A sit down interview with the Legalpedia team which comprised of Barr. Oscar Albert – Chief Editor, Legalpedia; Barr. Adegoke Oshunniyi – Managing Partner, Keystone Attorneys & Consultants to Legalpedia; Mr. Emecheta Ofondu – Director, Legalpedia; Mrs. Mosun Imasuen, Head, Business Development, Legalpedia; and Mrs Rachelle Ebhodaghe – Head Developer, Legalpedia.
Good to have you all here.
Can you tell us a little bit about Legalpedia?
In a Nutshell, Legalpedia is a legal software. It’s the most comprehensive library of legal resources available in Nigeria containing resources such as the Supreme Court Cases, Court of Appeal Cases, the complete Laws of the Federation (with updates up to 2017), Rules of Court for the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Federal High Court, National Industrial Court and all the State High Courts, Federal High Court Cases, National Industrial Court Cases, Sharia Court of Appeal Cases, Investment and Securities Tribunal Cases, Tax Cases, Election Petition Cases, Foreign cases from the commonwealth – USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Law Encyclopedia, Forms & Precedents, Law Dictionary, Legal Maxims and many more.
The company started back in 2007 but we actually launched the flagship product, Legalpedia, in 2009 at the Nigerian Bar Association Conference that year.
Really, Legalpedia was born out of a vision to see that every single person in the legal sphere in Nigeria has and enjoys the experience of using technology to aid legal education, practice and adjudication.
You’ve been servicing the legal profession for a while now. The company started in 2007 and launched the Legalpedia product 2 years later. What has been the driving force behind Legalpedia?
Barr. Oshunniyi: Vision. The driving force behind Legalpedia has always been vision. We recognize the direction the Legal industry is going globally and we believe that Legalpedia can be the vehicle to partner with the legal profession, to take it to its rightful place in the 21st Century. So, vision has been the major driving force.
Barr. Albert: That’s right. Our vision has been to bring the entire value that technology gives to the profession, as is seen all over the world, to the legal profession in Nigeria.
We pioneered it by coming up with a comprehensive product way back in 2009 and we’ve continued to improve and give value all across the legal spectrum. We’ve worked with Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Kwara State Ministry of Justice, Adamawa State Ministry of Justice, National Judicial Institute, the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), Bayelsa State Judiciary, Rivers State Judiciary and many others to empower the Legal Profession. Now we have this partnership with the Nigerian Bar Association to yet empower members of the NBA.
It has been said over and over again that the legal profession and modern practice cannot be divorced from technology because technology empowers you to do more, achieve more, in a smarter and faster way.
Mr. Ofondu: In line with all they have said, we live in a world of automation; processes are being automated, we see artificial intelligence impacting every industry and profession.
We see that vision and we want to be involved in shaping and giving direction to the legal profession within the context of this new world we’re getting into, the world of automation and artificial intelligence, so that the Nigerian legal practice will not fall behind global practice.
Rumor has it that Legalpedia has been working on a major upgrade of their software for a few months now. How true is that?
Mrs. Ebhodaghe: Yes, It’s a major upgrade unlike anything we’ve ever put out before. We’ve worked tirelessly at this for months. The entire industry in Nigeria has never seen anything like it and it will be a game changer.
We’re keeping the old favorites that everyone loves and expects; like the cases from the different courts, Laws of the Federation, case summaries but we’re introducing an entirely new module that enhances collaboration within the legal community like never before.
We’re also repositioning the pricing and have different packages so that no matter what stage in the legal journey you are, you can access Legalpedia. It’s for the university student, Law School Student, Junior Lawyer, Senior Lawyer, SAN, Judge – It’s for everyone. That’s the goal and vision we started with in 2007 and that’s still our main goal.
We’re releasing the first version of this new product next week at the NBA and over the next few months, we’re going to be unlocking new, exciting and yes, fun features that the legal community will absolutely love.
It’s going to be a very interesting few months and we’re excited for the legal community to get their hands on this new upgrade.
The 57th Annual NBA Conference is coming up in Lagos in just a few days and Legalpedia is one of the key partners of the NBA for this event. How did that happen?
Barr. Oshunniyi: It has been previously said that it is the age of automation. Being an age, we all come to the realization of our level of participation in various stages. It is the dawn of a new era for the Legal profession and the NBA saw the need to take the profession to where it ought to be in this new age.
So, through the organ of the Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP), they realized that it would be easier for legal practitioners to jump into this fast moving vehicle through the supply of our product, Legalpedia, to the Lawyers at very affordable prices. Meaning, just the price of registration of Lawyers at the NBA will be the price they have to pay for a software whose street price is much more than what they paid to register for the NBA.
We were invited by the planning committee for a presentation which the technical team found very compelling and consequently chose us over and above all other providers to partner with the NBA to take the Legal profession to this next level.
Barr. Albert: In addition, we believe that the TCCP has been mindful to give immense value to the Lawyers at this years’ conference and consequently, they saw the value we were bringing to the table with our software, Legalpedia, which includes over 20 different resources. When the Technical Committee saw the immense value we were bringing to the table and the fact that we were giving free 1-year access to the Lawyers on 10,000 tablets, they fell for our offer. That is how we came about becoming the preferred provider.
We equally share a similar vision with the TCCP because we believe that legal practice is turning a corner and at this point in history, manual practice is no longer the norm anywhere in the world and shouldn’t be in Nigeria. The TCCP, we believe, plans to empower a critical mass of Lawyers – about 10,000 – via the avenue of this conference and we saw the opportunity to create this huge change in the profession. We decided to make the sacrifice of donating our product worth well over 500 million Naira to make this happen for the profession.
There has been some speculation as to why Legalpedia was chosen. Some have even gone as far to imply that you have sacrificed the quality of your product just to make a quick buck or score cheap points. You must agree that from a business standpoint, it does sound crazy and people are wondering how and why Legalpedia is really doing this. What do you have to say about that?
Barr. Oshunniyi: I believe it’s important to regularly recall that it was the NBA’s idea to steer the profession in the direction of Technology.
To achieve that resolve, the NBA via the TCCP sought a pro bono partnership among all the Technology service providers. It is on record that one of the main software providers was given the first option of refusal. They declined, claiming that their financial projections precluded them from rendering this noble service.
On our own part in Legalpedia, though we are well aware of the huge cost of this project, both in time and resources, yet we consider it an honour to not only heed the Technology clarion call of the NBA, but also to serve this noble profession in that capacity.
It is therefore most uncharitable for this same provider, who esteemed their cost projections above service, to turn around to denigrate us for accepting to serve Nigerian Lawyers. Not only does their position deride and belittle the NBA’s quest for this service, it also insults this novel initiative of the NBA and its TCCP.
It is pertinent to mention here that our Law Firm, KEYSTONE ATTORNEYS, the Consultant Law Firm to LEGALPEDIA was publicly recognized by Governor Babatunde Fashola in 2014 for rendering pro bono services to the Lagos State Government. The award plaque graces the wall of our office to date. So we didn’t start today. We understand the essence of giving out free valuable service.
Mr. Ofondu: Truth be told, those other providers who were given the opportunity but did not make the kind of sacrifice that we are making are those that are after a quick buck. We are sacrificing half a billion Naira to the profession.
By the way, this solution passed the scrutiny of the TCCP. They went through our solution, saw the features and benefits of our solution, saw how comprehensive and intuitive our technology is, and so made the decision to go with us.
Some of the providers were prepared to give only 3 months, some were prepared to give 6 months. We decided to do that for an entire year; so I would think that those who refused to do this are the ones after a quick buck.
Barr. Albert: It is always good business strategy to give value before you seek value in return. What we have done is in line with our business philosophy. That is why our products sell at affordable prices. Our motive and intention has never been to make a quick buck but to empower the profession, believing that there will be enough for everyone to harvest when the profession becomes technology-driven.
Mrs. Imasuen: With this, over 10,000 Lawyers will have the opportunity to be empowered to use technology in their legal practice and we’re just happy to be a part of that.
What can the Lawyers expect from Legalpedia this year at the NBA conference?
Mrs. Imasuen: We have a lot planned for this conference. As mentioned, all Lawyers registered for the conference have access to our latest Legalpedia software and so, we will be helping them to activate and get started with the software on their tablets.
We’ll also have an Experience Center where Lawyers can walk in and try their hands on the new software, ask questions and explore other devices that they can use the software on.
We are all about value. So, we’re bringing back a conference favorite: The Healthy Lawyer Corner. We’ll have that with lots of offerings for Lawyers concerned about their health.
So, there’s a lot for Lawyers to look forward to from us at the conference.
Can you give us a sneak peek and tell us some of the features this new product will have?
Mrs. Ebhodaghe: As we said, we’re keeping the old favorites that everyone loves and expects like the cases from the different courts, Laws of the Federation, Case Summaries etc. But this time, we’re introducing an entirely new module that enhances collaboration between Lawyers.
Collaboration is a required skill for the 21st Century Lawyer and we’ve included features in our product that will help make research easier, and allow for collaboration between Lawyers.
It’s really all about making life easier and more productive for the legal community and this new product will definitely help do that. Details of the features will be released one after the other. We are truly changing the playing field. We are raising the bar. Just to assure you that this is not a one off thing. We have so many new things. With us, the legal profession should always expect more on a continuous basis.
What role will technology play in the Nigerian legal community of the future?
Barr. Albert: Every aspect of the profession from schools where legal studies take place, up to the Supreme Court, technology has come to stay. Like we know, already, the Supreme Court has been retrofitted and court room solutions and registry solutions are currently being set up in the Supreme Court. From there, it will get to the Court of Appeal. The Federal High Court has done a few things and different States are delving into different aspects of technology.
Technology will be very significant and major in the Legal profession of the future in Nigeria. The future we’re talking about is not too many years away. We are talking of just a few years from now. It will be the norm to practice with technology whether you’re in the Judiciary or you’re at the Bar.
Just as you have it in other professions, the accounting profession for instance, manual practice does not exist anymore. It is almost forgotten. That is what it ought to be and that is what we think the current leadership of the NBA is trying to achieve. We are also riding beside them to ensure that we contribute to make this happen.
What would you say the focus is for Legalpedia going forward/for the next 10 years?
Barr. Albert: We’re going to be doing a lot more with technology. We are looking at the benefits to the all-round Lawyer. We’ll be doing more with The Healthy Lawyer, launching an online radio show, Live Seminars, a Magazine, Legal Technology Training Centers, etc.
We intend to partner with every Practitioner in every aspect of legal practice. We want to play a major role in training and grooming of the Legal Practitioner or Judicial Officer on the utilisation of technology. We are working hard to have a center that gives theoretical and practical training and we’ll operate with institutions, both foreign and local institutions, to ensure that the best practices around the world is prevalent in Nigeria also.
Barr. Oshunniyi: Continuing legal education is a major mandate of the NBA to ensure that the average Lawyer keeps upgrading himself. Legalpedia wants to be the vehicle to assist in the achievement of this noble initiative, especially in the area of technology.
Any last comment?
Mr. Ofondu: Yes, one last thing. Tomorrow’s Lawyer will be different from today’s Lawyer. The Lawyer in 5 years’ time will be different from the Lawyer of today in order to be successful. There is a huge disruption coming. It has happened in other industries.
We have had disruption in the automobile industry with the likes of Tesla and Uber. Automobile companies that don’t transform will go bankrupt. There has been disruption in Medicine. In the Retail industry, the likes of Amazon and Jumia have taken over from the traditional retail business folks. In the Hospitality industry, the likes of Airbnb that hardly own any brick and mortar hotels are leaders in the industry. All these disrupters are doing this armed with technology.
The same thing is beginning to happen in the Legal profession, so it’s important for every Lawyer to embrace technology as fast as possible. We in Legalpedia are investing so much in Research & Development in different aspects of Law and Justice Administration. We are coming up with technology that will enable the future Lawyer to remain relevant in global practice. The Nigerian Lawyer must ride the technology disruption cycle or foreigners who understand the disruption game, will take over the profession.
Alright. Thank you all.