The use of technology in almost every aspect and sphere in Uganda has grown over the years but the legal fraternity had somewhat been left behind. This was more highlighted by lawyers carrying voluminous truckloads of evidence and files to courtrooms.
Martin Oneka from Impartial, an online legal platform talks about how their legal App works and makes access to legal services easier for both clients and lawyers.
Tell us a bit about your startup, and who are you?
Impartial World is an App and web-based platform that enables users to access professional legal services and information instantly and conveniently. Through the platforms, the user can consult a lawyer online, find an experienced lawyer within their radius, and stay informed on their legal rights by watching free info-videos, listening to podcasts, and reading regular blogs on various legal issues.
The idea was developed because of the evident lack of a clear client-lawyer path that made access to legal services very challenging, not to mention the lack of legal of legal information made many people to avoid seeking legal services due to the common perception that legal services can cost a leg and an arm when some legal matters can even be settled with just a letter.
Who are the founders, and what are their professional backgrounds?
At Impartial World, we work as a team, we do not like to make Impartial about a single individual because it is the work we do and impact therein that is paramount. Our team is largely comprised of lawyers and tech experts.
What is your opinion of the dynamics of the industry you work in?
In my opinion, the dynamics in the legal tech industry are brought about by the pressure from clients on traditional to deliver more at less cost and higher quality. This goes with the advent of reforms in the legal market, especially those pushed by new technological development and now the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought about isolation.
More law firms and lawyers are adopting technology to delivery of services like legal document automation; we now have court proceedings being held virtually. There's increased penetration of technology in the country, there's over 23 million internet users according to UCC, majority being mobile users. Therefore, the legal industry is experiencing a shift in delivery of services caused by these three main factors; the ‘more-for-less’ challenge, liberalization, and technology.
Why did you start to come up the idea? What opportunities did you see?
In a paradigm-changing report launched by The Task Force on Justice in July 2019, which contained the outcome of a meta-study into the size of the global access to justice gap, 5.1 billion people – two-thirds of the world's population lack meaningful access to legal services. 1.5 billion people cannot resolve their legal problems, while 4.5 billion people are excluded from the law's opportunities and including protection.
Our web and mobile App platforms are tailored to provide legal services to prevent or resolve their legal issues. The World Bank and African Development Bank reported 650 million mobile users in Africa, surpassing the number in the United States or Europe. Therefore, in African countries, more people have access to a mobile phone. Impartial will tap into this growth by providing access to legal services through its digital platforms.
According to GSMA, 475 million of these will be mobile internet users by 2025. Digital platforms like Impartial are poised to tap into $184 billion controlled by the mobile industry in Africa.
Using Uganda as a case study, six years ago, 114,809 people had pending civil cases before the Judiciary. Therefore, if just half of these cases were resolved through mediation digitally by Impartial World's lawyers at a base fee of $100 per case/hour, in Uganda alone. Impartial World’s listed 20 digital lawyers would share a profit of at least $5,570,500 in one year alone. An additional benefit is that this would also save the Judiciary double that in court costs.
There are 54 African countries with a similar problem, which means if Impartial solved this backlog in only 20 African countries; it is poised to have profited over one hundred million dollars.
What problems does do you solve?
We are trying to solve the problem of access to meaningful justice, the access to justice gap, as I cited earlier is very big, and part of the recommendations were that there's need to use new innovative ways to improves access to justice the world over.
In addition, we want to demystify the legal sector by sharing free legal information with the people in order to improve legal awareness like their rights and freedoms and how to protect them. This will give them access to opportunities provided by the law, for example being able to seek legal action when arbitrarily arrested, compensated when sacked by the employer without being given ample notice and so many more.
How has technology worked hand in hand with the service providers?
Through our live chat service, many users have been able to have a free one on one legal consultation with professional lawyers without having to travel to meet these lawyers or law firms. A user is able to know what areas of practice the lawyer/law firm specializes in because the laws firm/lawyer bio in provided, we have been able to help users from as far as USA, the Middle East, East Africa and Africa as a whole, and all this has been done remotely through our mobile App and website.
What gives you the competitive edge?
We are efficient, our responses are instant. We are very transparent in our work, our platform gives you not only legal information but the 360 legal services from professional legal practitioners, we maintain confidentiality of our client's data, our information and are credible, we are independent, and Impartial World gives you an opportunity to have your lawyer in your phone so to speak.
How is the safety of the persons using this App?
The person's chat with a lawyer is encrypted, meaning, no third party can access this information. Your location is only enabled by you the user, when and if you want to and you can change that anytime.
How big is your reach?
Currently, we have over 1,000 users on the App, our reach is global, and we have handled cases from as far as Malaysia, the Middle East, USA, West Africa and Europe.
How do you handle clients now that the internet is not yet fully open because we are still using VPN to access other social media pages?
Although the internet is partially restricted, the App is not affected by these restrictions; the App can be used with or without VPN [virtuall private network].
What does Impartial World limited need in order to grow?
We obviously need more resources, monetary or otherwise, partnerships with key stakeholders in the Industry, more capacity building in order to scale across the region and globally.
What do you bring to the market that isn’t present at the moment?
We bring you an innovation with the potential to disrupt the legal sector, there are very few people or organizations who have similar platforms as ours, most of which only share legal information, Impartial takes it a notch higher by giving you access to the right lawyer for your case, whether it's civil, criminal, environmental, corporate, we have you covered.
What do you consider the biggest threat to your business?
The biggest threat to our business is political unrest that results into internet shutdown like we experienced in January this year.
What are your plans moving forward?
Looking at the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we realized that both white-collar and blue-collar jobs were affected, we, therefore, plan to expand and include not only the legal profession, we intend to incorporate doctors, accountants, engineers, mechanics, etc as we scale globally.