5 African legal startups to watch

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Understanding legal requirements and risks can be challenging at the best of times, whether in a personal capacity, or when launching your new business. Across Africa, reams of red tape, and the difficulties (cost!) of accessing legal services, mean legal becomes even more nightmarish. As the struggle to start up their law business continues, more firms are using the Top Legal Directories to try to get an SEO edge over their competition as a way to help grow their business. Enter the tech startups in shining armour – here are five African legal startups saving our nerves.

LexNove

South Africa’s LexNove is one of the earlier African tech-powered legal platforms, having launched in July 2015.

The platform allows service providers to bid – at free market, fixed prices – to do the user’s legal work, easing access to high quality legal service providers for small to medium sized businesses.

The startup believes currently, access to legal services is restricted to large corporates and wealthy individuals, and says its approach moves away from several of the inefficiencies of the “Big Law” environment, cutting costs and serving the needs of the customer.

“Our vision is to dramatically transform the South African legal landscape by increasing access to, and the transparency of, high quality legal services, whilst, simultaneously providing more certainty to the consumer as to their cost exposure, something never seen before in traditional legal environments” says Kyle Torrington, LexNove’s chief operations officer (COO).

LawPadi

Also launched in July 2015, Nigerian startup LawPadi operates an online legal query platform, aiming to educate the population about their legal rights and duties through a free personalised service.

Users submit their legal question or issue via the online platform, and a member of the LawPadi team responds with the user’s rights and options available to them within 24 hours.

The startup also has plans to roll out an SMS-based service, providing a weekly information service.

“We believe the way the legal system in Nigeria is set up needs to change. There is a severe imbalance against the common person with respect to access to justice and knowledge of rights,” explains founder Babatunde Ibidapo-Obe.

“We launched LawPadi to attempt to move the scales of justice in favour of the people who need it…the regular man or woman on the street, the fledgling startup, or even just the person trying to educate themselves on their rights.”

Legal Forms

A much more recent addition to Africa’s startup landscape, online legal services platform Legal Forms launched in Nigeria in April this year, guiding users through the business registration process with the country’s Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

The startup was born from founder Sadiq Okocha’s own frustrating experiences of registering a company in Nigeria – which he says took two months -, and aims to eliminate the inefficiencies in the business registration process, in the hope of “making people’s lives easier”.

Legal Forms offers either a free service, which allows users to download relevant forms; or a paid-for service which sees the startup undertake the whole registration process.

The startup was recently one of eight startups to pitch at the Seedstars World competition in Lagos, although it failed to take the Lagos startups’ crown.

DIYLaw

Nigeria’s DIYLaw is a flagship startup of Lagos-based Innovating Justice Hub, launched by non-profit legal research and advisory firm HiiL in March this year.

The all-female startup uses technology to create access to legal services in Africa, with the platform currently in beta. Co-founder Odunoluwa Longe says DIYlaw aims to make “legal one less challenge to grapple with”.

Earlier this year, the startup won US$40,000 at the SME Empowerment Innovation Challenge for East and West Africa organised by HiiL; in addition to the money, the prize saw the startup move into the new Innovating Justice Hub, to receive acceleration support, access to funding, networks and expert advice from HiiL.

uWakili

Last but not least, is Kenya’s uWakili – an online legal services platform providing local businesses and individuals with access to cost-effective and easy-to-use online legal services, ranging from company incorporation to estate planning.

The startup recently announced a partnership with iconic Nairobi-based innovation space iHub, to provide free legal training for local startups. According to the partners, entrepreneurs typically overlook the legal risks their startup may face, and this is often caused by the cost of hiring a lawyer being overly onerous in the formative stages of a new venture.

“Through this partnership, we hope entrepreneurs will be able to minimise the legal risks and costs and drive startup growth,” the partners said.

In addition, uWakili was named one of 36 finalists in the second HiiL Justice Accelerator’s Innovating Justice Challenge last month, and is today (September 23) taking part in a dedicated “boostcamp” in Nairobi, where participants are also pitching before a jury for up to EUR80,000 (US$91,000) funding.

Good luck uWakili!

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Inspired and excited by the African tech entrepreneurial scene, Gabriella spends her time travelling around the continent to report on the most innovative tech startups, the most active investors, and the latest trends emerging in the ecosystem.

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