For the first time, the potential for technology to revolutionise how legal services in Africa are delivered is being taken seriously across the sector.
Last week, Afriwise and the African Law & Tech Network kicked off discussions around the topic with a webinar which heard from some of the continent’s leading legal tech leaders. Warren Hero, Ignaz Fuesgen, Alice Namuli Blazevic and Nankunda Katangaza are all driving innovation through technology in the legal sector in Africa, whether it be through their respective law firms or as part of wider legal networks.
For those who were unconvinced about the impact COVID-19 might have on the legal sector in Africa before the webinar, our panelists will have persuaded even the most conventional lawyers that some form of technological revolution could now be imminent.
In a poll floated during the webinar participants were asked...
Do you think that coronavirus COVID-19 will lead to some form of transformation of the legal industry in your country in general? 94% responded "Yes".
Do you think alternative legal service delivery models will succeed in Africa? 62% responded "Yes" with 35% opting for "Maybe".
Some of the continent’s legal tech trailblazers see a real opportunity post-COVID to build momentum and speed up changes which were only gradually beginning to take effect. This includes the Head of Technology and Innovation at Uganda’s largest law firm, KATS – Alice Namuli Blazevic - who has been labelled by Chambers and Partners Global Guide to the World’s Leading Lawyers, 2020 as “one to watch” for her work in the IT sector. During last week’s webinar, Alice explained:
“When speaking about legal technology pre COVID it was only lawyers below 35 who were willing to listen and give you an ear, not just in Uganda but right across the continent. But now, because of the pandemic, everyone is engaged and trying to work out what they can do.”
It is clear that some form of technological transformation must now happen; it is no longer simply a “nice to have”. With the expectations of clients in particular changing, firms have one option - embrace technology or fail.
And this should come as no surprise. Legal technology can improve efficiency and streamline processes, offering enhanced value at lower costs. A point brought home by Webber Wentzel’s Warren Hero who shared his experience as CIO of one of the continent’s largest law firms; explaining that in some instances, through tech driven innovation, they had seen processes brought down from 7 months to just 3 weeks.
Working with the next generation of lawyers will be critical to any form of transformation and law schools in particular were flagged as a good place to start. Introducing legal technology into the law school curriculum and aligning syllabi with the needs of law firms will better equip young lawyers with the skills necessary to drive systemic change.
There is undoubtedly appetite and with some exciting work in this field already underway, the acceleration prompted by the current pandemic could transform Africa into a global high-tech legal powerhouse. Shifting from a continent dependant on what comes from outside in terms of legal technology to one introducing, expediting and exporting solutions.
You can listen to the full discussion here.
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