Award-winning human rights lawyer and activist Isaac Ssemakadde has peered into the future, saying legal practice in Uganda must deftly copy the ‘Uber’ business phenomenon, lest it perishes.
The Uber dynamic digital platform, acclaimed as an industry disruptor, has transformed the global vehicle ride-hailing business, even without owning any vehicles.
Ssemakadde made the observation on the eve of Independence Day celebrations, as Uganda marked 59 years of self-rule.
The charismatic lawyer was addressing his alma mater, Makerere University School of Law, in a virtual guest lecture convened by the clinical legal education class, on the essence of social justice, transformation and legal education in post-colonial Uganda.
Asked by the moderator and law school don Patricia Atim, to give his parting shot, the skilful litigator and eloquent intellectual recommended reading Professor Richard Suskind’s book, ‘Tomorrow’s Lawyers’.
The bestseller is a frankly-speaking eye-opener into the fast-paced world, that gives the harsh reality that lawyers must embrace the uncompromising technological advancement by harnessing digitization and digitalization.
“Lawyering, as you understand it, is going to be completely upended: transformed, democratized and given back to the people through the digital platforms. We are going to Uberize the law, whether you like it or not, it has already happened, it is unstoppable,” Ssemakadde said emphatically.
“Go and read Professor Suskind’s book ‘Tomorrow’s Lawyers’ and you will see what artificial intelligence has done to you, will do to you — the era of overcharging, confusing and undermining clients is over!” a mirthful Ssemakadde harangued the wannabe advocates.
“You are studying for nothing, you are wasting your money if you don’t adapt and teach yourself the wonders of digital transformation, because I assure you at Makerere, they will not teach you any of these things.”
The stalwart of judicial activism told his alma mater in the over-subscribed lecture (akin to a sold-out Luciano Pavarotti concert), that they must be proactive and “participate in the evolution and pulsations of society as social and political activists.”
He said it is clear that society is fervently in support of disbanding the status-quo.
“The people have moved on; they don’t need lawyers, they want justice — and that can be delivered by apps and activists who are non-lawyers.”
The human rights defender tasked the aspiring lawyers with being obsessive about all things digital, explaining that such drive would thrust them into the orbit of new captains of the unstoppable digitalization industry.
“As young lawyers, this is your mission: to decolonize, democratize, demilitarize and digitalize the law and legal institutions; to question everything, and create a decolonization litmus test for every aspect of lawyering including legal education, legal training. Be serious about democratization, expanding conversations beyond the elitist enclaves,” the scholarly human rights advocate roared.
In addition to being the founder and chief executive of human rights watchdog Legal Brains Trust, Ssemakadde is also the chief steward of Centre for Legal Aid — a shrine to all lovers of freedom and social justice, famed for providing low-cost but top-grade, public-minded and progressive legal representation.