Valentin Pivo­varov: Pi­o­neer­ing tech­nol­ogy to make le­gal ser­vices cheaper for clients

Kyiv Post Legal Quarterly - - Contents - By Denys Kras­nikov kras­nikov@kyiv­post.com

Not happy with prospects for law school grad­u­ates in Ukraine, Valentin Pivo­varov, 25, has cho­sen a spe­cialty that he thinks has prom­ise — shak­ing up the le­gal pro­fes­sion with the aid of tech­nol­ogy.

Pivo­varov wasn't in­ter­ested in a stan­dard le­gal ca­reer path, so he found in­spi­ra­tion in in­for­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies. Be­fore long, he had linked up with Rocket Lawyer, one of the first le­gal com­pa­nies to of­fer ser­vices on­line.

“Le­gal ser­vices pro­vided on­line can sig­nif­i­cantly sim­plify peo­ple’s ac­cess to jus­tice,” Pivo­varov said. It can also save on the la­bor, rent and travel ex­penses for law firms. All the same, most firms still have "just sim­ple web­sites" and stan­dard, ex­pen­sive ser­vices, he says.

So in 2014, Pivo­varov launched Bitlex, “a startup among law firms” that of­fered on­line so­lu­tions. The own­ers sold their shares two years later and most of the 12 em­ploy­ees joined Pivo­varov in his new ven­ture, lexnet.io, which fo­cuses on cy­ber­law and cryp­tocur­rency.

The com­pany was spot­ted by Jus­cu­tum, an at­tor­neys as­so­ci­a­tion that spe­cial­izes in IT and me­dia law. It pro­posed that lexnet.io op­er­ate un­der its um­brella. To­day it has be­come a lab­o­ra­tory of tech in­no­va­tions for the le­gal sec­tor.

Dig­i­tal money and law

In April, Ukraine part­nered with global tech­nol­ogy com­pany Bit­fury to put gov­ern­ment data on a se­cure plat­form. The same tech­nol­ogy is used to en­crypt bit­coins.

Ukraine is ad­vanced in this area, he said, rank­ing "among top 10 coun­tries with the big­gest devel­op­ment of cryp­tocur­rency.”

Jus­cu­tum is now one of the first and few com­pa­nies that ac­cept bit­coins as pay­ment.

Tech and law

Tech­nol­ogy is al­ready chang­ing the le­gal in­dus­try in Ukraine. “On the one hand, Ukraine has plenty of prob­lems; on the other hand, it has a well-de­vel­oped IT sphere,” Pivo­varov said.

Some projects in­clude chat­bots and

ap­pli­ca­tions that au­to­mate le­gal work. One is Le­gal Alarm, a smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tion that sum­mons a lawyer at the click of a but­ton. It first charges 150 eu­ros and then dis­patches a lawyer for those need­ing emer­gency le­gal as­sis­tance.

It’s al­ready avail­able for IOS and An­droid de­vices. It was par­tially de­vel­oped by Jus­cu­tum, but now it’s be­ing de­vel­oped by Pivo­varov and his in­no­va­tions lab. Pivo­varov says the idea hit af­ter the Euro­maidan Rev­o­lu­tion that drove Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych from power on Feb. 22, 2014, when there were searches and raider at­tacks on busi­ness.

“There were cases when some­one was just break­ing doors, and the com­pa­nies had no emer­gency com­mu­ni­ca­tion with lawyers to pro­tect their rights,” Pivo­varov said.

The app won a prize at Hiil Jus­tice Ac­cel­er­a­tor, launched by Hague In­sti­tute for the In­ter­na­tion­al­iza­tion of Law, when it was pre­sented in Septem­ber 2016. “Now the world knows about Ukraine, and they have high hopes for it,” Pivo­varov said.

An­other re­cent devel­op­ment is a com­puter bot to au­to­mate le­gal ser­vices, such as set­ting up le­gal en­ti­ties or fil­ing di­vorce doc­u­ments.

“Thou­sands of Ukraini­ans reg­is­ter busi­nesses monthly. Th­ese ser­vices are avail­able on the mar­ket for some Hr 1,500, while we can do the same for about Hr 200," he said. Cut­ting costs im­proves ac­cess to le­gal help. Most peo­ple "don’t go to a lawyer, be­cause they think it’s ex­pen­sive,” he said.

His team is also work­ing on a plugin for Mi­crosoft Word to cre­ate tem­plates for com­mon le­gal doc­u­ments.

Hackathons and law

Apart from be­ing an en­tre­pre­neur and a lawyer, Pivo­varov takes part in or­ga­niz­ing hackathons for lawyers, events in which com­puter pro­gram­mers and oth­ers thrash out tech ideas.

He joined Le­gal Hack­ers, a global com­mu­nity from 52 coun­tries. He has al­ready or­ga­nized a hackathon in Europe, invit­ing more than 150 peo­ple. The turnout showed him that peo­ple are hun­gry for in­no­va­tion.

“Our peo­ple are zeal­ous, they long to see changes,” Pivo­varov said. “And tech­nolo­gies can make them hap­pen.”

A woman sits in the ses­sion hall of the Supreme Court of Ukraine in Kyiv on April 5. (Volodymyr Petrov)

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