For justice to be done in a democratic society, legal information is considered as one of its essential ingredients. Legal information is empowering for poor clients seeking access to justice, in their relationships to opponents, to lawyers and to judges. It helps clients to take control and can enhance their bargaining position and Streetlawyer Naija is working to make this possible for Nigerians.
Generally, people tend to fear what they don’t understand and that also applies to the laws of the country as well. A lot of Nigerians perceive the law as confusing and would rather not attend any court proceedings. People seem to perceive the law as confusing and would rather not have anything to do with the court, and StreetLawyer Naija is working to change that perception, as the more people understand their rights, the more the legal system gets better.
StreetLawyer Naija is a platform that started out in 2019 with the aim of enlightening and educating Nigerians of their rights in the most simplified words. The platform covers content on topics that revolve around Business Law, Cyber Law, Laws on Election, Property Law, Wills, etc
Onyinyechi Ezeoke started the platform by reaching out to lawyers within her network who wanted to be a part of the team with her. Two years down the line, StreetLawyer Naija has grown to a team of 11 lawyers who, although in active practice, are dedicated to contributing content to the platform. Currently, all lawyers on the team work as volunteers and interestingly, the team has had applications from other people that want to be a part of the team, and even on a volunteer basis. This has given a certain validation to what the team is trying to do.
On the side of feedback, the team has gotten quite a good number of positive feedback from their readers, as they get answers to their questions through the content on the platform. For instance, a good number of Nigerians do not know that there is something called the breach of promise to marry and that there are legal consequences to such breach. You cannot just promise to marry someone and then change your mind like NEPA (If you know, you know). This is not just a law in theory and StreetLawyer Naija wrote about it.
Monetization of Information…
From the beginning, the plan was never to monetize access to legal information on the platform but rather to make it a free for all. Recently, the team was able to get google adsense on the platform. With increased reach and engagement on the platform, Onyinye believes that lawyers working for StreetLawyer Naija will be able to get compensated.
StreetLawyer Naija has been on for 2 years now and in that time, the platform has been able to help answer the legal questions of a lot of Nigerians. ‘We are working on an app for StreetLawyer Naija and we intend to launch before the end of this year’, says Onyinyechi. The app will have features where users can access the services of a lawyer closest to them. The long term plan is to become the go-to platform for Nigerians to get answers to all their legal related questions around any topic.
People need to remove that idea that the law does not work. Granted that there are times when things in the system don’t go as planned, but that doesn’t invalidate the other times that the law does work. With Streetlawyer Naija, knowledge of your legal rights is going to be a click away.
Lawteract is on a mission to enable access to lawyers and legal solutions much easier, efficient and cost-effective. A digital marketplace will significantly improve and expand the delivery of legal services and Lawteract is building just that, as a mobile application. Let’s just say, like Amazon but for legal services. Taiwo Oni built Lawteract to bridge the gap between the demand for and the supply of legal services. Using Lagos as a case study for his user research, Taiwo found out that 92% of Lagosians do not have the most basic form of legal protection for various reasons including issues of proximity to law firms and the high cost of accessing legal services.
With the evolution of technology and the disruption of legal services delivery, clients can now access on-demand lawyers for their different projects and legal task. Through the Lawteract app, users get access to unique features that include : in-app chat, file sharing, services display, lawyers verification using the Supreme Court Number and NIN, This way, no one can take up a false identity of being a lawyer and it helps to eliminate quackery. Another interesting feature of the app is that clients are able to set a budget for their requested task, so lawyers can take up a client’s request if they are comfortable with the budget of the client.
The Lawteract app started out as a law blogging site in 2018, with articles on different areas of law. After his service year, Taiwo decided to upgrade the platform from just a blogging site to a place where users could search for lawyers, draft documents, and review documents. With a few challenges and good feedback, the platform evolved to a mobile app for ease of access and navigation. It is also good to note that right before the launch, the soon-to-be mobile application had about 300 clients on the waiting list. All that was left was the onboarding of lawyers to commence the process of demand meeting supply as it should be in a marketplace.
Before launching the platform, we did a beta user experience test, says Taiwo. About 50 lawyers and clients were invited to test out the platform and we got good feedback about the user interface and user experience of the app, the . The other feedback we got from the beta users was around the chat system, and we already had plans to look into that, at the time.
‘Although, we got regret mails from HiiL, that was because we were not fit for the acceleration program but for the incubation program, and not because our product concept was flawed. We see that as a win. For Google Startups for Africa, over 4000 startups applied, and we made the final 40, though not the final 15 and that’s a small win too. I am sure we will be applying at the next call for applications and we are going to break in. I am certain that we would not have been able to make the final stages of these applications if our product idea or business model was seen as flawed’, says Taiwo.
The long term game…
Lawteract is working towards building traction and once that is achieved, the company plans to launch in other countries in Africa, like Gambia, Cameroon, Ghana and South Africa. The company aims to create an African legal digital service marketplace, a centralization of African legal services. ‘I know, the amount of my personal funds that have gone into the development of Lawteract app. I could as well have invested that money in other ventures, but I am not doing this just to make profit but to set a trend, to change the narrative about the lucrativeness of legal technology’, says Taiwo.
“You don’t raise money to start, you raise money to grow”. “Do not sacrifice profit for growth”. “I understand failure but I just don’t want to be fluent in it”.
Those were some of the words from Fola Olatunji-David and Funkola Odeleye, the speakers at the just concluded pitch event of the Innovation Hub, West Africa that also doubled as the fourth edition of its quarterly event : Round Pegs in Square Holes – The Justice Startups Edition. The event had the speakers share their stories in a Pechakucha style for the first session of the event called : Their Stories, Their Journey.
The second half of the event, termed : Their Pitches, Their Dreams, had 6 justice startups pitch their innovative solutions to the audience. The startups had earlier gone through the accelerator’s selection process that included its call for applications, interviews and a 5-day bootcamp before being admitted into the accelerator.
The criteria for selection of the startups were :
Innovative justice initiatives that were making significant social impact
Ventures with a business model that enabled them to become financially sustainable
Ventures with a good business model and the ambition to scale locally and globally.
Ventures led by a motivated and strong team that included experienced and inspiring founder(s).
Meet The Justice Startups…
Avocat, co-founded by William Chidube is a mobile app that helps Nigerians get quick legal aid in emergencies. How do you legally protect yourself during a violation whether its unlawful arrest, wrongful ejection or domestic violence, except by getting a lawyer on the scene as quick as possible and this is where Avocat comes in. The app is currently operational in Plateau State and plans to expand to other states
House Africa. After losing 18,000 dollars to land fraud, Ikokpu Ndifreke and his cofounder, Uba Nnamdi, went ahead to build a platform that uses blockchain to solve the problem of verification for land title ownership in Africa. The startup helps financial institutions and individuals validate properties before investment or purchase thereby mitigating fraud and reducing risk.
Legalbox , co-founded by Damilola Yakubu is focused on providing simple legal solutions and collections for everyday transactions and business. Through Legalbox, digital natives are able to create contract, create invoices and collect payments on their contracts anywhere and anytime. Fun fact, we had an IG Live with Damilola earlier this year where he shared with us the interesting things that he and his team were doing at Legalbox.
Rendra Foundation was built with the aim of providing inclusive finance for low income and forcibly displaced women, giving them access to affordable, financial services, micro-credits and financial literacy education. Currently, Rendra Foundation has impacted 575 women, reached 5 communities, had 153 women-owned businesses access micro-credits and disbursed N3.3m in its Micro-credit scheme.
Think Help Restore (THR) Media uses new media and technology solutions to help survivors of gender based violence break free, find shelter and recover. Through its app, survivors get access to an ecosystem of psychosocial support, health. security, legal aid, economic empowerment with the services provided anonymously. Through their platform, 2500 women have accessed advocacy content.
Unsub Africa is a digital platform that connects victims of sexual and gender based violence to stakeholders working in the space. It also provides a system for activity and incidence tracking while housing a resource center. Some of its features are Incidence reporting and alert systems, Incidence management dashboard, Victim management & communication tool, Resource center for relevant documents & contents.
The winning startups will be announced at a later date. The startups will be admitted into the 4-month HiiL Justice Accelerator Programme as well as receive €10,000 in non-equity funding, among other benefits.
On the 9th of May, the NBA Section on Business Law, put out a call for applications for entrepreneurs building innovative solutions that generates both social and economic value for the digital society. The Innovating Hub Challenge was conceived as a way to contribute to the growth of the digital economy by providing seed funding and visibility to selected Nigerian innovators.
Of the 40 applications received that cut across various sectors including healthcare, insurance, education, fitness/wellness, transportation, financial services, and legal services, 10 startups were shortlisted for the second stage of the Innovation Hub Challenge, however 9 of them will be pitching to the panel on Day 2 of the conference . The 9 startups will showcase their solutions and be interviewed by a panel of judges who will be different from the assessors from the first stage.
Meet the startups :
XCrowme is a platform for cross border remittance for individuals and global payment gateway for businesses. At Xcrowme, people from different countries can exchange their local currency into bitcoins. It also provides a web wallet from where you can send and receive Bitcoin transactions. Xcrowme’s mission is to make the global economy accessible in all corners of the world through Bitcoin trading.
Aider is building a new way to handle emergencies and saving lives one click at a time. Aider is what you would call *Uber for ambulance*. Aider is an app that allows people to take charge of emergency situations and save lives by allowing them to order an ambulance, find out and get directions to hospitals nearby, talk to medical professionals, etc
Priplug is building a central repository of all privacy laws and regulations in the world. A one-stop shop for global privacy laws and regulations. As privacy laws and data regulations are evolving to be a big deal daily, Priplug aims to be the forerunner of this market by putting global laws in the palms of many people at an affordable price.
Business Brace is solving the numerous limitations that small and medium businesses face in accessing support services for non-core business operations. It offers business support in one place ; accounting, human resources, legal, marketing and it services. Through its marketplace, Business Brace seamlessly integrates its support services that is accessed in consolidated dashboards on both mobile and web platforms
Galilee Tech is building the future of legaltech. Easy Filing (still in development phase) is a software that enables a legal practitioner to complete the longer part of filing a court process from the comfort of his/her home without approaching the court except when the need arises, thereby reducing the timeline for filing of court processes and reduction of time in assignment of court cases.
Umscope is an online marketplace for the university community that provides accessibility with convenience to goods and services. Through Umscope, student entrepreneurs can showcase their goods and services on a centralized platform while being empowered as well.
7. Sealed App is an end to end solution that provides specialized affordable and automatic legal services to anyone from the palm of their hand while closing the unemployment gap and solving crucial legal problems.
8. Digi Health is a platform where anyone can easily verify information or outbreak on the health sector. Through the platform, one can access quality healthcare service at the comfort of the home without the need to visit the hospital.Communication with a certified medical physician is either by chat, video or audio call on the web based platform.
9. AnyWork : is a platform for connecting Nigeria’s verified skilled artisans (service providers) with ready and willing service consumers, using geolocation and optimization algorithms to pair service providers and consumers in a manner that generates reliability and cost efficiency.
The winning startup will be awarded $5000 seed capital plus one year free legal support. Startups that come second and third place, will be awarded $2500 and $1500 seed capital respectively and one year of free legal support.
Let me tell you a story. Kaycee had what she thought was the best idea for an app. This idea was going to disrupt the legal profession or so she thought. Let’s call this idea, Uber for Lawyers. The pathway to success was clear; Build the app, connect people and lawyers, make revenue, get funding and then exit in 5 years. (sure way to the soft life as stated in the book of life). Kaycee got her developer friend, Dotun onboard, promised him 40% equity, promised Chika, the designer 10% equity and viola, product development started. After 6 months of back and forth, the product was launched. 2 months after, no lawyer had been ‘ubered‘ on the app. She has been dorimed. Where did she go wrong?
Let’s rewind back a bit….
9 months before product launch, Kaycee was in attendance at a legaltech conference and during one of the sessions, lawyers talked about their challenges, a number of them complained about the difficulty in getting clients. Some of her tech friends also shared with her their difficulty in getting lawyers with certain kinds of transactional experience. Then, Kaycee thought to herself, I can build an app to get clients to Lawyers and vice versa. (talk about aspire to perspire to expire…)
But she forgot something….
Kaycee forgot to talk to the users (Now imagine if Henry Ford had built a faster horse instead of a car…. not so relevant here but you get the point still). She assumed that an app where lawyers could meet clients would solve the problem. 9 months later with a lot of design iterations and time wasting development; the problem was still not solved or maybe it was solved the wrong way or at the wrong time.
Who knows? Well, Kaycee could have known if only she decided to speak to her users and not go ahead to build the product based on her invalidated assumptions.
Dear LegalTech Founder, Here is why you should speak to your users;
Firstly, Your users are the ones with the problem. I know you have heard a couple of founders say that they built a product to solve a problem that they had personally experienced, that is good. However, you should know that they spoke to a lot of more that had the same problem to get a better perspective on how to solve it. Unless you want to build a product that only you will sell, buy and use, you need to understand how your customers actually perceive the problem. You need to know if its a pain point to them or just a by-the-way feeling of inconvenience.
Secondly, It gives you an idea of how your users think they want the problem to be solved. of course, this is not entirely a way of saying you cannot be innovative in building a solution, however, their responses to the solution they think they want will help give your proposed solution a better shape. So, that your users are not asking for A and you are building Z.
Thirdly, More often than not, users don’t just buy the what, they buy the WHY. Talking to your users will help you identify the exact problem you are trying to solve. You will also begin to understand how you can market your product, the value it brings to your users, the benefits of the solution. Like i said, its not the what, is the why.
Fourthly, You want to know if your users are actually doing anything to solve that problem. I know you think your idea is the next best thing to agege bread, but nah, someone else has built the factory. Knowing how your users are solving the problem gives you a perspective on your prospective competitors and how they are solving the problem, just so you don’t reinvent the wheel or maybe you do but in a more innovative way.
Finally, Talk to your users because they are the ones with the problem and will be the one to pay for it when you launch (except if its a pro-bono product and even at that, you still need a means of sustainability). Talking with users and getting their feedback on anything from your random ideas to solving an actual problem before building products will help you build better products / the right product.
When you hear Digilaw, you think about one of the foremost legaltech platforms that became popular for its online learning model. They took digital learning to a new level. Digilaw started actively around early 2019 as an online class for lawyers, majorly through Whatsapp groups. Lawyers and non-lawyers specialized in areas of technology law and emerging technologies were brought onboard to teach other lawyers who were interested in certain areas. Before classes were organised, the founders carried out a survey to find out what the students wanted to learn at the time and found it surprising that more often than not, the students indicated interests in non-legal and tech-focused like software coding, blockchain, cryptocurrency. That’s where the journey began.
Before the pandemic, classes moved from Whatsapp groups to zoom, and to other platforms that could host the content after the live classes for those who could not participate in the live classes. Towards the end of 2019, the startup encountered issues and could not keep up with the demand for classes at that point, hence, a decline in the delivery of classes. They went into hibernation in operations, but maintained activity on their social media accounts.
Then the pandemic hit…
I was already in law school when the pandemic hit and we had to go home, and online classes began. Even the law school had to adapt to online classes, though that came with its challenges, especially that of data consumption. Like one class could consume about 200 to 250mb and that was for Monday to Friday, says Akin, one of the co-founders of Digilaw.
A tweet changed the narrative…
Scrolling through the streets of Twitter, Akin saw a tweet from a friend stating that she wished there was a podcast where they could discuss things related to what was being taught in law school and boom that’s when the idea hit, that Digilaw could actually do that. ”I reached out to my partner and she got on board with implementing the idea. We contacted other colleagues who got onboard and two weeks later, we launched”, Akin Agunbiade, one of the founders said.
Getting good reviews on the podcast gave the team the right validation that they were actually onto something and solving a problem, especially for law school students. Listening to the podcast was more convenient and less data consuming (the perfect starter pack for a student). It got a lot more interesting as they also brought in practicing lawyers to talk to topics around Criminal Litigation and Corporate Law Practice on the podcast.
Nine months later, with 50 episodes, 4700 downloads and a sponsor, Digilaw seems to have hacked a different and cheaper way of accessing legal content especially for law students and lawyers alike; legal content simplified on podcasts.
With the level of reception that the content got, Akin decided to start doing a lot more research into podcasting as a business and how it could be used to further the dissemination of legal information as well as creating a platform for aggregating other podcasts. With this model, all that a podcast producer needs to do is create their content while Digilaw handles every other thing, including the design, promotion and hosting of the podcast.
The co-founder journey…
Akin and his co-founder, Keyukemi Ubi were classmates and only started talking to each other after school, in 2019. Keyu was open to the idea from the very beginning and that’s how she got onboard, and since then she has been very valuable to the team. Akin says there is no way he could have learned podcasting without Keyu. In addition to handling the Operations in Digilaw, Keyu is enrolled in the Nigerian University of Technology Management while Akin is focused on the technical side of the podcast and works with Tech Hive Advisory.
Future plans for Digilaw and podcasting…
”The plan is to really explore the business of podcasting. Digilaw has not pivoted from online learning but we are now delivering it differently and making it a lot more open to everyone. . We are taking the knowledge of Nigerian laws across the Atlantic to people who are interested in knowing about our laws. Let’s call it legal knowledge without borders. We intend to work on exploring partnerships and creating platforms that will help Nigerian podcast producers produce, host and monetize their podcast with no hassles”, says Akin.