Legal Advice Middle East: A Year of Success
A year ago, a young legal technology startup from Dubai, UAE, brought the concept of an online marketplace to the legal services market for the first time in the Middle East region.
Legal Advice Middle East is a startup founded by a Dubai-based entrepreneur Suzanna Kalendzhian. A lawyer herself, she created an innovative platform that connects consumers and lawyers across the Middle East by allowing them to find, communicate and transact with each other online. LegalAdviceME.com enables consumers to look up legal issues, ask questions, and interview lawyers. Lawyers, in turn, are given the opportunity to showcase their skills and expertise to prospective clients. Through the convenience and privacy of the Internet, people can access the legal advice they require and lawyers can effectively market their services.
Legal Advice Middle East, the first online legal services marketplace in the region, recently became a Winner of the 2016 Innovating Justice Award from the Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL). The legal tech startup from Dubai was selected by HiiL for the 2017 Innovating Justice Accelerator program and received grant financing.
Founders of Legal Advice Middle East pitched their innovation before an international audience at the Innovating Justice Forum held in The Hague on the 2nd of December 2016. There they won a special recognition of the jury as the best investment opportunity. "It was a pleasure to learn more about Legal Advice Middle East through The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law. We are always excited to learn more about start-up companies that are innovating in the judicial space," said a special guest of the forum Bradford Brown, Portfolio Director, The Center for Judicial Informatics, Science, and Technology at The MITRE Corporation after his meeting with Suzanna.
Another special guest of the forum, James Peters, VP of Legal, New Market Initiatives at LegalZoom added: "At LegalZoom, we often talk about "democratizing the law". Legal Advice Middle East is taking on that issue by focusing on putting the right information into the hands of people with legal needs at the right time. Their focus on a creating a complete ecosystem (combining consumers, legal information and legal professionals in one place) and providing a platform with an exceptional user experience is extremely impressive. As the first marketplace of its kind in the Middle East, it's great to see them getting off to such a great start. With continued focus, they are poised to make a real impact on meeting the legal needs of the UAE and beyond."
Legal Advice Middle East finds its strength in addressing the unique nature of the Middle Eastern region. The Middle East boasts the world's highest level of immigration, with the populations of UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain comprised of more immigrants than natives. The steady increase of foreign residents creates a diverse population in need of simple and effective solutions when legal questions arise.
"The Middle East is a turbulent but very promising market with a very large group of young adults aspiring to build a bright new future for themselves. However, finding great legal advice in the Middle East can be challenging, especially for the expat community," said Wilfried De Wever, Head of Justice Accelerator at HiiL. "Now the founders of Legal Advice Middle East have managed to develop a unique platform designed to cater to those needs, providing valuable access to legal services to those who otherwise may face high charges or bureaucratic processes. We, therefore, regard Legal Advice Middle East as an interesting investment opportunity that can bring access to justice in the region into the 21st century."
The first startup to forge the concept of an online marketplace for the legal market in the region, Legal Advice Middle East is rapidly gaining traction. The platform currently engages lawyers from six Middle Eastern countries and visitors from 70 countries worldwide.
"We've had a long but rewarding journey over the past year. I would call 2016 a year of success for Legal Advice Middle East," says Suzanna Kalendzhian. "Now we are growing quickly and have great plans for 2017. I believe that our recent strategic partnership with Blue Pencil will be mutually beneficial, allowing both companies gain more traction and strengthen market positions."
Blue Pencil, a leading international legal recruitment company, was founded in 2002 and today has offices in London, Monaco and Dubai. "I've been delighted to work with the innovative founders of Legal Advice Middle East," says Liam Mooney, Founder & Managing Director of Blue Pencil. "Being heavily involved in the Middle East SME sector and the legal services industry, I can clearly see the current issues for both law firms and potential clients.
"Access to reliable legal advice is essential for any business, whatever the size. Many potential clients simply don't know where to turn, to get the best legal guidance and according to budget. Throw in the peculiarities of the local legal market in the Middle East, with the difficulty in getting reliable and trusted recommendations, it is no surprise that many get so frustrated with the process, they simply forget it or try a DIY job! At the same time law firms, particularly the smaller ones, don't have the resources and time to market and network.
"Legal Advice Middle East has provided a fantastic platform to make legal services accessible to all and ensure law firms have a dedicated online marketing tool to find new clients. The platform goes way beyond this of course. The legal services industry is currently under the throws of huge technological advances and a revolution, which is creating huge opportunities. Legal Advice Middle East has spotted this gap in the market."