Disrupting legal space and narratives

App emphasizes legal education, access and value

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BY TNLM Writer

Imagine it’s a Friday evening, you are from having a meal at your favourite restaurant with your friends, chatting excitedly and as you prepare to go home, when a policeman stops you and directs you to a awaiting police vehicle. Your charge? Causing disturbance – for any range of reasons, including crossing a road or having a conversation. It happens more frequently than you’d imagine, with statistics showing that one in ten Kenyans will spend time in police custody every year.

This state of affairs is unwelcome and unnecessary in a country and continent looking to empower its citizens to achieve its development goals. In the above circumstances, law enforcement officers take advantage and cause unlawful/unnecessary arrests. When they do, very few people are aware of their rights in law. This makes them vulnerable to giving bribes and pleading guilty to false charges.

Often, getting yourself out of the fix could be as simple as needing to make the right legal decision, but not knowing where to look for advice, or
knowing where to look but finding yourself unable to reach your lawyer at that particular point in time is what does you in.  This is where the HAKI app
comes in handy. At that moment when arrest is
imminent or legal advice is crucial, the app can used to obtain legal counsel which can save you from unnecessary expenses and dreadful
repercussions.

The main goal of HAKI (Swahili for justice), is to promote access to justice. HAKI is an application that fuses the fields of law, technology and design to deliver value to its users. The app was developed out of a desire to deliver legal knowledge and expertise to the masses in an accessible and timely manner when and where it is needed most.

Legal education

The ‘Criminal Justice System in Kenya: An Audit’ notes that 47 percent of pre-trial detainees are illiterate or have just elementary education. But, as the HAKI team notes, even those with higher educational qualifications are not necessarily legally literate. Modern culture is increasingly legalistic and litigious, such that for successful participation in it, some level of legal awareness is needed.

Low legal awareness leads to people coming into conflict with the law, being intimidated by it or being unable to obtain any help from it. The HAKI app is about promoting legal literacy, which it does by providing access to lawyers and by posting simple articles on legal matters on the app and its associated blog. It is said that ignorance of the law is no defence; HAKI seeks to make the law known.

Access

The other feature of HAKI is its virtual inventory of lawyers. The app shows the available lawyers nearest to the location of the user – the user only need a filter such as ‘general practitioner’ or ‘real estate’ in regards to the type of lawyer they feel will adequately respond to their problem. The app then, in a series of prompts, facilitates the payment of the necessary charge and then connects the user to their choice lawyer. HAKI provides a platform where a person can consult a lawyer without necessarily having to meet them. However, if a physical meeting is necessitated by the initial consult, then the app makes it easy to meet as it targets lawyers nearest to the user.

Kenya has an adult population of 27 million people. This, when compared to a figure of 30,000 lawyers, gives the grim statistic of one lawyer per 900 persons. HAKI provides a virtual law firm which can be accessed by anyone at any time hence lowering the barriers to accessing such services.

Value

HAKI promotes legal literacy and eases access to lawyers. In addition, it enables the provision of legal services at affordable prices. Kenya’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is Sh313, 000, which translates to about 26,000 shillings per person per month; this is hardly enough income to afford regular legal services. The Advocates Remuneration Order sets out the pricing of the various advocate services, majority of which are out of reach for the poor. Moreover, the Legal Aid Act does not make provision of pro-bono services mandatory, which could cushion the poor from high legal prices. The HAKI app is a compromise between the two regimes: whereas it is not a substitute for all the services provided by lawyers, it is also not free, but it is that much cheaper.

The app is relevant to both legal practitioners and prospective consumers of legal services, who constitute majority of adults, and it delivers value to all parties involved through its tenets of legal education, legal access and legal value. The app is also a useful business tool for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and professionals who need legal information relevant to their fields of operation, in a simple language and with quick access to high quality legal advice to enable them to make correct decisions.

HAKI is a disruptor in the legal space; it aims to change the ongoing dynamic that there must be a separation of lawyers and their clients and that prospective clients must expend money and time looking for the right person for the job. The app seeks to bring legal services closer to the people by offering a catalogue of legal professionals as well as a simple analysis of legal issues which is accessible at the public’s convenience.

The app is a vital ingredient in the quest for implementation of the constitutional rights of access to justice, the rights of arrested persons, right to fair hearing and rights of detainees. Technology is an enabler, and the HAKI app seeks to empower lawyers and users of legal services. (

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