LAWYERS SHOULD LEARN TO CODE, BUT NOT FOR THE REASON YOU THINK

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Before now, coding was a skill used almost solely by programmers and persons with a degree in computer science. But given the intersection of law and technology, this is no longer the case. The rapid growth of technology has introduced a new range of legal issues and problems which demands lawyers to acquire relevant skills and competencies. The dual set of law and technology skills are becoming increasingly valuable in a digital-driven environment. Embracing innovation is a critical skill to remaining relevant in one’s field of knowledge. It is important to note that when lawyers decide to learn to code, it does not mean that they should become full-blown programmers, but they should at least be coding literates and have an understanding of how it works. Now the question begs, of whether it is necessary for lawyers to learn to code.

Given the buzz of LegalTech, lawyers with coding skills would have a competitive edge over their counterparts. They are better equipped to serve as project managers for legal software and provide tailored advisory to digital businesses. As Law firms are
becoming more client-centric, understanding their ‘digital clients’ is vital.

Lawyers are researchers. They research past cases, laws, statutes, exemptions etc. The best lawyers are those who know how to make proper research, they dig around and find answers to back up their claim. As a lawyer with the ability to code, you become better at research as coding is basically knowing what to ask, how to ask it and where to find the answers

But even as lawyers with no interest in learning to code it is believed that the more lawyers can engage with technology, the better for them and the better for their clients. This means, whether you can code or not, there are definitely advantages to being able to engage with technology and to speak on a somewhat technical plane. As future focused lawyers, an understanding of terms such as Blockchain, AI, Cybersecurity, Internet of Things etc, would drastically increase your value to potential clients/employers. Also, tech-savvy lawyers are in great demand. You’d be hard-pressed to find a company today which doesn’t have technology at its core. Finally, tech savvy lawyers provide value by connecting both lawyers and developers. They can speak law to lawyers and speak tech to developers, which enables them identify and solve a need.

An understanding of these technologies and its concepts can help lawyers understand why certain policies and procedures exist e.g, cloud policies, data privacy and sharing, AI ethics etc. Coding can be beneficial to lawyers in multiple ways.

Lawyers must continue to develop themselves, and ideally immerse themselves in acquiring requisite skills if they want to remain relevant in their field.

The Role of the Chief Innovation Officer in a Law Firm

The legal industry is evolving from a system that dwelt heavily on traditionalism and conservative ways to one that is being propelled by technological advancement and innovation.  Innovation in law firms takes many forms, both internally and externally. A good number of lawyers are tired of hearing the phrase : Innovate or die and yet clients keep calling for innovative ways to solve their problems. A 21st century client in taking up legal services, requests for pitch proposals (RFPs), in trying to identify which law firms demonstrate how they have innovated, are innovative and will innovate. To foster an innovation-centric culture in a law firm that fuels valuable change, there is a need to create a role that is responsible for managing the process to improve client service, and to provide a better client service experience, and that is the role of the Chief Innovation Officer.

A Chief Innovation Officer is best described as an individual who is responsible for managing and driving the innovation process in an organisation. He is the designated person in an organisation that identifies strategies, business opportunities and new technologies and develops business models and structures to serve those opportunities.  Innovation is a mindset that behoves on everyone in an organisation to think critically of new and efficient ways of getting things done and solving problems. A chief innovation officer does not take on the whole ‘job’ of innovating, but he is responsible for streamlining and managing innovation processes and efforts in an organisation. Typically, this role is held by a person with a broad technical expertise in the industry.

The roles of a chief innovation officer in a law firm include, but are not limited to: 

  1.  Addressing Client Expectations – Improve Client Experience -Bring/drive value for clients
  2. Developing and overseeing transformative initiatives and strategy that helps organisations respond to evolving changes 
  3. Design & Develop Client 1st initiatives -new solutions – to client issues/challenges
  4. Ensuring that innovative strategies are tailored to reflect and align with the firm’s organisational culture 
  5. Identifying innovation trends and business opportunities for the firm
  6. Driving New Market Share, Aiding in new business pitches, responses to RFPs, and panel reviews
  7. Using innovation to provide client-centric result and value  resulting in a long-term relationship 
  8. Not responsible for developing ideas themselves; but establish a process that enables other people to contribute. 

Lawyers will always find ways to help their clients and to be able to keep up with modern trends, enhance service delivery in line with technological disruptions and thrive efficiently, law firms need a chief innovation officer. There is always going to be a need for great legal service, which will only become more prominent and important.Having a Chief innovation officer is not the gateway to immediate change management. As much as the designated individual would drive design thinking, manage and coordinate innovation strategies in a firm, the change process could take a bit longer than is expected with a lot of iterated processes, however, the end in this case, justifies the means.

The Workchop Conversation with Neema Magarimba, co-founder of Sheria Kiganjani, Tanzania

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 Neema Magimba, the Managing Partner of Extent Corporate Advisory law firm, and co-founder of Sheria Kiganjani, a platform that provides readily accessible and affordable legal services share with us the best piece of advise she has received and the impactful things she is doing at Sheria Kiganjani.

Tell us about yourself and what you do at Sheria Kiganjani.

My name is Neema Magimba, I am an Advocate admitted to practice law in  Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar. I currently manage a corporate and intellectual  property law firm and I am also a co-founder and head of legal for Sheria  Kiganjani.  

Sheria Kiganjani (a Swahili word that translates to Law on Your Palm) is a  platform that provides easily accessible and affordable legal services through  mobile phones. The platform is available through smart phones, featured phones  and as a web platform (a website). Through Sheria Kiganjani, we provide  services such as 24/7 access to lawyers through calls and texts, templates of  different legal documents such as draft contracts or agreements, we link our  users to lawyers closest to them to save their money and time and we also  provide legal education in the most simplest and easily understandable way. The  whole platform is in Swahili language which is spoken by 80% of Tanzanians. We  have over 30k users and have resolved over 600 cases since the launch of the  platform is 2018.  

What’s the most impactful thing you believe you do at Sheria Kiganjani?  

Being able to bridge the justice gap in Tanzania. As of 2017, over 2Million  Tanzanians could not access justice due to financial and geographical  constraints. Being able to provide easily accessible and affordable legal services  to over 30,000 Tanzanians, enabling them to solve their cases or prevent legal  mishaps from happening is what we consider the most impactful thing we do at  sheria Kiganjani.  

How do you keep track of what you have to do?  

Personally, I am very conscious with how I use my time, I keep a to-do list to  keep track of everything I have to do for the day and how I distribute my time to  do it all. My google calendar keeps my time table on track as well, with reminders  to help me remember everything I have to do. As a team at Sheria Kiganjani, we  have a common team calendar that has tasks designated to every team member, 

We also have weekly meets ups at the beginning and end of the week which  helps align and be on track with what we have to do as a team.  

 What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? 

You become what you do with your time.  

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

I’m big on self-love, when I’m not working I enjoy visits to the spa, solo dates and reading (fiction), I also enjoy spending time with my friends doing the things we love the most.  

What are you currently reading, watching or listening to?  

Currently reading “Purple hibiscus” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, watching  Tribes of Europa (a show on Netflix) and I’m always listening to something on  Spotify depending on my mood haha.  

Protecting your Website from Unintended Liability

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Websites, among other reasons are created to inform new and existing clients about the products and services that a company offers as well as create an online presence for a company or organisation. Just like startups, websites are also subject to country-specific laws & regulations. Not adhering to these stipulations could result in legal battles and liabilities. 

Protecting a website from liability could happen pre-launch and post-launch of the website. On the pre-launch, it is imperative that you put certain measures in place such as confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements to protect any idea or business secrets that you may have. 

Typically, websites should have privacy policies detailing how users’ data is going to be collected and processed, as well as the security and/or data protection measures applied by the owner of the website. There should be a conspicuous and intelligible privacy notice on a website in compliance with the provisions of the data protection laws of a country (in Nigeria, it will be the NDPR). The privacy policy should be distinct from a cookies policy, non-contractual in nature, and easy to access and locate.

To protect your website from liability, there should be a disclaimer on the website; as where a person reasonably takes action(s) based on the information provided on a website, the website owner could be held liable. Disclaimers typically relates to refusal to accept responsibility and limit the legal liability of an individual, company or organisation. Disclaimers should be drafted properly to avoid an overkill that would end up destroying the legal liability they were designed to prevent.

The contents on a website are considered to be the intellectual property of the website owner. It is usual that a site owner would put up content on a website, and liability could arise where users of the site infringe on the rights of the owners by copying or distributing the copyrighted work. Users do not have the license to use copyrighted work for their own purposes unless they have the consent of the copyright owner or pay royalties. The owner of the site could also use a software that stops visitors to the page from copying and distributing copyrighted work. Where you purchase an already-established website, you should get an IP assignment agreement with the transfer of ownership of the website. In addition to having a privacy policy on your website, an intellectual property notice should suffice as well.

Another way to protect one’s website from liability is by having a terms of service. A terms of service should be an essential part of a website as it spells out what users must do and not do while using the website. After determining the scope of business for the site, a term of service serves as a form of contract between the owner of the site and the users of the site. Where users defy the terms for use of the website, there should be penalties/remedies reserved for such violations, including and leading to the loss of such user’s account. To have users accept these conditions, a clickwrap should be inserted into the design of the website. This allows the site owner to obtain undoubted acceptance from users when they actively click on something that signifies their acceptance.  

On the post-launch of the website, you should ensure that the privacy policies, cookies policy and terms of use are regularly updated in compliance with the data protection laws regulating the country that you offer your products and services.

Having a website is a great way to reach a large amount of users, and to avoid liability or legal battles, site owners should ensure that they take the aforementioned protections into consideration.

The Workchop Conversation with Sunday Fadipe

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 Sunday Fadipe, Lawyer, Writer & Public speaker share with us what his typical day is like as an in-house lawyer in a fintech company and his favorite hack for staying productive.

Okay, tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a lawyer. I work in a financial technology company. Apart from lawyering, I write on diverse subjects and I like to read non-law books. (whispering) My pen is now dusty though. Surprisingly, I never thought I could work in-house. I thought I was too restless to do in-house and it would be boring.

Well, it is far from boring and financial technology has been a long term interest for me. And I don’t think I was born for that litigation stress. Have you ever had to file a process in Federal High Court in Lagos? Lool. I work with amazing people. That makes it really enjoyable. I also get involved in a lot of high-level transactions and conversations. That cannot be boring

What’s a typical day at work like for you?

On days that I am working remotely, wake up like 9am (please don’t tell my boss). I most times work really late into the night and I am generally not an early sleeper. I wake up to work most times as well. Wake up, say my prayers, take  a few steps to my workspace and fire down. I may not even eat until 1pm, 2pm or later. I have a bad eating habit. I take a few breaks in between, maybe some meetings in between as well and a lot of work calls.

For days that I have to work from the office, I wake up by 6am or 7am. and leave for work by 8am. Work resumes 9am. I work on transaction documents depending on my tasks sheet. Send several emails. Join or host meetings where necessary. Take break to have lunch, throw bants with some of my colleagues, and probably make calls too.

What is that one app that you think should be developed that will make your work easier but you’re surprised it isn’t in existence yet?

I think I have shared this with you before. I was thinking about an idea to make review of documents easier and voila! I found the feature on MS Word. But I’m still trying to refine the idea and maybe we’ll build it as an internal product in my company.

What apps, gadgets or tools can’t you do without?

Currently, my phone, WhatsApp, Cliq, Zoho, Twitter, Google Doc, Adobe Fill & Sign, and my dictionary app.

What is your favorite hack for staying productive?

Taking a lot of short breaks in between my work. 

What are you currently reading, watching or listening to?

I am currently reading ‘Alibaba: The House that Jack Ma Built’ by Duncan Clark and ‘How Successful People Lead’ by John Maxwell. I just finished ‘Stillness is the Key’ by Ryan Holiday. That’s one of my best reads so far. I am not currently listening to or watching anything long term.

Who would you like to answer these questions?

Enyioma Madubuike, my oga