stuff like an MVP (minimum viable product) first and be willing to manage resources including time. Of course, everyone’s reality is different, so a lawyer that has rich parents or investors or even personal savings of N400m or N500m can build cool stuff, without being scrappy.

But for the average lawyer, I think we have to drop the formality and focus more on the practicality of what is being built.

Lawyers should generally expect having to deal with more than just compliance as usual. As a startup founder, one has to consider the product, capital, legal compliance, marketing, user satisfaction and Net Promoter Score (NPS), product roadmap, competitive threats and advantages etc. This may be too much for a lawyer who is used to just compliance work, but I think it can be done if the lawyer is truly interested in the problem being solved.

As a shortcut, a lawyer who still remains only good at regulatory compliance can negotiate to bring in other persons who are good at the other areas. This would usually come at the cost of extra salaries for those persons or/and even precious equity.

The Workchop Conversation with Mary Clains Tino, Program & Community Manager at the World Legal Summit & Program Lead at the Africa Innovation Law & Tech Academy

The Workchop Conversation with Mary Clains Tino, Program & Community Manager at the World Legal Summit & Program Lead at the Africa Innovation Law & Tech Academy

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.

For this week, we have Mary Clains Tino, the Program and Community Manager at the World Legal Summit. She serves as the Program Lead at the Africa Innovation Law & Tech Academy (Online) and Operations Manager at Legal Innovation Hub.
Currently, she is student pursuing a Bachelor of Laws Degree at Makerere University where she serves as the Vice President of the Rule of Law Club. Clains is a member of the African Law & Tech Network, Kampala Legal Hackers and Mountain Club of Uganda.

Tell us briefly about your journey into tech and law. What spurred your interest?

Before joining university, I interacted with Bitland Uganda, a blockchain powered land registry system and was amazed by the tremendous potential of this initiative and other emerging technologies. Through the Coffee With Alice mentorship program, I learned and was intrigued by the legal and regulatory issues pertaining to such emerging technologies.
This curiosity pushed me to pursue courses on EdX and to attend numerous conferences on this topic. I seek to continue to cultivate my knowledge and interest in this field.

Could you share a bit about your role as a Program and Community Manager at the World
Legal Summit? If you could describe what you do in three (3) words, what would it be?

The World Legal Summit is a multi-party initiative which brings jurisdictions and communities together in exploring the development of legislative frameworks for emerging technologies.
My role includes; relationship/event management, research, social outreach and engagement. If I had to choose three words to describe my role, I would pick; collaboration, media and research.

Could you describe the state of the tech and law ecosystem in Africa and where it could be in the next five (5) years? What would be your advice to those looking to break into the space?

The tech and law ecosystem in Africa is growing exponentially. LegalTech products, innovation to foster best practices, communities and new laws to regulate the emerging technologies are all coming in due time. In the next five years, I believe that we will be more receptive to technologies like virtual reality in the Legal space. We have moved into the most technological decade due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The judiciary and academia will be more engaged and involved in the
tech and law ecosystem in Africa. I would advise anyone looking to break into the space to definitely go for it, self-educate, get
mentors, volunteer, join existing communities and prioritize lifelong learning.

Could you share what your roles at the Africa Innovation Law & Tech Academy and Legal Innovation Hub involve? What apps or systems do you use to ensure your productivity?

I lead the teams at the Africa Innovation Law & Tech Academy (AILTA) and Legal Innovation Hub (LIH). The Academy provides legal knowledge and professional skills required to understand the relationship between the law, technology and innovation. The Hub fosters innovation in the legal profession and enhances the mode of delivering legal services and access to justice. My roles include; organizing hackathons, conferences, design, research and public relations.

My favorite go-to apps for work are Google workspace, Canva, Buffer and Asana. When working, I encourage collaboration, learning and niche identification. These are systems we have in place to ensure productivity.

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

I take nature walks and recently took an interest in rock climbing. I am always on a lookout for new adventures. I read story books with children through community book clubs which share the beauty of storytelling.

Funny question, if you had to work, but you didn’t need the money, what would you do?

I would stick to my current work which is centered around Law, Technology and Education. I realized that I work best when I am doing something I love and creating change and that’s what I am doing now.

Who would you like to answer these questions?
Alice Namuli Blazevic, Partner at Katende Ssempebwa & Co Advocates and Hannah Gannyana, Lead Organizer of Kampala Legal Hackers.

The Workchop Conversation with June Okal, Legal Advisor & Co-Organizer, Legal Hackers

The Workchop Conversation with June Okal, Legal Advisor & Co-Organizer, Legal Hackers

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.

For this week, we have June Okal, a legal professional with years of experience mitigating legal risk and advising Government State Corporations as well as high value global clients on Intellectual Property, Technology, Telecommunications and Media transactions as well as In House Counsel supporting a trillion dollar leading technology company’s operations across fifty one countries in Sub Saharan Africa.

Tell us briefly how the transition was, from being a counsel to working with different organizations like ARTICLE 19 and Legal Hackers, Kenya. Was there anything particular that spurred the move?

I wouldn’t say it was a move per se as all the roles are related and in the field of Technology, Media. and Telecommunications. I have always wanted to have some across the board experience in the industry in order to appreciate the unique challenges and nuances in each. For instance, I started work in tech policy at the equivalent of an ICT Department, but for the Government of Kenya supporting in setting up ICT Standards to be adopted, then worked at the Copyright regulator where we ratified rules on copyright exemptions for the visually challenged as well as introducing the first Kenyan legal instrument on intermediary liability, then engaged at a leading Think Tank that seeks to catalyze ICT reforms through a multistakeholder approach, to offering legal and regional client advisory at a boutique and specialist TMT law firm, to setting up the office and helping protect clients IP for one of the largest IP firms globally, shifting to a big tech service provider interfacing with a user base of +1B and then to a passive infrastructure telecommunications provider and currently at ARTICLE 19 where we advocate for freedom of expression and information, with a focus on the Domain Name System. The transition at each point has been exciting, some more seamless than others, but because the foundation is the same, it is simpler to build upon it.

What does your role as an Internet of Rights Fellow at ARTICLE 19 entail? Could you tell us a bit about ARTICLE 19, what it is about and who it is for?

As an Internet of Rights Fellow, I’m part of the International team at ARTICLE 19. Since 2014, ARTICLE 19 has been a pioneer in introducing and strengthening human rights considerations in the design, development, and deployment of Internet infrastructure by participating in global Internet governance bodies where technical standards and policy development happens. The main goal is to protect and promote freedom of expression, freedom of association, privacy, and other human rights in key Internet technical standards and policy bodies. 

Under the Business and Human Rights track which I work under, my mentor Ephraim Kenyanito and I actively engage within the Internet Governance ecosystem, particularly at the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). At ICANN, we monitor policy development processes and drafting of policies which outline how the internet as a public resource is managed and we advocate for the upholding and respect of Freedom of Expression and Information.  

With your work experiences from being an In-house counsel to a TMT lawyer, IP lawyer and even as co-organizer at Legal Hackers Kenya, what one experience has shaped you so far? Could you share any major advice for lawyers and other players in the legal industry?

When I was in my first year of uni, one of our lecturers, Ms. Pamela Ager asked us to read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Malcolm speaks of the 10,000 hour rule for anyone to be good at what they do. She emphasized the need for us to stand out from the pack, the Kenya School of Law for instance, churns about 2000 students each year. Kenya’s bar association has over 14,000 advocates, the question then is, how do you differentiate yourself from the pack. Focus on that and be excellent at it.

What is that one problem if, given the chance, you would like to solve within your industry?

Cross functional collaboration. Having worked at different stakeholder groups, I have come to appreciate the varied interests that each has and seeks to protect. While there is some level of cross functional and multi stakeholder engagement, with increased trust, goodwill and a collaborative spirit, a lot more can be achieved in the ecosystem.

Walk us through a typical workday. How do you keep track of what you have to do?

I’m currently taking a gap ‘month’ off active work at the moment – which I think is highly underrated. Having the space to rest and rejuvenate allows you to take a step back, have a breather and re-evaluate your life choices, align priorities and set new ones. I now go with the flow. But resources that have greatly helped me in the past are Calendar bocking, to assign and block out time in the course of the day, having two notebooks – a day to day diary highlighting what needs to be done for each day and another to note down all tasks that are to be done regardless of urgency and timeline, and then checking off both lists of gradually.

What is that one ideology that you don’t agree with?

That we should all be entrepreneurs. For a long time this narrative has been pushed across all sectors for the youth. We do not all need to start businesses, if we do, where will the resource base come from but more importantly it is possible for one to be passionate about an entrepreneur’s dream and there is nothing wrong with that. According to Investopedia, for instance, in 2019, the failure rate of startups was around 90%. Research concluded that 21.5% of startups fail in the first year, 30% in the second year, 50% in the fifth year, and 70% in their 10th year. Among other reasons of course, for me, I think that narrative is partially to blame.

What artist do you listen to the most? What is your favourite music app?

Sauti Sol without a doubt. App – Deezer. While I know many may disagree and go with Apple Music, Spotify and SoundCloud, I really, really like Deezer, I think their AI/ML software is very good at gauging/reading the mood and auto playing related genres and similar songs.

Funny question, what is the funniest thing that happened to you recently?

I kept waiting for something funny to happen to me for weeks, lol. I’m rather surprised at the power of social media, it’s reach and how it’s changing the power of weak ties. I recently needed to offload an asset, I put it up on Instagram, and in about 10 mins it was gone, I had to delete the initial post in a matter of miniutes. I think it’s quite interesting to see that power firsthand.  

Who would you like to answer these questions? (Here, we expect that you nominate someone to answer these questions too)

Let’s start with the person responsible for bringing me into the tech space, Ms. Grace Bomu, the one responsible for my advocacy and lawyering Mr. Stephen Kiptinness, KICTANet Convenor and trailblazer in the field of ICT Policy, Grace Githaiga, my Co – Organizer at Nairobi Legal Hackers Rosemary Koech – Kimwatu, Thought leader and University Lecturer Prof. Bitange Ndemo whose way of thinking I hope to emulate, Lawyers in Technology Lean In Circle convenor Linda Anene who has found a way to bring leading female lawyers in technology in to one space, Founder and CEO of the Lawyers Hub who has built a fantastic community of lawyers and techies, Linda Bonyo, my seniors and kickass tech lawyers Nzilani Mweu and Mutindi Muema and talented young lawyer Sumaiyah Omar whose future is much brighter than she even knows.

The Workchop Conversation with Oluwatobi Ibiyemi, Tech Lawyer and Associate, Lawyerpp

The Workchop Conversation with Oluwatobi Ibiyemi, Tech Lawyer and Associate, Lawyerpp

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.

For this week, we have Oluwatobi Ibiyemi, a Nigerian Lawyer with in-depth experience in Legal Tech, Data Privacy Protection, Business Development, Product Management, Regulatory Compliance, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Legal Thinking and Legal Design. He is an Associate of the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators and possesses a Google Certification in Digital Skills. Oluwatobi is an Associate, Legal & Innovations at LAWYERPP LegalTech Limited and the Head of Operations at PhoneFlag Limited, and StartUP Life. He is currently an MBA candidate specialised in Advanced Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Automation at Nexford University, USA.

Tell us briefly about yourself, your journey into tech and law and what spurred that interest.
My interest in Tech bubbled up after the completion of my LL.B program in 2019. I discerned that I have
always been a sucker for getting things done seamlessly, and technology consistently provides this for me.
I have an older sibling who majors in Cybersecurity, and he mentored me on how to transition into the tech
space. I took an interest in the Python programming language.
My transition into the Tech space started off the back of a course – Computer Science for Lawyers – that I
took on edX, tutored by lecturers from Harvard during the total lockdown in 2020. A month before my
Call=to=Bar, I got a job in a Legal Tech Firm, where I had to wear many hats within a short period. The joy of
watching UI/UX designers express your thought process on Figma whilst developers implement these
designs and watching millions of users use the solution in real-time cemented my transition into the tech

As an Associate at Lawyerpp, what does your job entail?
I have been part of the Legal & Innovations Team at LAWYERPP LegalTech Limited since 2019. The
difference between working in a startup and a long-standing organisation is crystal clear. I joined
LAWYERPP LegalTech Limited in its early days, which has seen me take on several roles in the design,
development, and deployment of the company’s flagship mobile and web app solution called LAWYERPP.
The flagship solution affords Lawyers with the tools to run virtual law firms, amongst other functionalities.
The Panic Button feature allows your emergency contact(s) to track your movement in real-time via a map
should you ever be in an emergency.
The need for a subject matter expert at the intersection of Law and Tech to develop a product that both
Lawyers and an everyday person can use whilst operating within the ambits of the law formed the core of my job role . My responsibilities cut across Product Management, Business Development, and Legal
Advisory. I ensure the smooth transition of the ideas of the management into their implementation by the
tech team and onward transmission to the end-users. I would say the majority of what I do was learned on
the job and through personal development. It has not been a piece of cake, but it has been fun!

Combining your roles as an Associate with the other things you do, how do you stay productive and still not feel overwhelmed? What is your approach to problem-solving?
Transitioning to remote work was a game-changer for me. Working from home helped in the effective
organisation and management of my schedule. I concurrently run my MBA program and a course on data
protection. To remain productive, I carved out a dedicated workstation with a notepad detailing my tasks for
the day and a timeline assigned to each task. I always tick off each completed task to create a sense of
progress for myself. I endeavour to stick to these timelines, although I make them flexible enough
depending on what needs to get prioritised. I also make sure I take a recess at intervals whenever I feel a
mental block.
My approach to abstract problems has always been critical thinking. I believe there is always a smart and
less stressful way to do things. I usually approach a problem using the worst-case scenario. It allows me to
anticipate possible outcomes whilst proffering the solution to the primary problem.

What advice would you have given yourself at the start of your career?
Luck is only an opportunity taken by the most prepared person in the room. Education gets you to the door,
but connections often get you into the room. Go out more often – given that I’m an introvert – and
strategically place yourself to meet the right people. Up your value twice, and then put a tax on it when
negotiating your worth.

What was your biggest misconception about legal innovation before you got into the space?
After my call-to-bar and transition into the legal tech space, I ignorantly believed that Lawyers must learn
how to code. This was my excuse for learning just enough about the python programming language.
However, I soon realised that the legal tech space is wide enough to accommodate Lawyers without any
coding background to play vital roles in legal innovation. These roles include privacy managers, legal
solutions architects, and non-technical project managers, amongst others.
Of course, I wouldn’t discourage lawyers from coding. Be my guest if you have a flair for it. I can do a bit of
Object-Oriented Programming myself. However, you can function effectively in the legal tech space without
any coding knowledge.

Lawyers are more often than not resistant to change and risk-averse. How do you get them to see the value of a legal tech tool?
In retrospect, I had a conversation with a colleague whilst in Law School on the viability of law firms
performing their internal operations remotely and without the usage of papers. He believed it wasn’t
possible. Of course, the only way to convince him was to provide an example of a law firm operating fully
remotely, which unfortunately I couldn’t provide at the time.
Lawyers are factfinders and rarely base decisions on opinions. The best way to convince lawyers to accept
change is to make them see the value it brings to their practice. A few years back, lawyers would prefer to
go to the library to read law reports. However, there are numerous e-law reports that lawyers subscribe to today without much persuasion. So, I simply explain the value proposition of the product or change to the
practice of law by the lawyer so that he can adapt to such changes.

What would you never be caught doing on a weekend? How do you take a break after a long day at work?
“Never to be caught unfresh” lol. I enjoy playing video games on my weekends, especially Call of Duty. I
play with a brain-training app on my phone that also helps with my concentration level. Ultimately, my
weekends are for catching up on personal projects.

Funny question, someone gives you an elephant. You can’t sell it or give it away. What
do you do with the elephant?

Hmm, tricky question. At the risk of sounding too technical, I would not accept your elephant because I do
not have the knowledge nor technical know-how to tend to it. After all, the question does not force me to
accept the elephant but says I can’t give it away or sell it. It was never mine. The implication is that as a
manager, not every deal should be consented to.
However, to answer the question literally, I would hire a professional to take care of the elephant whilst it is
still in my possession.

Who would you like to answer these questions?
Endurance Agbor & Onyinye Ojukwu