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Eclipse NewLaw: An Interview with Rian Hancock

Tell us a little bit about your company and why you set it up

Eclipse NewLaw is a Legal Operations consultancy that leverages a NewLaw approach and legal technology to deliver efficient and effective legal services. Eclipse NewLaw was established to assist organisations in house legal functions and law firms answer the question of: How do we transform having regard to the quickly evolving legal landscape? But more importantly, Eclipse NewLaw seeks to leverage African developed technology to solve African legal problems, at an African price point as well.

What has been your greatest success/are you most proud of so far?

At Eclipse NewLaw, as a collective, leaving behind traditional legal practice and embracing new ways of legal thinking, would probably be regarded as our greatest success. Lawyers are inherently creatures of precedent, applying what has come before, which is completely the opposite of what Eclipse NewLaw is. We are going to try and smash every pre conceived notion about the way legal services should be delivered.

What is the greatest challenge you have faced?

Once again, leaving traditional practice to challenge the norm and do something new.

What are the top challenges facing African lawyers and businesses today, in terms of data and technology and how can they be addressed?

Firstly, many African jurisdictions are hampered by hardcopy and unstructured data, which makes accessing legal data challenging.

Secondly, cost of technology implementation in Africa is sometimes prohibitive, just having regards to exchange rates for Global technology often priced in USD.

Both of these problems can be overcome by looking for African developed technology, which can help you along the transformation journey and maturity curves in relation to operational requirements. Implementing fit-for-purpose technology can assist with access to data, which can then be used for continuous improvement both from an operational sense and a technology transformation journey.

What legal tech innovation do you think will be most widely adopted in Africa in the next decade?

That is difficult to answer. Any legal technology in Africa that promotes access to justice, in any form, could have great potential for adoption. I think Africa is best primed for the process driven technologies in practice management, contract management, document automation and legal databases. This will empower the digital transformation and provide the necessary support for the legal function.

What regulatory and legislative environment is required to facilitate greater use of technology in the African legal sector?

We would need reform to our current framework and jurisdiction regulations that govern legal practice. Making space for alternative legal service providers would potentially also open up the legal sector to further legal employment opportunities. Things like the ethics and court procedures will also need to be inclusive of the new legal services paradigm.

If you could do one thing to facilitate the growth of legal tech in Africa, what would that be?

Hopefully we could play a small part in driving the African Legal Technology agenda and empower young African technologists and lawyers to find better ways to deliver legal services and ultimately improve access to justice.

How best can lawyers influence and shape the legislative and policy environment to enable the growth of the African technology sector?

By getting involved in the discussion as to how to best adapt your local legislative and policy environment in a way that best transforms the system to meet the needs of the end users and promotes access to justice.

Who or what is your greatest inspiration?

Nelson Mandela. As part of the legal fraternity, he clearly demonstrated the values and ethics, not only as a jurist, but as a humanist as well. His life long struggle was to fight for access to justice for all.

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