Tell us a little bit about your organisation and why you set it up
Strand Sahara is a pan-African online legal documents service.
Founded by international lawyers of African heritage, we leverage technology to provide world-class, easily accessible contracts and corporate governance solutions to ambitious business owners across sub-Saharan Africa.
Our services are designed to prepare our members for investment and growth, a path which depends on robust business structures and a documented track-record. In doing so, we seek to help bridge the legal gap between African entrepreneurs in search of investment and investors in search of investment-ready African businesses.
The Strand Sahara Legal Platform will be available at www.strandsahara.com, which will launch for users based in Nigeria and the UK on 20 September 2018 and for users in Kenya and Uganda by the end of 2018.
What has been your greatest success/are you most proud of so far?
We have worked hard to create solutions on our platform which combine best international legal practice with cutting edge technology and design thinking principles. We believe we have a truly remarkable and unique offering which will transform the way our members think about contracts and their ability to use them to achieve greater commercial success.
What is the greatest challenge you have faced?
We started Strand Sahara because we strongly believe that there is great power at the intersection of law and technology: the power to make legal services more accessible and affordable for all. But our journey has not been without its challenges; from navigating regulatory constraints, to concerns from fellow lawyers that we are “killing legal employment” at the more extreme end.
The sad truth is that many business owners have to run the risk of doing business without legal support because they cannot afford lawyers. We believe that it is incumbent on our profession to continually strive to find new, innovative ways to make legal services more affordable and accessible for all members of society.
What are the top challenges facing African lawyers today, in terms of data and technology?
The list of legal challenges in Africa posed by data and technology is long, from vast regulatory gaps to the potential complete circumvention of lawyers altogether through developments such as smart contracts using blockchain technology.
At Strand Sahara we have been most focused on addressing the challenges of providing effective, valuable legal and legal support services in the digital age, where people are now accustomed to receiving instant, easily accessible information and solutions through the internet at minimal cost. The traditional legal business model, under which lawyers charge for their time on a one-to-one, print-based, consultative basis, is looking less and less fit for purpose in today’s high-tech global economy.
How do you think lawyers can make use of technology to address those challenges?
Lawyers will need to adopt new technologies and adapt to the changing needs of their clients in order to stay relevant and valuable, and to address the distribution/access to justice problem and high-degree of consumer dissatisfaction we currently face.
The opportunities are endless, from creating tools of predictive justice using the power of data analytics, to using machine learning to automate processes which are currently carried out manually in order to create greater efficiency and provide more value to clients.
The world needs more lawyerpreneurs, and there has never been a better time to become one.
What legal tech innovation do you think will be most widely adopted in Africa in the next decade?
We believe that online legal platforms such as Strand Sahara will take off in Africa in the next decade. Technological advances and the digital economy have made it possible for us to create systems that can provide legal solutions across the internet, allowing people to tap into our legal insight and services in a more convenient, transparent and less costly manner that meets them “where they are”. But then again, we would say that!
What regulatory and legislative environment is required to facilitate greater use of technology in the African legal sector?
The legal sector is heavily regulated in Africa and all around the world, with good reason. But there is a real risk that outdated regulations which do not reflect the realities of modern life will hinder innovation to the detriment of both African lawyers and those we seek to serve.
We would encourage all stakeholders in our profession to move quickly to: (1) embrace the opportunities to improve the delivery and practice of law that technological advancements bring; (2) encourage more innovation from African lawyers, and (2) encourage more collaboration between legal and other professional service providers.
If you could do one thing to facilitate the growth of legal tech in Africa, what would that be?
Start an accelerator program for African legal tech entrepreneurs.
How best can lawyers influence and shape the legislative and policy environment to enable the growth of the African technology market?
Lawyers are well placed to help shape legislative and policy environments across Africa. Creating a legal forum for sharing ideas, insights, research and recommendations and for collaboration amongst lawyers, techies and government officials across the continent would be a great help.
Who or what is your greatest inspiration?
We are continually inspired by African entrepreneurs both on the continent and all around the world: entrepreneurs who are willing to take risks to bring new products and services to life, transforming lives and economies worldwide in the process. Strand Sahara exists to support these African entrepreneurs, so that they can grow and create more livelihoods and prosperity for Africa’s people.