JusWise is a Myanmar-based legal startup founded by 4 law students. JusWise has a vision to provide legal services in an easily accessible manner by using technology driven innovative solutions. In this interview with Asia Law Portal, the four founders of JusWise reflect on what inspired their entry into the world of legal innovation while still at law school.
Interview with Sandar Lin, Head of Legal Research and Product Operations, JusWise
While a full-time law student, you’ve also founded and are working on a legal startup called JusWise. Tell us about JusWise., what it aims to do, and where you are in its development? What inspired you to found JusWise. and who are you working with on the project?
“JusWise.” was founded by four 3rd year Myanmar Law students on 21 July 2021. We all went to law school and study laws but our roles in this partnership are different because each individual has distinct strong points which fit perfectly like puzzle pieces. Altogether being innovative problem-solvers, we bring different skill sets from different backgrounds as investment to this startup: entrepreneurial mindset, social network, business management, web developing, programming, digital marketing, research, and legal design thinking.
The reason why we named this “JusWise.” is that “Jus” means “law” in latin, “Wise” is same as smart and excellent and the period “.” at the end means punctuality in presenting data and offering legal service and also, a period is important in coding language like creating a URL or breaking up important portions in a URL.
Therefore, altogether, JusWise.’s vision is to provide legal service precisely in easily accessible manners by using innovative solutions with the help of technology.
To put it simply: We like making things easier for us, for legal scholars, for the public and for anyone, especially complex legal issues. To do so, technology can make it possible. Years ago, we can’t expect people to do things online much but now, after the pandemic and even Myanmar’s parallel government, NUG is running online, anything is possible.
What does “JusWise.” do?
At JusWise., we’re currently working on two main projects:
- JusX database and
- an Attorney Directory Portal
As the Head of Legal Research and Product Operations Department, I’m in charge of initiating legal research, analyzing the outcomes and collaborating with the Product Management and Development Department to create user-friendly product designs. After drafting the product pipeline, we work with “JusWise” tech team leader to build a prototype and calculate risks. And we make intense discussions with the Human Resource Management and Community Outreach Department to challenge the product solutions from the perspective of the users and plan financial and human resources. After all confirmation and project planning, we implement the plans.
Other than the four of us, we recently recruited three research specialists who are also law students to work with us for the JusX database. Each research specialist leads a research team specializing in Labor Law, Criminal Law and Civil Law and we have 12 volunteer researchers who research, analyze and rearrange data in JusX’s special case classification format. All research activities under JusX are carried out with the guidance of experts (law school seniors, lawyers, professors) on the JusX Advisory Board. In November, JusX will start welcoming JusX blog contributors too.
JusX is a non-profit database which we created with the intention that future law students in Myanmar do not need to carry heavy law books and shuffle through thick case books to locate a case they want for their assignments because JusWise. Founders went through this process at the law school. This same process goes on even after law school too because all judges and lawyers have to face this inconvenient way of finding case laws. JusX will bring an end to all those troubles. Just by type the name of the case, the law or the sections of the year, the author, the judges’ names or the type of the case or any alphabet, JusX will show precise results to help the researchers. Students, lawyers, judges and researchers should save their time and work force to do many other value-added tasks like deepening their analysis. JusX’s motto is “Difficulty to find information should not be a barrier for one’s effective learning.”
JusWise.’s attorney Directory Portal is a platform to help the clients and lawyers meet each other whenever they need. This helps easier access to justice for the public and finding clients for lawyers. JusLawyer dedicates much effort to help people bring closer to legal scholars and courts by using technology. “JusWise.” is a fast-paced working environment with sparks of many technology innovations but we make sure people who are not familiar with technology yet do not feel left out of our service. In our implementation for JusLawyer, we include plans to assist people with technical difficulties to get access to our service. In this Digital Era, everything is ongoing at a fast pace but “JusWise.” will stay true to its value that “If you want to go fast, you go alone but if you want to go further, you go together.”
Furthermore, “JusWise.” aims to produce solutions that can help lawyers and judges access to legal documents online and form legal analysts based on existing facts, legal framework and type of the tasks they need to carry out more efficiently.
You’re currently a law student at the University of Mandalay. What inspired you to attend law school?
Four years ago after high school exam results, I decided to go to law school because of many incidents I’ve faced and heard as a child. When I was in middle school, my best friend said they had to move out of their house because their father lost a lawsuit. I was very surprised how big a legal issue is to turn one’s life upside down.
After high school, I knew I’m interested in social science subjects but was in a dilemma whether to choose Political Science, International Relations and Law. As I did a lot of self-reflection, I enjoyed a lot of essay and debate competitions so I realize I like arguing about conflicting ideas that involve people’s interest. And, I like listening to my friends’ problems and giving advice so I thought I’m interested in other people’s problems and if I get paid for doing so, I’d be a billionaire. Other than that, in my surroundings, I’ve seen people hesitate to go to a lawyer or to the court to claim their rights and to take legal action against the offenders. So, I hope I can bring the whole legal community closer to the public. I want people to think going to the court and starting a lawsuit is as easy as going to the supermarket and lawyers exist to help them. Right now, with “JusWise.”, any legal advice and service will be just “one click away”.
And do you now have a sense of what career path you might like to pursue?
I want to contribute the community and legal industry with a lot of innovative ideas through JusWise. as a permanent job. I like studying how the public is connected to legal matters in their daily life and how they have to approach to justice system to claim for their rights. With the non-stop development of technology, legal industry has to face significant changes in this Digital Era. Learning how policies and rules are made, how the public is benefited or deprived or how they respond is really interesting. I want to take Law, Technology and Policies for my master studies. I’m very interested in legal design thinking. I hope to find my own path which can add more creativity to what we originally known of how the professional life of lawyer is like. I want to explore how legal service can be offered to people in simple yet creative ways.
You’re also Director of Legal Training and Development for the Asian Law Students Association (ALSA). Tell us more about this
It’s my pleasure to be elected to work at ALSA International Board as the Director of Legal Training and Development which gives the opportunities to materialize my ideas by collaborating with other board directors and national chapters of ALSA.
As the director of Legal Training and Development, I’m in charge of planning events under the Training, Exchange and Development department (TED). For TED’s dynamic activities of ALSA Learning by Doing, ALSA Open Space and Year-round Legal Discussion, I want to implement Mentorship programme, Legal Clinic, establishing ALSA Online Learning Platform, Book clubs and law reform research papers to offer the essence of legal education, the value of scholarly debates and preparation for their life beyond law school.
During my election, I’ve promised in my action plan to arrange workshops regarding various career guidelines for law school graduates. Other than lawyers, judges and arbitrators as career choices, I believe that presenting all various options will open the eyes of law students and unleash their potential. Besides legal studies, law students can pursue a career which intercept with other interests too such as data science, public policies, etc.
By applying my experiences from participating in many moot competitions, legal quiz competition, founding “JusWise.” and working at University of Mandalay Legal Information Center (UMLIC), I want to bring fresh perspective to complete my duties as a director at the ALSA International Board 2021/2022 term and to implement creative programs that will tug the curiosity and eagerness for learning from law students.
What advice do you have for other law students that might be interested in founding a legal startup?
When we first founded our legal startup, there was one thing that worries me and my co-founders greatly. Given our situations, we were supposed to graduate by now but there are many obstacles all around us. Despite all such worries and obstacles, we took a leap of faith to take action because as one of my co-founder says “Ideas not materialized will be just ideas.” We might all be imperfect individuals but altogether, our different expertise contributes the best outcome from this partnership. According to my experience, teaming up with like-minded people with same passion makes everything different.
When we actually started building “JusWise.” piece by piece, our entire prior worries were nothing compared to our passion and capabilities. Actually, we see our biggest worry as an asset now. There’re some things that we haven’t known yet but this also means that we have unlimited learning space that will push us further. Since the last time we attended classes at the university, we were only third year law students and to measure with the typical standards of one’s legal career, we haven’t even chosen our law major for a future career. One thing we’re crystal clear is that we all have entrepreneur mindset that is pushing us this far and will encourage to do greater things in the future. During these two years gap, we actually learnt more than we did when we spent hours in the classroom because we applied for different internship and work with many organizations and give ourselves a learning space to grow more as a human being and to take a closer look on what is happening in our community.
Therefore, I’d like to encourage law students to start working now to get closer to where they want to be. Whether something will end up being a success or not is like a gamble because we never knows what will happen but before that, there’re many things we’re capable of so we should keep trying. Trial and failure will eventually lead us to our destination. The obstacles we thought of could also end up becoming our opportunities. All my best wishes go to law students who are stepping a leap of faith towards their dreams.
Below is the story of each founding member of “JusWise.”
Sandar Lin, Head of Legal Research and Product Operations
All university classes are closed from 2020 March due to the world pandemic. So, technically we all were stuck at law 3rd year. During that time, I spent most of my time on the internet researching and writing memorials for moot court competitions representing my university. Moot court competitions let students use paid databases like CISG database, LexisNexis and Oxford Public International Law and Jus Mundi. I also took many online classes about different topics like business administration and digital marketing because I’m addicted to reading and learning and I hope any kinds of knowledge I collect now can be considered as my investment in my future. I realize the internet has a lot of cool stuff. Since then, I’ve wanted such a law database for Myanmar law students too but thinking about it alone, it won’t be easy to create a website, collect each case and law, arrange them in order, test search engine keywords and make adjustments for user experience. I thought excelling at technological tools would be a great asset.
And I also have this dream that I want to found my own law firm with unique client service styles. Like ‘all in one’ law firm which people can think of that brand name whenever they have a legal issue? As I enjoy communicating with people through writing and explaining complex matters in easily understandable methods, I believe this would be a great asset for giving legal service to people. Normally, due to complexity of legal matters, it seems like lawyers and the public are speaking different languages. Reducing such gap in communication would show great results.
The military coup affects many youths’ lives greatly. All my plans are postponed and no certainty for future at all. As I followed a lawyer to visit a prison and send food and clothes for political prisoners, I witnessed with my bare eyes that how the lives of lawyers and innocent people are full of struggles in this lawless country. The relations between people and the policies of the Judiciary, the Executive, and the Legislative systems are visible. I’m fueled with desires to bring changes to legal industry and access to justice for the public. [I started working at a news station since Feb but I couldn’t disclose where I work and what I do due to security concern.]
Then, I got in touch with my friends from past moot competitions and started developing this idea together. With like-minded people, those ideas are not crazy anymore. Actually, crazy ideas are great ideas. Instead of founding an ordinary student organization, we decided to take a leap to found a legal startup.
Nan Yadanar Lin, Human Resource Management and Community Outreach Department
I’ve always been interested in the interception of law and business management. By founding “JusWise.” with my mooter friends, we can develop many ideas together which is a combo of legal service I learnt from law school and offering and selling service to the public by using what I learnt in business classes.
Kyaw Moe Aung, Head of Product Management and Development Department
My Inspiration began in 2020 when I worked at a students’ organization called DULSA as Head of Moot Society. My duties were to organize and advance the moot culture, moot-related programs and knowledge posts as well. In the past, we wrote knowledge posts on our Facebook page. A month later, I got an idea to put it all together in an online library. So, I searched on google for free hosting websites, but the results show that it would be better if I can write coding myself. However, I found some free hosting websites and we published 5-6 moot knowledge posts and some memorandums. But, it didn’t work out.
Since that time I realized I enjoyed publishing legal information on websites, I thought about getting some donations for purchasing the domain and hosting. But, the Pandemic worsened day by day and all the programs stopped till now. During the Pandemic, I took some courses on Computer Science, Web Design and Legal-Tech. During the Pandemic, I also got internships in a tech-related law firm and company. After the internships, I got a wider perspective on legal-tech products, tech project planning, data storage, and innovative legal research. And my ambition becomes bigger and bigger in order to support easily accessible legal knowledge, services and information.
In February, a military coup began and all the opportunities were gone. Most of the students, including me, attended some interim education courses. During that time and writing assignments, some of my friends didn’t know where to find some cases for references and there was a lack of information on the site where it was available. It was also a hardship for legal researchers and mooties before. At that time, I thought this was the right time to pursue my ambition to build a legal database and easily accessible legal services.
In my experiences and opinion, one of the most important parts of a startup or project is to find the right partners, co-founders who are good in giving commitment, accountability and so on. So, I contacted my friends who are now my co-founders at “JusWise.”.
Hein Htet Zaw, “JusWise.” tech team leader
I think it might be unusual for a law student to be also interested in coding. Technology can make many changes to how we’re practicing law in traditional legal industry and as I got to work with my law school friends who want to welcome new perspective to ordinary legal service, I’m very excited to join JusWise. with them to see the endless possibilities of what products can be born from the combination of technology and legal knowledge.