As we’re touching down in Uganda for the first-ever Future Lawyer Week Africa this week, we wanted to take a closer look at the legal tech industry across the continent!
Future Lawyer Week is a global series that focuses on the innovations and advancements in legal tech – and the Africa branch is no different, hosting industry leaders and key figures with the amazing Innovation Village.
In recent years, technology has catalysed a massive change in the African legal system, especially post-pandemic – but as new systems turn over the old, there’s a chance to analyse the landscape as a whole. You can read our in-depth look at the legal tech “boom” in Africa in the recent blog.
We’ve partnered with the ALT (African Law & Tech) Network, to find the latest and greatest trends in African legal technology – and they’re on top of it! The Network was established in 2017 after the founders visited HiiL’s Innovating Justice Forum. The two organisations have a partnership that aims to champion projects relating to access to law and justice; the Network boasts a large, searchable database of lawyers, firms, tech businesses, and everything in-between – all at your fingertips – and HiiL is the hub for access to justice.
Now let’s get into the juicy stuff: what’s trending!
1. When Legal Tech Aligns Itself With Businesses
The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL) has supported over 150 justice startups globally in the past decade. Some of these endeavours created solutions aimed at preventing and resolving justice problems for workplaces and small businesses, empowering people to take action themselves. One of the startups HiiL onboarded to its ‘Justice Accelerator’ programme in 2022 was SILQU, a next-level rental management software. SILQU aims to not only help landlords, but property management companies have complete control and access over their assets at a click of a button.
Another rising trend in African legal tech, however, is the partnership of the legal department to a business. This means the responsibility to advise the company on strategy and risks falls entirely on the legal department – but with the help of technology, these teams can familiarise themselves with business objectives and design the best course of action. Legal Tech Kenya, another member of HiiL’s ‘Justice Accelerator’ programme, provides consulting and technical assistance for anyone needing a bit of modernisation – including in-house legal teams. From web development to document automation to legal practice optimisation, Legal Tech Kenya works with legal teams to build solutions around specific legal needs.
2. Automation Isn’t Letting Lawyers Off The Hook
As technology alters the way of work, lawyers aren’t necessarily freed from small processes. The Legal 500 stated on the topic, ‘with every new solution comes a swathe of new puzzles, problems, and issues for GCs’. As with each aspect of practising law, careful tracking, continuous review, and delicate updating should be applied to every process.
Legal Interact is at the forefront of the digital revolution in Africa. Their Contract Manager stores your contracts in a secure, cloud-based bank, allowing your team to manage and track each obligation and benefit and increase efficiency. Matter Manager is a state-of-the-art legal automation platform designed to keep track of legal requests, legal matters, and referrals for in-house legal counsel. Both tools aim to make the best use of technology in legal practice – increase efficiency, make information more accessible, and combine multiple facets into an easy-to-use interface.
Automation (like both the Contract and Matter Managers) is a highly-anticipated advancement in legal tech – but even the pros at Legal Interact warn against the potential downsides of moving towards a digital world. Initial costs, the extra security needed to protect electronic data, technological dependence, loss of personal touch, even an in-team resistance to change can block the path to perfect digitisation. Even if certain processes are made easier, accessible, and faster, lawyers still need to use their skills to ensure every step of the way is secure and correct.
3. Can Smaller Legal Firms Outpace Larger Competitors in Technology?
As with many industries across the world, African legal technology experienced a massive boom after the pandemic; as people rushed to find new ways to work in a forced-digital world, old traditions began to fall away. While large firms may boast an established IT infrastructure (along with other traditional procedures and expectations), this leaves little wiggle room for change. ‘Among legal technology trends in Europe, smaller, specialist law firms are taking on entrepreneurial projects that are challenging larger firms to keep up’; could this be the same in Africa?
Smaller firms in Africa, while often viewed as turbulent and unreliable, actually present a great opportunity to utilise the newest innovations. Because their systems are not as firmly-rooted in the way of the company, they can easily implement new ways of working. As seen in Europe, smaller firms are in a unique position to challenge traditional practices and find the most efficient innovations that can not just change law practice, but revolutionise it.
4. Legal Tech and Wellness in Business
Reference e-guide: https://legalinteract.com/reflections-best-practices-for-being-remote-2/
As we move towards a digitally-driven age in the law sector, are we also moving towards a better future for ourselves? Specifically, as technology evolves, how can we evolve with it?
One of the biggest changes in recent years has been the adoption of remote working. Legal Interact published an e-guide on how lawyers can work remotely, whether it’s running an entirely-digital practice or sometimes tuning into work from home. While this change may seem like a radical move, many different studies (like this one from the University of Chicago) have shown that a flexible work schedule can not only reduce absenteeism and turnover rates, but positively contribute to general wellbeing.
Legal technology may not seem like the first step in improving employees’ wellbeing, but it is built around streamlining processes through accessible platforms. So as automation and digitisation take over (and trend), the job becomes easier to reach remotely, enabling flexible hours, reduced commute times, and a new way to work.
5. The New Generation is Here – And Staying
Even after the modernisation and digital-overhaul of the African legal sector during the pandemic, the new, younger generation of African lawyers are empowering this change further and further every day. The 2020 Global Legal Tech Report for Africa showed the continent has most of the youngest legal tech company founders compared to Australia, New Zealand, and countries in Asia – with a whopping 53% of all founders being under the age of 30. “Not limited by legacy practices, this new generation of lawyers in Africa are re-imagining the legal profession through Legal Tech,” Eric Chin, Alpha Creates Researcher, said in the report.
Legal tech in Africa is taking off – and the new generation is ensuring that it keeps evolving. Between digitalising legal services, making justice accessible to individuals, and SMEs are projected to have the most transformative impact on African societies. Many firms are looking to not just expand their operations into local markets, but internationally; digitalisation may help them achieve just that.
African legal technology is a unique and prime example of how fast industries can change completely when put under pressure. The current trends predict a continued rise in digitisation, automation, and a generation of modern ideas – and provide a fantastic insight into the amazing innovations that are propelling the sector into a bright future.
Future Lawyer Week Africa focuses on these innovations – however small or imaginative – and connects the minds behind them. From major players in big firms to entrepreneurs, everyone with a stake in the legal sector is welcome at the conference. With thought-provoking panel discussions, dedicated networking breaks, and intimate roundtables, this conference aims to facilitate and spark change in the industry.
Get involved in the future of legal technology in Africa – join us at the first-ever Future Lawyer Week Africa! We still have a few tickets available; use the exclusive code ‘ALTNetwork‘ for 20% off! Secure your place now!
Our amazing media partner, ALT Network, are not only supporting the event, but collaborated with us to find, target, and write about the latest trends in this blog. Be sure to check everything they’re doing!