QUESTION 1: HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE LEGAL TECHNOLOGY? DO YOU THINK IT’S DIFFERENT FROM LEGAL INNOVATION OR NOT?
ANSWER: In simple terms, legal tech is the application of technology to the practice of law or the legal profession generally. It is the deployment of technology tools to improve the inefficiencies in the practice of law and it cuts across different levels, with impacts on legal education, law office, case, and transaction management.
Given the influence of technology in the 21st century, hardly can we say there is innovation in the legal profession without the use of (legal) technology and the reason is not far-fetched, most of the inadequacies within the legal profession as we have it today cannot be solved solely by methods that do not leverage technology tools. For instance, the Court of Appeal (in Lagos) now sends notices of court proceedings to law firms through emails, that requires investment in some technology infrastructure. Therefore, for there to be innovation in the legal profession, technology has a huge role to play.
QUESTION 2: WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE CURRENT STATE OF LEGAL TECH IN NIGERIA?
ANSWER: Technology knows no territorial boundaries and does not discriminate as long as the infrastructure and the competencies are in place. Therefore, like many other professional services and industry sectors, it has been significantly deployed in various spheres of the legal profession in Nigeria. For instance, in the training of lawyers (legal education), application for law school is done online, some law faculties have virtual classrooms, and also have subscriptions for research and online databases; similarly, technology is being utilized by law firms in the country to gain competitive advantage, (6 – 7 years ago, this was not the case, etc).
See articles I published with Dayo Dauda, a colleague on the impact of technology on the legal profession for more insights:
- How is Technology redefining Legal Profession and Law Office Management?
- How is Technology redefining the Legal Profession and Law Office Management? – Part 2
While the application of tech in the legal profession in Nigeria is not at the same level in other countries, I believe the limitation is beyond the legal profession as there are still some infrastructural gaps in the country that are hindering the growth and adoption of tech generally.
QUESTION 3: LET’S BRANCH A BIT TO STARTUPS AND LAWYERS, WHEN AND WHY DO YOU THINK A STARTUP NEEDS THE SERVICES OF A LAWYER?
ANSWER: I often say that having the ability to develop a technology product does not automatically qualify you as a brilliant business manager. Thus, it is important that startup founders identify their strengths and weaknesses and realise that on their entrepreneurial journey, there are certain activities that should not be sacrificed on the altar of ‘paucity of funds’ (which is usually understandable given that founders usually bootstrap at the early days).
Lawyers contribute to the success of startups at different levels of the growth cycle and significantly, the impact of a lawyer can protect a startup or help a startup avoid or mitigate certain risks and exposures that can kill the business even before it takes off. Relatedly, lawyers can also assist startups in raising the right funds and reaching scale. Essentially, startups need lawyers; from the establishment of the business, to the commencement of the business operations, albeit, the mechanics and financials for engaging a lawyer can be negotiated and structured in a way that is pocket-friendly to the startup. (For more details on the role of a lawyer in a startup, see this article Dayo Dauda and I published on Why Start-ups need to hire a lawyer or fail
QUESTION 4: LET’S TAKE FOR AN INSTANCE THAT I AM FOUNDING A STARTUP, WHAT KIND OF QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK THE LAWYER(S) I CONSIDER HIRING?
ANSWER: Essentially, as a startup, you should consider hiring a lawyer that; (i) understands your business model, the risks associated with it and the regulatory framework for the operation of the business; (ii) is willing to grow with your business and be part of your success story (this will largely influence the billing mechanism/financials; a startup or technology lawyer has a different mindset from an average lawyer that treats every business as a ‘money-making machine’ from the onset); and (iii) as an add-on, has a pool/network of stakeholders that can contribute to the growth of your startup e.g. investors, VCs, potential members of the Board and Advisors, regulators, etc. Thus, your conversation with the lawyer should feature some of these points.
QUESTION 5: FINALLY, A LOT OF LAWYERS TALK ABOUT INNOVATION.YET, NOT ALL ACTUALLY INNOVATE. HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE A LAWYER WHO DESIRES TO INNOVATE
ANSWER: Innovation is not a vague concept, it is the development of a new method, product or tool. Becoming innovative in the 21st century legal market place requires an inside-out approach i.e. a sequential strategy that flows from the internal business processes to developing better delivery modes of legal services. A lawyer must strive to innovate across all facets of the legal practice (development of competencies, legal service offerings and capabilities; branding; and client experience).
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