Barrister Emeka Albert is the publisher of Legalpedia, a comprehensive software solution for lawyers. He was called to the Bar in 1989. In this interview which took place during the just concluded Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), he speaks on how the old students of the Nigerian Law School (NLS) are assisting the law students Excerpts:
What have you gained from the NBA Annual General Conference?
During the NBA conference you have the opportunity to network with friends and we have been served with very well researched papers and that is very commendable. All the speakers, including the chief judge of Kenya, delivered value and I commend the organisers. But there were some hitches in the organisation which tended to take away from the achievement, which is why it is not easy to score them 100 per cent. But I will score them above average.
You were the chair of the 1989 class of the NLS and your class has made promises to the NLS. To what extent have you been able to fulfill these promises?
During our 25th anniversary last year, we promised to set up a platform that has multiple portals because we saw the need for students to get exposed to law practice experience. They pass out of law school but they find it difficult to practice. So we thought we should create a platform that would connect the students with the older lawyers so that law students can get real practical experience. The period of internship that happens every year at the law school during attachment to the law firms is not enough. The platform adds quality and value to the students. The portal is going to be an e-learning portal that teaches NLS students outside the classroom. Basically we are using that to extend the teaching hours beyond the classroom. It is more convenient because they will have more time to interact and share knowledge. The portals also have facilities and serves as the umbrella for alumni association of the NLS where every ex- student of the NLS will register. Members of different classes can re-unite on the platform. We have completed about 60 per cent and it is online already. We will manage it.
What informed your decision to publish legal software?
Our idea is to make the practice of law, both at the Bar and Bench, easier and conform with international standard. We believe that law cannot be practiced in isolation.
There are new areas of practice. Has Legalpedia taken cognizance of the new areas like arbitration?
Yes, the law is very dynamic. That is the essence of technology. It enables you to keep pace with developments. Technology helps you to adapt to new changes. The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) form of practice comes with rules and those things as they come out we are able to bring out the software and people can access it, compared to books which are published but many people do not see them to buy. Right now, we have the ADR rules of the National Industrial Court in Legalpedia. It is easier to catch up with changes with technology.
What other innovations have you made in software package?
With our software, we are able to put together a one stop shop. That is a life time innovation. Because we want to completely make the large book shelf mobile and easily searchable. That is a life time innovation. Specifically, we go out of our way to find resources that ordinarily lawyers would not expect to be available in regular software. So we have legal maxims, law articles, forms and precedents so that in 10 minutes your contract is done. Then we also have practice guide, new wigs coming into the law firm are having difficulty putting together statement of claim or statement of defense. So these templates are included and they are able to quickly work on them. We also have many more lined up.
To what extent has your software been able to adapt to the shari’a law?
We are the first software solution to incorporate the judgment of the Shari’a Court of Appeal. Right now, we are working with several shari’a courts of appeal so that we can have more judgments into our software. It is important that your solution serves the entire community and you do not just earn from your convenience. We are very passionate about the Northern part of the country. The North has produced some of the best minds in law, like Justice Zanna, the Borno State chief judge, and in information technology. Often times you see difficulties in utilising software in the North, but we are glad to state that all that is becoming a thing of the past and technology is bridging the gap. Lawyers are catching up in every part of the country as it is easy when the soft ware is installed on your system and you can carry out a research.