Mr Ope Olusaga is the Managing Director of LawPavilion, in a chat with Judicial Editors Forum, he bares his mind in what drives him to venture into publishing Law Reports online. Enjoy it
Q. Your Company has dedicated a lot of resources to train Judges in the use of Technology to their work. You have conducted these trainings across several states of the Federation, so what has been the attitude of the Judges and the Legal industry at large? What response have you received from the trainings? Have you done any follow-up programs?
A- Indeed, we have expended a lot of resources, both human and financial to advocate for the adoption of technology by all stakeholders in the Legal Services and Administration of Justice sectors. By God’s grace, we have successfully trained Justices of the Court of Appeal across all divisions, High Court Judges of Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Osun and several other States which time would not permit us to go into fuller details. We have also collaborated with some branches of the NBA to train legal practitioners on the use of LawPavilion especially and we are pleased with the response we have received over the years since we started. However, there is still so much more to be done in the areas of enlightening even more Judiciaries and legal practitoners about the immense and incomparable benefits of adopting technology in the provision of legal services.
For those we have trained, we do not relent in carrying out follow up programs and plans are underway to do more of follow-up in the coming year. With regards to training outcomes, the trainings have benefited participants immensely, touching all end-users – the Judges, the Magistrates, Lawyers, Solicitors and Law students etc. A recurring feedback has been that LawPavilion has changed their lives and they really wonder how they were able to cope without our product. This is especially so for those who have LawPavilion products before or after the training. They have been able to derive maximum benefits from the use of our flagship LawPavilion Electronic Legal Research software.
Our initial series of trainings also influenced our decision to introduce LawPavilion on smaller mobile devices such as the iPad and Android devices. We discovered that by the nature of what Judges and Legal Practitioners do, a significant amount of flexibility and portability is required to enable them derive maximum advantage from the use of LawPavilion and this is best achieved by accessing the software on our iPad and Android versions. A good number of our Judge subscribers have told us in confidence that they have been able to deliver more Bench rulings because of the availability of LawPavilion on devices like the iPad and Android.
Q. How have you dealt with the problem of piracy, especially in a place like Nigeria, where people break into servers to access your content?
A- We have our security strategies in place and we also have products which help us blacklist IP addresses where attempts to break into our servers come from. With regards to the CD version of our software, we have been able to tackle the possibility of piracy by encrypting the data on our CDs. Even if our CDs are duplicated, it is useless for any purpose without an access code from us, and the control to the access code is limited to specific personnel within our Company. However, we also ensure that we keep abreast of security challenges globally and how they could impact our product, so we keep upgrading our security apparatus.
Q. How do you assess the success of the training of Judges? And do you feel discouraged, while investing huge amounts and getting low success rates?
A. The trainings have been quite successful, i must confess. Even if not immediately resulting in financial gains, we have witnessed policies and directives lending enormous credence to our advocacy propagated through our trainings for Judges and Legal practitioners. I will therefore say Rome was not built in a day. We are not solely focused on profitability in the immediate, so we know that we cannot make all the profit in one day. For us, it is a long term investment, which needs time to grow before it begins to yield, so we operate with the “farmer’s mentality”.
However, we are quick to point out that because our trainings for Judges and Legal Practitioners are free, if we had a better structure in our society perhaps Government at various levels or donor organizations could have assisted in bearing the huge costs of providing such trainings across the Federation. Yet, enlightening the Legal Services Industry about adopting and using Technology in the administration of justice is a passion for us at LawPavilion, so we keep on doing it without being discouraged, knowing fully well that the investment would yield returns at the end of the day.
Q. Why do you think the Legal Industry should embrace e-Law reporting?
A- I prefer to look at this question from the perspective of what is happening around the world. There is hardly any sector that hasn’t been touched significantly by Technology, in fact new sectors have been created and how society functions now is so different from what obtained just 10 years ago principally because of the impact of Technology on all spheres of human existence. So to me, the impact of information and communication technology on human existence is akin to a Tsunami, either you willingly go with the flow or get swept away by it.
Now in response to your question about why the legal services industry should embrace e-law reporting, i will propose a few reasons. First is ease and speed of access to decided cases. Through our interaction with Judges of various courts, and going by our records of cases that we receive from the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, there has been a significant increase in the number of cases emanating from the Courts. Our model allows us to be able to get these pronouncements from Court promptly and have them analysed and ready for our subscribers within 48 hours. It would be extremely diffucult for other models of law reporting to replicate that.
Another reason for adopting e-law reporting would be affordability and reliability. We all know what it costs to have a well stocked physical library. But with electronic materials, at a fraction of the costs, one can have a robust library without breaking the bank. Moreover, in the event of a fire incident or robbery or any other unfortunate incident, whatever is destroyed is lost forever. But with LawPavilion, there are multiple back up servers containing and preserving our contents so that no matter what, our subscribers are never at a loss.
Lastly, i would like to also say that another reason for adopting e-law reporting is the all important attribute of efficiency. It is no brainer that the contest of the 21st Century is not a contest of strength evidenced by physical exertion and hardwork, rather it is a contest for working smart, using smart tools to achieve exceptional results whilst still having time to pursue other interests. As i stated earlier, many of our subscribers have attested to the fact that using LawPavilion has helped them to do much more in less time than before.
Q. It is good that LawPavilion is bringing Information Technology into the Legal Profession with all the Company does and you had earlier mentioned that it is a Tsunami. Do you see your role as more of Complimentary? We observed that Judges still write in long hand during Court proceedings. Is there anything in LawPavilion to change that?
A- Well, when I mentioned that it was a Tsunami, it was to illustrate the pervasive nature of modern technology. In some way, the role played by LawPavilion Electronic Legal Research tool is complimentary, yet not completely complimentary because the rules of engagement in the industry are changing and giving more prominence to electronic legal research resources, of which LawPavilion is a front-runner. If you do a comparison between Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia, it is obvious that Wikipedia has overtaken the Encyclopedia.
With regards to Judges still recording proceedings in long hand, it is very archaic, stressful and energy-sapping. Take for instance countries like Ghana and Singapore, they have adopted modern technology in taking records of proceedings in court. But in Nigeria our Judges and Magistrates still take notes in long hand. This is why we developed our Court Management System which allows Judges to take audio records of proceedings and have such records transcribed whilst retaining the original audio recording. As you are aware, while LawPavilion Electronic Legal Research software is our flagship product, we have developed other products in response to the needs we have seen in the industry. We are hopeful that practice directions would soon emerge to give legal backing to audio records of proceedings to beaten rather than burdening our esteemed Judges and Magistrates with tedious long hand writing.
Q. Which category of people would you say has embraced your product LawPavilion the most?
A- Naturally, you would expect that the young lawyers would embrace it more, however, many of them do not have the financial capacity but we have created more pocket friendly versions of our products to accommodate Young Lawyers. Surprisingly though, many very Senior and experienced Legal Practitioners and Judges have embraced our products. In fact a Judge, who is elderly, still called me up recently and expressed his love for the product as that is what he uses. So from the highest cadre, to the lowest, they have all embraced it, most especially the judiciary at the Federal and State level.
Q. Do you foresee a situation whereby a staff, knowing all your passwords and data, pirates your product in collaboration with outsiders to make money?
A. Well, in this company, we are blessed with good, exceptional, hardworking and honest members of staff. As a corporate organization, we also have very strong value system and work ethics. Life is give and take. The School of thought i personally subscribe to is that what goes around comes around. Whatever you do to someone else’s business is what will be done to yours because you will reap what you sow. So as much as possible, we try to uphold our strong value system and when you have that, along side the passion for what you do, then you will understand that everything is not about money. We have also ensured that our members of staff are aware of situations where we walked away from a lucrative transaction because of requests for kickbacks. We do our best to run and operate our business with integrity, so it is transmitted to our members of staff as well.
Q. I’m sure you are aware of the new e-Service of Court processes. What do you think about it? How can Law Pavilion be a part of that? Have you also tried to train the members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)? Even if you cannot train everyone at once, have you attempted training at the branches?
A- We are always available for training and we have trained some at the branch level. A couple of NBA Branch Chairmen have called us for trainings and we have also been at all the Law school campuses to train the Law School students. We also participate in seminars or workshops organized by the NBA Section on Legal Practice (SLP). We are always available, subject to invitation to come and train them.
On e-Service of court processes, I think it is a welcome development for this country as we need to start believing in ourselves as a country. Nothing is impossible and we are always ready for new heights. It was in anticipation of a situation like this directive from the Supreme Court that had motivated us to develop our Court Management System, about 2 years ago. The Court Management Solution is a very robust solution and we have integrated aspects of e-service into it. Not only that, through our Court Management Solution, Judges and Judicial Officers can proactively manage their courts and matters pending before the Court. We have also included the National Judicial Council (NJC) Performance Evaluation Form into the Court Management Solution. So we have the competence and expertise to assist any Court that approaches us in this regard. We are available to work on this with any willing Court or Court administration. In fact, this directive is a further testament to our vigorous campaign for adoption of technology in the industry and we are very glad about the directive. We hope that all stakeholders would cooperate to make the operation realistic and seamless.
Q. What price grading do you have for your product to be able to accommodate everyone, especially the young and upcoming Lawyers?
A- We have a version of LawPavilion that sells for N3000.00 per month and the annual subscription for that version is N30,000.00 per year. We have also had outings in the past where we offered 50% off our products principally for Young Lawyers. In fact, we have a very unique package for Law School students which makes it possible for them to subscribe to LawPavilion for at least 2 years at almost give away price. Therefore, I encourage young Lawyers to get LawPavilion Electronic Legal Research software. There is a saying that goes-“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”. Every Legal Practitioner needs to embrace the use of LawPavilion.
Q. How has your participation in international conferences affected your business?
A- I can say very positive things about our involvement and participation in international Conferences. It has given us access to markets beyond the shores and borders of Nigeria or even Africa. Very recently, Harvard Law School and a couple of other International Universities requested to become subscribers to LawPavilion. This is a testament to the quality of LawPavilion which our attendance at international Conferences gave us an opportunity to expose to the world. Our participation at International Conferences have also been a platform for us to showcase the positive side of Nigeria, showcasing to the world that Nigeria isn’t a country of only crooks as often portrayed in foreign media.
On the other hand, it has been very challenging. For instance, to move our exhibition equipment/materials outside the country to be able to showcase our products outside, Customs would think we are doing something else and make demands for gratification. Also, coming from Nigeria, sometimes there are discriminatory practices which could be discouraging. But we keep working and moving forward, we don’t allow any challenge to take our eyes off the goal.
Q. As the foremost I.T Service provider in the Legal industry in Nigeria, for others who want to do what you do, what would you say was your motivation from the beginning?
A- In one word, the driving motivation for any business should be PASSION. However that passion must be predicated on certain values or attributes. For us at LawPavilion, what fuels our passion are three-pronged as follows:
i. The Passion to showcase the positive side of Nigeria, our ultimate goal is to export technology developed in Nigeria to other parts of the world and we are very well on our way towards achieving that.
ii. The Passion to ignite culture of innovation, integrity, and Can-do-attitude. Today’s youths need positive examples of locally grown businesses that are competing favourably on international scenes. We want our young people to see beyond the problems in Nigeria and begin to think of innovative solutions to those problems and conduct business with integrity.
iii. Passion for a reform to engineer and pioneer certain things so that when you look back, even when you have set backs, you know you will get there. Though there may be challenges, you know one day you will get there. It is just delayed gratification;
Q. What is your vision?
A- To be the most cited, authoritative Law report and Technology Partner to the legal services industry in Africa by 2025. We are not just focused on Nigeria alone, we are looking at Africa as our chief focus.
Q. How do you report conflicting Court decisions when you are reporting?
A- This is a very serious issue which we have also observed over the years that we have been in the industry. Thus, our new product to be launched next year takes adequate care of this lingering issue of conflicting judgments. The new product also goes further to highlight cases that corroborate the case under review and other indices are also provided. A lot of work has gone into this new product which we will unveil early next year by God’s grace. It is indeed a revolution in how legal research will be conducted going forward.
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