As the experiences of Covid-19 continue to disrupt the world order in many ways, more Lawyers in a bid to stay afloat have increased their online presence in every way they can.
Courtroom Mail announces that its “Find a Lawyer” subscription has increased by 30% since the global lockdown began about a year ago.
Courtroom Mail’s “Find a Lawyer” which lists lawyers in Africa according to three general areas of practice and one core area of practice was launched six years ago with the intention of creating a listing of expert lawyers in Africa.
According to Rehema who manages the Courtroom Mail listing from East Africa, Courtroom Mail has achieved that desire to be the most popular expert listing of Lawyers in Africa and still working.
Presently ,the listing has more that 1300 Lawyers listed from 19 African Countries mainly Anglophone.The countries include Nigeria,Ghana,The Gambia, Cameroon, Kenya,Uganda,Tanzania,Rwanda,Burundi,Zambia, Zimbabwe,South Africa,Botswana,Swaziland, South Sudan,Malawi,Lesotho,Niger and Tunisia.
70% of Lawyers on the list are the younger generation of Lawyers who have been qualified to practice Law in the past 10 years with Nigerian subscribers topping the list followed by Uganda and Kenya.
According to Rehema,this statistics is good because the purpose of the listing is to first create an online network of African expert Lawyers and secondly to connect them and make them accessible to start ups and individuals across the world with legal needs specific to Africa.
Again,the minimum age of company founders is reducing as technology makes it easy to start virtually any type of business with just a lap top and internet access. This new CEOs tend to gravitate towards experts like them who share the same generational interest with them. Another factor is that, they are a generation in a hurry who are used to getting services real time and may not want to go through the process of getting an appointment with a lawyer, visiting a lawyer’s office and briefing him. They want to type a few words on their mobile , connect to a lawyer ,get a response and of course pay for the services. That is the service Courtroom Mail is providing.
In 2020, to increase trust, Courtroom Mail launched a premium service named “Verified Lawyers” when more visitors started asking questions as to the authenticity of the people listed. The listing is free and open online so Courtroom Mail does not vet membership though it believes that it will be difficult for a non lawyer to get listed and without anyone noticing owing to the close knitted nature of the Profession with the exception of Nigeria that has a huge number of Lawyers and is facing a challenge of fake Lawyers.
Being listed as a verified Lawyer comes at a cost that is just less than $5 but it also comes with some benefits. Courtroom Mail in the past six months has discovered that contract review is the biggest need of start ups. These young CEOs entering into numerous contracts to launch their businesses and sustain it has increased the need for lawyers who are briefed for the purpose of reviewing these contracts for them which are mostly drawn up by the other “big” partners to the start ups “We have been promoting it as a special area of practice and only verified lawyers can list it on their profile.” Rehema said.
“This goes beyond Tech contracts. More and more people are beginning to understand the need to get lawyers involved in their contracts. Visitors to the site come looking for lawyers to help them in reviewing their Employment contracts, Tenancy contracts, Insurance contracts, business investment contracts,Loan contracts, Sponsorship contracts, Entertainment contracts etc.
Rehema said that verified Lawyers who are Notaries public are able to include that in their profile. As the restrictions on covid -19 affect the courts where many people certify documents, a rise in demand for Notaries have surged and only verified members can have that on their profile.
In some African countries,private Lawyers are appointed Commissioner for Oaths, a lawyer who is listed as a verified Lawyer can also include this in his profile if he or she is one.
Apart from the above, verified Lawyers are able to make their phone numbers public if they want and put of a Bio of their expertise.
The biggest challenge Courtroom Mail has noticed among its visitors is their inability to know the kind of expert they need. Most times, people in need of Criminal defence end up contacting Lawyers listed as Human rights Lawyers or even people who need to process probate for their deceased relatives also search for Human Rights Lawyer. Even those dismissed from their job instead of looking for an employment Lawyer go straight to reach out to a lawyer listed as a Human Rights Lawyer. That is why Human Right Lawyers have remained in the top search since the launch of the listing. Unfortunately ,some of these visitors have an impression that Human Rights Lawyers are Lawyers who work for free.
In the past six months, Courtroom Mail has embarked on a campaign with many write ups to educate people on what different legal experts do and how to find them on Courtroom Mail.
Courtroom Mail has considered trimming down the number of areas of practice to reduce confusion eg Company Law may go to give way to Corporate law but the challenge is that the visitors to the site tend to understand company law than corporate law. Trademark lawyer may also be removed to give way to a more generic “Intellectual Property Lawyer” but will all visitors looking for a Trade Mark lawyer understand that Intellectual Property Lawyers are Trade Mark lawyers? This is a big challenge . “Lawyers will definitely understand those designations but that will not serve the purpose of the listing if the people who we expect to convert to clients don’t understand them”
In January 2021 Courtroom Mail also launched its “Find a Law Firm” to enable Law firms get listed as expert Law firms. The find a law firm is a premium service.
In the coming years, alot of changes will happen in the profession and Courtroom Mail has assured all its subscribers that they will continue to innovate to give them value and International advantage.