Chinenye Uwanaka is a fledgling lawyer with passion to deploy technology in transforming legal practice and fight trafficking in all its forms. She bares her mind to Paul Obi, on her zeal, drive and motivation
Your new law firm appears to focus more on technological innovation, what is the purpose?
The law is very important in the society, the law protects, the law is there for people to enforce, and it brings about orderliness in the society. For me being a lawyer, I believe that it’s like a special profession; we don’t do it for money alone, because we have a greater purpose which is to make society better. For me, I believe that a lot of people, who are dissatisfied with practicing law, are turned off because it’s not rewarding or fulfilling. Then I said okay, instead of me abandoning the profession, I need to come and contribute my quota by establishing the Firma Advisory to be part of the change and innovation of the profession I desire. So, with the opening of this firm, I want it to be a platform for lawyers who want to contribute their own quota, do things differently, because the world is evolving, every sector is evolving so law too must evolve. I want to be part of that change in my own way and also provide a platform for other lawyers like me to know that things can be done differently. You can be passionate about what you do and you can find fulfillment by impacting society, as well as earn a living.
In what way do you think technology can enhance law practice?
All over the world, legal tech is booming, you have data case management, you have database where people can store thousands of cases, and you can just log on to it and do a search within a few minutes. The profession uses physical libraries and when you want to carry out research, you spend a long time searching and writing, but now it’s done with a click of a button, and you can also interact with people all over. You have to service clients within your own locality; you can outsource your resources to people in Japan, USA and so on. Technology is very important, but if we don’t come to town with technology, the profession will be left behind because other people are taking over roles that ordinarily should belong to lawyers because lawyers are not thinking outside the box. We are trying to make things better for the client. So, I think that technology is very important for the advancement of the legal profession. For instance, with the pro-bono legal aid that we are trying to do, there might be someone, a lawyer sitting down somewhere that wants to offer services but doesn’t know that there’s this case or something going on. However, if you have technology, you can actually have a platform whereby lawyers that want to deliver those kinds of services can meet with people who are going through challenges like domestic abuse, rape victims who don’t have money to pay for this service. So, innovation is a big part of what we do, and if we have more resources, we will continue to look for more solution that will make life easier.
How can technology help fight cases of rape and human trafficking?
For instance, there are a lot of applications in many parts of the world that we hope to bring to Nigeria as well. With technology, if you are going through something you can log on to the platform so that wherever you are, a Police person can come and rescue you or report a case and it’s taken up. In Nigeria, a few people are trying to do something. People can log on to their website, you can download different types of contracts and it’s done in an affordable way. So that way, you can bring it down to the common man, especially now that people are emphasising on registering their company. So, you have to have a certain legal entity so that by the time you register your company, you are already formalising your business so you need that lawyer to help you.
Do you think Nigeria is ready for such innovation and technology in law practice?
Of course we are. The NBA recently came up with some innovations, they want to make sure the courts have online case management, because courts in other parts of the world have gone digital. For instance, if you are sitting at a particular time, you will know what time a case is coming up and so on. You don’t have to come to court and wait the whole day.
What are your targets in using technology?
For us as a firm, we want to work with businesses, support them, help them access funding. For instance in banks, you see people saying a business cannot access loans because they don’t have the corporate governance structure; we want to be there to advise them not to fall into any pitfalls. We want to engage with government on developing policies, renewing laws, legislative advocacy, so if there’s a law that’s not fit for purpose, then why should it be there? We want to engage government agencies with all the stakeholders both in the private sector and in government to bring about change and we have already started doing that. Also we are here to impact, access to justice, when people are wrongly imprisoned- you go to prisons 80% of people there are awaiting trial, because they lack legal representation. So, our pro bono arm of the firm has taken up some cases already, we are going to help some people, who we feel are innocent, then, fight for their rights. We have a lot of legal outreaches and law clinics that we want to do to contribute our own quota to making this country a better place.
What has been your motivation?
I wanted to do something different after I left the law firm where I was practicing. The culture is not progressive in many law firms. When you come to a law firm, you can’t even be promoted because you are not the son or daughter of the person that works there. I wanted somewhere where there can be an equal play, where someone can come and work based on merit and you can actually grow in the profession, I want to create a platform for other lawyers so that the profession can be attractive to young lawyers. For me, the vision is to have this firm where people can collaborate, make a living and be rewarded for hard work.