This is by integrating short-term insurance policies, such as motor vehicle, property or funeral insurance, with add-on cover that gives access to a lawyer when things go wrong.
This legal help comes through LawBasket’s vast network of on-demand lawyers who can be accessed remotely through the startup’s platform. These lawyers work for a set fee so there is never a nasty surprise for the end user – which does sometimes happen when using a traditional bills-by-the-hour law firm.
Chief Operating Officer Simba Mubvuma said two Zimbabwe-based insurers were on board and the uptake of the add-on insurance was very good “and growing”.
“For the first time ordinary people have a way to access a lawyer when they find themselves in trouble. This is what LawBasket is all about – creating access to justice.”
Mubvuma said most Africans had a funeral policy which covered the cost of the casket and the event. “But what happens the day after the funeral when the family needs legal support dealing with the will or wrapping up the estate. That’s when people need a lawyer but often don’t know what to do or where to turn.”
Motor accidents were another example.
“In Zimbabwe the roads are bad and there are a lot of accidents. It means motor vehicle insurance is an imperative. Our add-on legal insurance means that if there are more complex issues involved in the accident, the claimant is not left fighting battles on their own.”
LawBasket’s regular users are an interesting collection of typical African businesses and include everyone from informal street traders to pizza joints and other tech start-ups.
For those who are not wanting to access the service through add-on insurance cover, a monthly subscription is an option or simply inboxing LawBasket will soon have lawyer and client in discussion.
The business is based in Harare and, Mubvuma says, it is now ready to expand into countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana.
“These are all countries where there is a massive need for affordable legal services.
“So often justice is denied simply because the cost of a lawyer puts them out of reach. By using technology we are connecting lawyers with the people who need them most. Fees are paid upfront and the person on the street finally has a way of reaching a lawyer.”
Mubvuma is looking out for partnership opportunities with insurance companies outside Zimbabwe and, once these are in place, the LawBasket model will be replicated.
“It’s an African solution developed for an African market,” he says.
The name LawBasket was conceptualized at the Law Society of Zimbabwe Winter School held at the Victoria Falls in 2018 and, in true African style, is a symbol of holding together the start-ups array of services.
“We didn’t want a name that gave the impression we were a law firm but rather something that would show that we could help with any legal need.”
LawBasket has attracted international attention and, in November last year, gained second place in the southern Africa regional finals of the Innovating Justice Challenge, run by the Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL), in Johannesburg in November.
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