In an era defined by dynamic technological innovation and a drive for legal empowerment, the Middle East’s legaltech landscape is experiencing a profound shift towards a harmonious integration of law and technology. This transformation spotlights Clara, the pioneering LegalTech leader from the United Arab Emirates, as it expands its influence into Saudi Arabia’s legal sphere. Simultaneously, promising startups from the region are earning recognition as they secure coveted spots in the esteemed 2023 HiiL Justice Accelerator Programme. This convergence of cutting-edge technology and legal acumen is at the core of a broader initiative, reshaping litigation practices and amplifying access to justice in Saudi Arabia. In the midst of this exhilarating transformation, what emerges is the idea that ‘efficiency of legal professionals should not be the sole focus’ of the technological transformation, highlighting the importance of accessibility to justice.
UAE’s LegalTech Startup Clara Expands into Saudi Arabia
Clara, the UAE-based Legal Technology company launched in 2019 that offers digitization and automation for founders, expanded its regional presence with the opening of an office in Saudi Arabia. In collaboration with BIM Ventures, a Saudi venture studio, Clara’s Riyadh office was inaugurated. Clara’s launch marks a significant market entry in the Middle East, for potential growth, innovation, and collaboration opportunities. Furthermore, this launch bolsters valuable insights and offerings into startup industry trends and technology advancements in the region as well.
Middle Eastern Startups Chosen for the 2023 HiiL Justice Accelerator Programme
Following 500+ applicants and stringent selection criteria, the Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL), announced 17 impact-driven startups bridging the Access to Justice gap. Here are the three startups from the Middle East: i) NaTakallam, founded by Aline Sara after completing her post-graduation in International Affairs at Columbia University, launched the platform as an
Arabic-teaching service during the height of the Syrian refugee crisis.
The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge award-winning platform hires displaced persons and their host community members as online tutors, teachers, translators, and cultural exchange partners.
ii) Oqoodi , the Palestine-based platform that provides a secure online work environment
for freelancers in the MENA region. Oqoodi caters to contract management, escrow and payment protection, task management, payments, and money transfer facilitation services.
iii) Syrgo is an online marketplace that connects Syrians worldwide with lawyers for affordable legal documents and services. Document automation, contract management, legal research, compliance management, and collaboration tools are a few major services enabled by the platform.
Changing the Litigation Landscape with Tech in Saudi Arabia
Attorneys in Saudi Arabia have asserted that recent technological advancements have brought about fundamental changes in the legal industry, ranging from enhanced access to a more efficient and streamlined legal service delivery, as reported by Arab News this year.More specifically, how automation resulted in a range of benefits, including enhanced team participation, better information management, and the establishment of a comprehensive database. In the Saudi litigation landscape, the incorporation of electronic payment methods has streamlined payment transfers. Additionally, the adoption of digitized platforms by numerous law firms has enhanced transparency between legal teams and their clients.
When it comes to amplifying the technological transformation in Saudi Arabia, this year has been an instrumental one with the International Conference held in Riyadh this March organised by the Saudi Ministry of Justice, which explored the power of digital transformation and the topic of delivering justice, under the theme “Enhancing Access to Justice through the Use of Digital Technologies”. A few major session themes for the conference encompassed, “Using Artificial Intelligence to Improve Justice”, and “The Future of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Digital Transformation.”
The conference included prolific guests, Tunisian Minister of Justice Leila Jaffal, Undersecretary of the Russian Ministry of Justice Vadim Fedorov, and Vice President of the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation, Bostjan Skrelc. In addition, judicial leaders and legal experts from over 30 countries and 4,000 participants from across the globe attended the conference.
Qistas: Leading the way in Arabic language NLP & Access to Justice
Nissreen Haram, co-founder of Jordan-based, Qistas, recently shared her vision for technology to disrupt the legal sector in the region with Wamda, an entrepreneurship-empowering platform for entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa.
In the recently published thought-leadership article, the co-founder makes a noteworthy observation that LegalTech has predominantly focused on enhancing the efficiency of legal professionals, however, that’s not sufficient and it should not be the sole focus. What matters significantly is harnessing technology to enhance the accessibility of the law, and to promote broader public access to legal information and to essential legal assistance Haram also highlights that the Arab region has a long way to go in terms of widening the LegalTech space and “technology has not radically impacted access to law or access to justice”.
Qistas offers an intelligent search for Arabic legal content, having digitized the laws of Jordan, Palestine, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. The platform in its repository has more than 90,000 pieces of legislation and 4.1 million court decisions. In 2010, the team behind Qistas launched CyberLaw, the technology solution designed to make the law more accessible and searchable through Natural Language Processing, the first solution of its kind in Arabic. Qistas and CyberLaw stand out from existing solutions in the market due to their core objective: to render law more accessible, engaging, and user-friendly. Haram prioritizes providing such accessibility and ease of use, especially for the more vulnerable segments of society.
Through the adoption and integration of technology, in collaboration with the Data Science team at Qistas, the anticipation is high when it comes to enhancing the search engine with a robust semantic search capability in the near future.
Nissreen Haram hopes to release smart legal bots that help the public address common questions for future initiatives and finds legal drafting, another promising area having the potential to leverage Access to Justice initiatives.
Affinitext Arabia Launched
Affinitext, the intelligent document software for managing complex contracts such as PPPs, announced on LinkedIn a month ago about its latest establishment, ‘Affinitext Arabia for Legal Technology’, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
According to the Partnerships Bulletin, the CEO, Graham Thomson, relocated to Riyadh to support the commitment of Affinitext’s significant giga-projects in the region. In the region, Affinitext has held an active presence such as in the recent partnering with the Saudi Giga Projects & MENA Construction Summit 2023.
Brincy James George,
Principal at Legal Design Desk and the Legal Technologist’s Middle East Correspondent
Photo by Markus Spiske