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 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

The HiiL Justice Innovation Challenge 2021

The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law is a non-profit organization committed to making justice more available, understandable, and effective. Hiil’s vision is that by 2030, 150 million people will be able to avoid or address their most urgent justice issues, due to increased creativity and scaling what works best.

HiiL’s annual global Justice accelerator innovates and scales innovative services that can prevent or address justice challenges for all to help fill the Justice Gap and strengthen the justice system.

The HiiL Justice Accelerator, each year funds, trains, and coaches a global cohort of justice startups. In Africa, applications are welcome from East Africa, South Africa and West Africa. The Accelerator program is a four-month program that provides justice entrepreneurs with non-equity seed funding of €10,000, full preparation, coaching sessions, mentorship, and a chance to earn up to €20.000 at the Innovating Justice Forum’s pitch event, global exposure, and many more benefits.

How to register for this year’s challenge:
Between March 15 and April 30, 2021, justice entrepreneurs can apply for the Innovating Justice Challenge 2021. Startups that are admitted into the program receive €10,000 in non-equity seed capital, as well as the opportunity to pitch to an international jury and bid for additional cash prizes at the annual Innovating Justice Forum: €20,000 (1st place), €10,000 (2nd place), and €5,000 (3rd place).

Some of the startups from Africa Hiil has supported:
TransGov (Ghana), Stand to End Rape (Nigeria), MamaMoni (Nigeria), African Legal Factory (Morocco), Legal4ASM (Zimbabwe), Lenoma Legal (South Africa), Luma Law (South Africa), Kaoun (Tunisia), Peleza (Kenya) and so many more.

Peer-to-Peer Crypto trading systems: Is this the new norm in line with the Government’s ban and its legality?

On 5 February 2021, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) issued a letter/reminder to all CBN regulated entities; deposit money banks (DBMs), non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs), and other financial institutions (OFIs) to the effect that dealings in cryptocurrencies or facilitating payments for cryptocurrency exchanges is prohibited. The letter further directed that all DBMs, NBFIs, and OFIs are to identify persons or entities transacting in or operating cryptocurrency exchanges within their systems and ensure that such accounts were closed immediately. In response, commercial banks severed ties with cryptocurrency companies. The memo threatened several regulatory actions on financial institutions that refused to co-operate, and in response to this directive, companies that dealt in cryptocurrencies also stopped accepting deposits in naira.

Despite this directive issued by the apex financial institution in Nigeria, some persons are still desirous of the continued use of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin exchange platforms, which has been one of the popular ways to trade in cryptocurrencies acts as a middleman to match sellers and buyers of bitcoin. It makes use of order books which are electronic lists that brings the users offers of sale or purchase. The buyer or seller has no idea who the other party is, and as a result, such platforms offer users a certain level of anonymity. A user’s bank account is often the trading account for easier and streamlined trades. 

The new process then begs the question; Would peer-to-peer trading systems flourish as users seek to bypass the ban and continue the trade in crypto?

In the alternative, cryptocurrency users can make use of peer-to-peer crypto trading channels. Here, traders get to buy and sell cryptocurrency directly from each other, without the need for intermediaries. It offers security, ultimate payment flexibility, de-centralisation, and censorship resistance.

Where there is a will, there is a way

The Peer-to-Peer trading process has been around for long as long as can be remembered,, and has been a way of financing that enables individuals to borrow and lend money without the use of an official financial institution as an intermediary. Although the letter/memo circulated by the CBN does not criminalize the ownership of cryptocurrencies, it has however made ownership and facilitation of the same almost impossible.

The very essence of cryptocurrency is its decentralised feature, where users can trade among themselves through peer-to-peer channels. What the recent memo of the CBN has done is to regulate and/or prohibit dealings and facilitation of payment in cryptocurrencies. It doesn’t say anything about Peer-to-Peer Crypto trading channels for now, and it is safe to assume that Nigerians will continue to trade in cryptocurrencies through the medium of Peer-to-Peer channel/platform.

Cyber security Toolkit for Lawyers.

Cyber security Toolkit for Lawyers.

Law firms can be said to be among the juiciest of honeypots for hackers, given the confidential and privileged information and datasets lawyers come in contact with. Clients turn over their most valuable information to their lawyers under the auspices of attorney-client privilege. It is necessary that practitioners educate themselves in cyber security due to the reliance and use of technology in the legal sector. Lawyers now need to understand how cyber-attacks occur and how to protect themselves against them. Failure to take appropriate steps in this regard exposes a lawyer to the risk of breaching professional obligations. In legal practice, the duty of client confidentiality is paramount and must be considered in all activities. Simply put, client confidentiality should be the overreaching consideration that informs any workplace or lawyer’s a decisions/activities.

A successful cyber-attack may have severe consequences for lawyers and law firms alike:

  • Theft of corporate, and financial information
  • Destroying and rendering client data useless by irreversible encryption
  • Ruined reputation of the law firm/lawyer concerned, among other things 

Cyber security toolkits consist of effective tools that organizations, of any size, can use to take action to reduce cyber risks. The NDPR (Nigerian Data Protection Regulation) requires organizations to implement appropriate measures to protect personal data. Otherwise, there’s a risk of substantial fines. 

An essential cyber security toolkit would include, but not limited to the following:

  1. Use strong usernames and passwords
  • Make sure that all users have individual accounts
  • Enforce strong passwords, minimum of 15 characters with a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols
  • Have passwords changed on a regular basis
  1. Install Anti-virus and malware protection 
  • Purchase business grade anti-virus and email filtering. Don’t use free versions (some freemium services could be limiting)
  • Update the software regularly
  • Have it installed and monitored by a professional
  1. Limited access to systems and files
  • Only allow screened persons to view your data
  • Limit access to important files to employees on a need-to-know basis 
  • Monitor access to sensitive client information
  1. Regular back-up of data
  • Regularly back-up all data
  • Use both on-site and off-site back-up facilities
  • Ensure that you can easily access back-up data and restore it to your main system
  1. Encrypt data
  • Encrypt your data where possible. Encryption is another security layer that is extremely secure
  • Encrypt portal devices such as laptops and hard drives. Encrypted data is more difficult to hack
  1. Keep the system software up-to-date
  • Keep system software up-to-date. Older system software such as operating systems may have fundamental security flaws which are remedied through software patches(fixes)
  • Keep all your system software patched. Install updates on a regular basis and upgrade your software regularly to ensure that you are protected from vulnerabilities
  1. Protect all devices 
  • Be sure to protect all devices that access the practice’s system including laptops, mobile phones and tablets. Consider installing software allowing remote erasure of data in the event of theft or loss
  1. Training
  • Ensure all personnel are fully trained in cyber security measures. Many cyber-attack are successful because a staffer was not vigilant
  1. Insurance
  • Make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance to cover you against cyber-attacks 
  1. Audit your service providers 
  • The firm’s IT service provider and/or cloud service provider should also take the same precaution enunciated above

Still not convinced?

The aim of cyber security tool kits is to ensure that the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of client’s data are preserved. The increased use of technology in organizational processes has exposed people to cyber threats and attacks. With every improvement in technology, the threat of cyber-attacks increases. Having a tool kit will help create some level of cyber resilience for lawyers. It has become necessary for lawyers to be aware of the cyber risks they may face and develop a security plan to address those risks all together, as you can never be too careful with your client’s data.