Remote work and remote learning have changed our perception of how we work, learn and at leisure – even when things get back to almost normal post COVID. The pandemic has simply accelerated our adoption and integration of technology into our all aspects of business –the profession of law is no different. What is different is the economic hit on those who need affordable access to legal services. So what’s on the horizon to help those in need?
Well, the Law Society of Ontario recently the opened up a Technology Innovation Sandbox for innovative technological services to inform the future of regulatory development. It appears that this was a timed opportunity for two Queens’ University law students Yoon-Hyun Cho and Avinash Pillay, who decided to create a not-for-profit “LegalTech” startup –Mouthpiece Law. Shortly after, they asked Daniel Moholia another law student to join them, followed later by Thabo Magubane. All the students came from diverse backgrounds and life experiences.
In Episode 1, Yoon-Hyun, Avinash and Daniel share with us how their different cultures and expertise happen to resonate around a common passion and pursuit to help those in need to access justice – by using technology to create an easier and less expensive way to access legal aid and probono legal services, while at the same time providing law students a way to give back to society and to gain real life work experience.
Stay tuned for Episode 2 on their approach to their “access to justice” legal services platform.
Over 5 billion people (two-thirds of the world’s population) lacks meaningful access to justice. The issue has become so pressing that it became a part of the UN’s agenda for sustainable development as early as 2003. Vulnerable and traditionally marginalized populations face additional barriers due to factors such as gender, race, culture, age, language, literacy, disability, location, and income. The legal profession in Canada has been historically slow to adopt new technologies and ways of working due to the heavy burden placed by regulatory bodies. For example, the option of having a virtual legal services network has been barred for over 150 years in Ontario due to highly onerous trust account, escrow, and printed document requirements. The COVID-19 pandemic acted as an impetus for the field, spiraling attorneys who are members of monolithic traditional firms to adopt technology they never though they would see. Over the past two years, lawyers have begun to realize the potential of legal technology, with client management software such as Clio reaching valuations of over $1.5 billion. The Law Society of Ontario recently passed its “Technology Sandbox” on April 22, 2021 – allowing for new and groundbreaking forms of legal technology that were never before permitted. For the first time ever, lawyers can start to use standard online payment methods, and improve their workflow through modular technologies such as Legal Connection, Miro, and Ruby. The team at Mouthpiece Law has been keenly planning for this breakthrough since it began operations in 2020. We have believed since the very beginning that technological adoption in the law is a matter of when and not if. With the current global climate being one where hatred, violence, and injustice about – the need for reasonably priced legal services and the removal of financial barriers is greater than ever. The public has given up on this remote possibility, unbeknownst to the existence of the technology sandbox. We hope to use the sandbox’s timely arrival to implement a system that is the first of its kind in the world.
About Yoon-Hyun Cho
CEO & Chief Legal Entrepreneur
Yoon-Hyun is a JD Candidate at Queen’s University Faculty of Law, and a Bachelor of Commerce Graduate with a High Distinction at the University of Toronto Rotman Commerce Program, specializing in Finance and Economics. He is now serving a project lead role at an access-to-justice innovation lab, Conflict Analytics Lab, building an AI Medical Malpractice Liability Analytics tool for patients to identify and assess their possible claims against alleged medical practitioners.
A Community Builder, Yoon-Hyun is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Access-to-Justice Stewardship and its first project (Mouthpiece Law): a social networking platform for law students that aims to meliorate their increased mental distress and other adverse consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. An Inclusive Leader, Yoon-Hyun is a leader of diverse bodies of law students and professionals, and a voice to the voiceless in marginalized and underserved communities as a legal translator in the Korean Legal Clinic and the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers. Yoon-Hyun is a Certified Legal Designer and Project Management Professional who is highly skilled in client consultations, discovery and trial preparation. He is also a confirmed participant for both the MIT COVID-19 Challenges: Hack4theFuture and the LawWithoutWalls (LWOW) initiative, where he is the only Canadian law student participant among other US Ivy League law students, including Harvard and Stanford. Yoon-Hyun has lived in 5 countries, travelled to over two dozen nations, used to be a dance instructor, and is a proud first-generation Korean Canadian.
About Avinash Pillay
COO & Chief Legal Engineer
Avinash Pillay recently completed his second year of J.D. studies at the Queen’s Faculty of Law. He is a co-founder of Mouthpiece Law, and currently serve as Chief Operating Officer & Head of Legal Engineering. His passion for technology began in high school, after working with Team 1241 to win a world robotics championship. His family left the South African Apartheid to come to Canada in the search of a better life, free of genocide and systemic racism. Since then, he has started several philanthropic projects in the technology realm, including one of the world’s largest Discord data mining initiatives. Prior to starting law school, he completed his Hons. B.Sc. at McMaster University, with a research focus in the environmental sciences, origins of life, and astrophysics. Since his time at McMaster, he has worked as a crisis responder for the Kids Help Phone where he volunteer in life-or-death counselling, and active rescue. After writing the MCAT and spending a few brief months working towards an M.D, he pivoted towards legal studies. He has also worked as a student case worker for the Queen’s Family Law Clinic and Queen’s Business Law Clinic, giving him two years of exposure to the technology issues faced by legal aid initiatives. He currently works as a Legal Fellow for Grand Challenges Canada, a Canadian NFP founded by the Gates Foundation that offers grant funding to Indigenous, second, and third world innovators that are solving global health issues. He is also the student director of the Conflict Analytics Lab, where he helps develop free legal aid AIs for public use (www.myopencourt.org). He currently lead CAL’s flagship tool – Vaccine Mediator – which was jointly developed by his team, Oxford University, and the BIICL.
About Daniel Moholia
CIO & Chief Legal Designer
Daniel Constantin Moholia was born in Timișoara, Romania on June 6, 1995 before immigrating to Canada with my parents in 2004. We settled down in Kitchener, Ontario, just outside of Toronto, and quickly connected with the local Romanian-Canadian community. His childhood was therefore a study in contrasts, a blending of Romanian and Canadian culture and identity and a juxtaposition of what Romania and Canada were like. He developed a sincere appreciation for the political and legal stability and greater transparency of Canada relative to Romania. Being academically inclined, he obtained his International Baccalaureate Diploma in high school and then completed his Bachelor of Knowledge Integration (BKI) at the University of Waterloo. It was there that he developed a keen appreciation for human-centered problem solving, developing the skills that he would later implement at Mouthpiece Law. His undergraduate thesis project in Canadian child labour law in the late 19th century illustrated for him how activists achieved major changes in the law by understanding and addressing the circumstances of those they sought to help. He then attended Queen’s Law’s Juris Doctor (JD) program beginning in 2018, unsure of what area of law he wanted to practice in yet wanting to make meaningful contributions to worthy causes. The opportunity to join Mouthpiece Law in early 2021 as he was graduating and finishing his licensing exams seemed like the perfect opportunity.
About MOUTHPIECE LAW
Mouthpiece Law is a not-for-profit legal technology startup based out of Ontario, Canada. Bringing together a diverse group of legal practitioners, law students’ technologists, business professionals and writers – they have been building the world’s first all-in-one solution for legal aid and paid legal services that leverages cutting-edge legal technology to reduce overhead costs for lawyers and translate those savings to reasonably prices services for the middle and lower-class. Their probono platform will allow members of the public to ask free legal information questions that are answered by “taskforces” of law students who are under the supervision of a licensed review counsel. Outside of individual legal aid cases, these taskforces can be remotely deployed to any social justice issue that requires legal assistance – be it in Canada, or elsewhere.