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article imageNew mobile app puts you in touch with legal help Special

By Karen Graham     Oct 29, 2017 in Technology
Toronto - Toronto, Ontario Canada-based DAABA is a digital platform and mobile app available in Canada and the US. that connects people who cannot afford a lawyer with Legal Service Providers (LSP).
DAABA is a digital platform that allows users to connect with Legal Services Providers (LSPs) to obtain legal services, answer questions, and/or obtain advice anywhere and anytime. An LSP can be a Law Student, a Paralegal or a licensed Lawyer.
While legal services websites are not uncommon, DAABA is unique because it is not a website, it's an app. It is not a law firm, either. You can liken it to a legal version of TaskRabbit, an online and mobile marketplace that matches freelance labor with local demand.
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The big difference? DAABA's vision is to match LSPs with local demand, in this case, empowering the general public by giving them access to a vast variety of legal services providers. And this is part of DAABA's vision: "To create a fairer and more accessible legal service for all. Access to justice should not be a luxury, it should be easy, and it should be instant."
Many students graduate law school owing thousands of dollars  while facing the prospect of not getti...
Many students graduate law school owing thousands of dollars, while facing the prospect of not getting a job.
University of Texas School of Law
The Founders of DAABA
Digital Journal had an opportunity to meet up with one of the three co-founders of DAABA, Mohamed Ali. The co-founder said, "I met with Yassir and Ilyes El Ouarzadi in Montreal back in January 2016 for dinner. I had met Ilyes a long time ago in a student conference called Education Without Borders in Dubai in 2011 and we kept in touch."
After deciding at dinner that night they wanted to "do something together," the three young entrepreneurs started by contacting a law firm to do a shareholder agreement. Even though they were "incorporated," it took until May 2016 for the guys to come up with their idea for the mobile app. They found an application development studio in September 2016 and "the app came out in both the USA and Canada at the same time in May 2017," said Ali.
The app was released on the AppStore and Android, and in the five months after the first release, Ali says, "we now have more than 100 legal services providers signed up with us mainly from Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta."
Historic courtroom still in use in Brockville  Canada in 2006.
Historic courtroom still in use in Brockville, Canada in 2006.
"We had users posting cases ranging from family law to corporate law and simply traffic tickets. We brand ourselves as an independent platform and NOT a law firm, but it's fascinating to see how in this digital era, an app was able to gather 100+ ready to answer the call LSPs, whereas, back in the day, a law firm (which we are not) takes years to have at least half of that in their office."
Besides the costs, what else is behind the app?
Digital Journal asked — "You, along with Yassir and Ilyes El Ouarzadi founded the group. Are any of you law students? If so, is the cost of a law degree the only factor in starting this mobile app?"
"Yes," responded Ali, "Yassir is a law student in Quebec, he finished law school and he is scheduled to take the bar exam in both Quebec and NYC. It's one of two factors actually. There are two main factors that pushed us to come up with the idea. The cost of education, we always felt strongly about student debt in general, it's disgusting that so many students here in North America are hugely indebted with no job prospect.
DAABA users can choose the LSP  they are interested in talking with. This is the law office of  Manu...
DAABA users can choose the LSP they are interested in talking with. This is the law office of Manuel Alfredo Rodriguez.
Javier nuñes
"We rarely think about law students because we live in a culture that assumes law students are guaranteed a job, but the reality is that hundreds of law students graduate each year with no job on the horizon. So, many sit waiting for that call from Bay Street or 6th Avenue but never get any, and because of the average 100K of student debt, they tend to find themselves in the necessity of charging high fees to pay off the debt and that vicious circle never ends.
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"It simply pains us to see these students not finding a job and we thought if they own a mobile phone then they are ready to roll."
And that brings up the second reason for launching the mobile app. Ali pointed out the app is for "Really helping the middle class, it seems that only two types of people can afford legal services, the rich ones cause they can pay for it OR the poor cause they can have access to legal aid (although I read somewhere that in the U.S. for instance with the new administration, that legal aid is shrinking or going away, not sure), but the middle class is cut in the middle and with increasingly high living costs, legal services seem like luxury."
DAABA empowers people so no one is left out
"The other thing is that we feel people rarely think that they actually have full power on demand. However, they are the demand and so in the app, we tell them when posting their cases to mention what their budget is so in that way we democratize the whole supply/demand issue. So to sum up, our aspiration is that nobody will be left undefended and no LSP will be left unemployed, the humans in us think that this aspiration is so important that it really does not matter whether it's implemented with DAABA or not, but the businessmen in us obviously want this to happen with DAABA."
The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) (French: Le Barreau du Haut-Canada) is the law society respon...
The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) (French: Le Barreau du Haut-Canada) is the law society responsible for the self-regulation of lawyers and paralegals in the Canadian province of Ontario.
Ken Lund from Reno, Nevada, USA
When Digital Journal asked how the DAABA app works, Ali gave an example, using this writer: "Karen wants to apply for her U.S. work permit. She downloads DAABA and signs up and builds her profile (simple and easy). She then allows geolocation and posts her case, including 'title of the case,' and a 'brief summary,' including her budget and a few other key things.' She then selects whether she wants this case to be visible to law students, paralegals, or lawyers within her geolocation.
"Once posted, the case is visible to the feed thread of that particular audience, say lawyers in Ontario, then you will start having Ontario lawyers who are signed up with us reaching out to you to discuss your case, and you basically select your preferred LSP, Karen would click on 'Engage' and then the case is automatically deleted from the general feed thread as you now have your preferred LSP for this case. Once it's over, you click on 'End engagement' and it goes to your cases history et voila."
DAABA is free and legal
The really nice thing about this app is that it is free. Users are never charged for using the app. And DAABA does not take any commission or fee from LSPs. They can also download it for free, and anything you pay your LSP goes directly to him or her. DAABA will charge a monthly subscription fee to LSPs once they engage with a user of the DAABA app. Ali adds, "the LSP can unsubscribe at any time provided he is not currently working with any of our users. Think of it like Netflix subscription, no strings attached."
The DAABA mobile app as seen on Google Play. You can see that filling out the information is simple ...
The DAABA mobile app as seen on Google Play. You can see that filling out the information is simple and easy.
Google Play
Digital Journal wanted to know about the legality of using law students or paralegals on this platform. So I asked, "Just how does this work?" Mohamed said, "Great question. Anything new will be controversial and will face resistance. We did face controversy and resistance but we understand that for things to change, it takes time and courage and expressing the right concerns."
"Because DAABA believes policies need to change to accommodate the reality of our times, the same goes for what's permissible for law students to do and that's why we're working with the different law societies to both push for more flexibility but also make sure we're compliant."
Ali cites the extent DAABA went to in order to be compliant with the law. "We worked with the Barreau du Quebec (Quebec Law Society) to get their blessing — and we did. In Quebec for instance, a law student can provide you with all the legal information you need but cannot provide legal advice. And in many instances, that's all many of our users need. In Ontario, we had a lawyer who needed a research assistant and so he posted the case as an end user and he got connected to a law student to be a research assistant only."
The legal sector has been evolving, largely due to the introduction of artificial intelligence, augmented reality and the digitalization of human practitioners. DAABA's founders see their platform as a hybrid of these trends, believing the only way for human practitioners to stay competitive and relevant in this age is to digitalize themselves and leverage AI.
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