An Interview with LawBasket
Tell us a little bit about your company and why you set it up
Businesses and individuals with limited legal expenses budgets need the comfort that they will get legal help when they need it most, yet legal services are expensive, and most existing short-term insurance does not cover the cost of hiring lawyers. We started LawBasket to solve this problem by providing a solution that prevents and resolves justice pain points for this customer segment. We do this in two ways. First, we work with insurance companies to integrate general insurance with legal protection insurance, and delivering services through an Africa wide network of lawyers when the covered risk arises. Second, we use $1 for every $10 made in revenue to fund law clinics, where LawBasket lawyers assist early-stage start-ups to prevent justice problems.
What has been your greatest success/are you most proud of so far?
We launched LawBasket barely 6 months ago, but we have had many successes. One of these was the opportunity to partner with organizations such as Impact Hub to deliver our law clinics to start-ups. This has allowed us to create a brand that start-ups appreciate in the flexi-legal services space. We are also proud winners of the University of Notre Dame Mandela Washington Fellowship Business Plan Competition, where we were also voted the most innovative business by the University of Notre Dame 2019 Mandela Washington Fellows.
What is the greatest challenge you have faced?
Getting the right partners in the insurance space was initially a challenge. We have now perfected our value proposition for insurance companies and we have had great traction since in growing our partnerships with insurance companies. We will be announcing some big insurance partnerships in Q4 of 2019, which is really exciting for us. Our value prop for insurers is simple. We make it easy for short term insurers to value add on existing insurance products, making their products more attractive to policyholders. The LawBasket model also allows insurers to maximize policy value, and to get more underwriting premiums from existing clients, all this with lower customer acquisition costs. LawBasket also allows insurers to meet claims at a lower cost when risk arises, because of the platform model of legal service delivery which is leaner as opposed to traditional law firms.
What are the top challenges facing African lawyers and businesses today, in terms of data and technology and how can they be addressed?
Lawyers in Africa face one critical problem which speaks to data and tech in general. The first is that the average client is way down the technology train, yet many law firms are still struggling to adopt simple tech tools like case management and client relationship management technology. This widening gap between the client and the lawyer presents an urgent need for lawyers to play catch up, which means that law firms now have to be bold and deliberate in their approach to tech and data management.
What legal tech innovation do you think will be most widely adopted in Africa in the next decade?
Predictive AI for legal outcomes is poised to take the Africa legal space by storm in the next decade. This is arguably the only form of legal tech that gets many lawyers excited, for the simple reason that it has a direct value proposition on how lawyers can predict legal outcomes, and be better suited to help their clients or to determine the level of preparation in matters.
What regulatory and legislative environment is required to facilitate greater use of technology in the African legal sector?
The biggest barrier to the adoption of many aspects of legal tech in Africa is presented by the traditional nature of institutions that lawyers interact with, such as courts and deeds or company registries. In many countries around Africa, these institutions utilize old means of filing, as an example, with trends such as e-discovery and e-conveyancing still very much alien to many jurisdictions. This means that the value proposition for law firms when it relates to various facets of legal tech is limited to what they can achieve within their law firms, and not how it can better position them to navigate through the entire system of stakeholders with whom they interact. For this reason, regulatory and practical steps to incorporate tech within the entire legal eco-system are critical in facilitating greater use of technology in the African legal sector.
If you could do one thing to facilitate the growth of legal tech in Africa, what would that be?
One key thing that could be done is to adopt a human-centered design approach to legal tech in Africa and to really approach legal tech from the point of wanting to come up with new and exciting solutions to problems that lawyers have. A key barrier to ensuring greater reception of legal tech in Africa is to ensure that lawyers feel that tech is not there to replace their work, but to aid them in better delivering value to their clients. This makes it important for lawyers to be a key driver in legal tech, which will allow legal tech companies to adopt a lawyer centered design approach to legal tech solutions.
How best can lawyers influence and shape the legislative and policy environment to enable the growth of the African technology sector?
Lawyers need to take center stage in shaping the future of technology in legal practice. This critical aspect cannot be contracted to software developers and entities that are outside the legal industry. Lawyers have a key voice through their bar associations and law societies and are well placed to lobby legislation that ensures that the entire ecosystem moves at a steady pace towards adopting tech solutions. Instead of lobbying to bar marketing or flexi-legal services as we have seen in some jurisdictions, bar associations and law societies can lobby for the introduction of legislation and practical steps that improve the entire legal ecosystem to be better receptive to tech.
Who or what is your greatest inspiration?
This might sound strange, but we are inspired by Uber. Newspapers here have already called us the Uber for legal services, although this is perhaps misleading in a way. At the end of the day, though, we strongly believe in the liberalization of lawyering, and we believe that for legal services to be more accessible, the model of legal service delivery must be disrupted. The current model is cost heavy, and to change this, new ways of lawyering must be considered. We don’t really know quite yet how the Uber model can apply to lawyering, but we are willing to explore it. We are an access to justice start-up and we deeply care about ensuring that legal services are accessible to many around the world.