Fedden Mainga Mukwata
When people say your life can change in the blink of an eye, they mean it. When I look back at the events of the past 18 months, I can say that some of my wildest dreams became true or came closer to realization.
My dream has always been to make law and justice accessible – to share my legal knowledge. Hence, I started FASZ Legal Consultancy CC through which that dream may be fully realized. On the other hand, I started noticing a grim picture around this line of work.
I have appeared on, and follow, NBC’s The Wheels of Justice show, whose mandate is to bring justice closer to the people. During the show, viewers are allowed to ask questions to the panellists. From the questions asked, it is clear that there are genuine concerns out there which require more legal education and easy access to legal information by the average Joe.
In March/April 2023, FASZ exhibited its services at volume 12 of the Kasi Vibe Festival which took place at Sam Nujoma Stadium. The keywords of the festival are ‘empowering, connecting, brand building, and innovation’. Our aims in going there were to disseminate legal information to the members of the public who would come to the festival and to sign them up for our website for free. With respect to disseminating legal information, the idea was to distribute information about law firms (business cards, brochures, business profiles), but despite having approached several law firms, not even one came on board. This left us with signing up members for free, which we did successfully.
The point is this: most people did not sign up not because they did not notice our presence, but because they misunderstood the notion of access to law and justice – they indicated that they already have legal representation or that they personally know a lawyer who can assist them when they are in need of legal assistance! However, having legal representation or knowing a lawyer does not mean you have access to law and justice. This is the narrative I wish to fundamentally reverse.
I further presented the services of FASZ to key stakeholders and industry players with the view of establishing working relationships. However, I was left with the same feeling I got after all the above engagements and that is, more needs to be done.
A perusal of our website would reveal that at the heart of FASZ, as it is with The Wheels of Justice, is to bring justice closer to the people, but we take things much further and wider, by incorporating legal information, technology, and processes to archive that objective. Therefore, all our services are geared to achieve the ultimate goal of making law and justice more accessible to everyone. That is why being on The Wheels of Justice twice was a dream come true because it was perfectly aligned with our objective; and that is why going to the Kasi Vibe Festival was a manifestation of dreams because it was an opportunity to connect the legal profession with the public, build our brand, improve access to justice and law in an innovative way, and empower those who need empowering. That is why, introducing our services to key stakeholders was a step closer to realizing that dream.
I am constantly reminded that no road is without obstacles, and in fact, I just started the journey.
I am, nevertheless, comforted by the fact that the obstacles frequently reveal themselves and that there are people I can walk side by side with on this journey. One of the obstacles is that the mindset of people needs to be changed from being reactive to being proactive, informed, and engaged – law and justice can only be meaningfully accessible to people who understand how it works as opposed to people who look for law and justice to work for them once they are in trouble. This will require a collective effort from those who possess legal knowledge to go out there and use every platform available to talk about law and justice.
The other obstacle is gatekeeping. Gatekeeping here refers to safeguarding the old ways of doing things at all costs and stubbornness/fear of change. There is a saying that the only constant thing is change, and John F. Kennedy once said “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” The undeniable fact is that technology will change the way we do things and there is nothing we can do to stop it. In fact, the technology is already here so all we can do is to prepare for such change and/or adapt. It will change the way we teach law in our law schools, and the way we practice law, and most importantly, it will change how people access law and justice (legal services). You need to ask yourself, as a legal professional, where will you be when members of the public (your current ‘clients’) can access the legal services you now offer exclusively, on the Internet? What kind of services will you relevantly still offer?
In light of the above, what we do now will determine whether people will trust us as legal professionals over Artificial Intelligence (AI) or technology.
It will determine whether people will opt for what is already on the internet over what you can tell them by word of mouth. That is why access to law and justice requires and calls for more action now, more than ever. I am thankful to those who are doing what they can, in their own way, to make law and justice more accessible. But to those who are willingly or unwillingly folding arms, the indictment has been served!
If you are still reading this, you probably now understand why I am doing what I do.