07 May 2024

An interview with Margrét CEO of Justikal in the Legal Technologist


In this issue of the Legal Technologist Margrét Anna talks about Justikal, how it's used and what the future holds.

What is Justikal and what inspired you to found the company and develop the technology?

Justikal is a solution that enables parties involved in legal proceedings to manage and handle all documents electronically. The system meets the highest security standards and has been specifically designed to comply with eIDAS obligations. The eIDAS regulation enforces that all courts in Europe are obligated to accept electronic documents - which is a big shift from current court processes which are primarily paper-based. Justikal is designed to substantially shorten the average case processing time, improve access to justice by enabling parties to manage their dispute-related electronic documents.

On average people go through one or two court cases in their life. This is extremely stressful and the interests of the parties are always very high and the matters are often very sensitive. Paper-based court processes mean that processing time is lengthened with an overall lack of transparency of where documents sit in the process. This is obviously a problem that needs to be solved. Especially today when we have so many documents that are only available electronically! For example, documents that contain electronic signatures, they cannot be printed. If they were printed then the court cannot validate the signature to see what legal effect it has depending whether it is a simple, advanced or a qualified eSignature. The courts must be able to accept, validate and store electronic documents. Justikal is a faster and more secure paperless way to manage documents in legal proceedings.

Before I founded Justikal I was working as an attorney for approximately 10 years. I experienced first-hand how long court proceedings took because they were paper based. The process is not environmentally friendly at all. We would have to produce 5 or 6 copies of all the court documents depending on the number of parties and judges presiding the case. This process is very time consuming and stressful, because lawyers are going through all the copies making sure all the documents are there. It took me around an hour to go to the courthouse, find a parking space and sometimes drag a suitcase of documents to submit.

It is also stressful for attorneys to meet deadlines, especially when they need to consider the opening hours of the courts. They need to go to the courts to get a stamp that proves that they have submitted the documents within the given deadline. In the meantime, the client has no idea what's happening in the court case and whether the opposing attorney is submitting any further documents.

What are the key benefits that Justikal provides for parties involved in litigation/disputes for courts of justice, arbitration centres, and law firms?

Justikal makes it possible for any court, arbitration centre or tribunal to be compliant with the requirements of the eIDAS regulation and in alignment with todays standards for digitalisation. The system meets the highest security standards and is designed to substantially shorten the average case processing time and improve transparency and access to justice. In the end we are providing a far better user experience for everybody involved in legal proceedings.

By enabling attorneys to securely submit documents electronically we can shorten the average case processing time up to 25 to 30%. By doing this we are also able to lower the legal costs and therefore we will make the courts more accessible for people with lower income.

This also provides higher security and more transparency for participants. We use strong authentication which gives clients the possibility to monitor their cases directly instead of through their lawyers. E-Seals and Qualified timestamps confirm accurately time of submission and protect the integrity of the documents.

Justikal's solution also enables courts within the EU to meet their legal obligations i.e. to accept electronic documents, particularly those with Qualified Electronic Signatures which cannot be printed. Additionally, they need to be able to validate the signatures and handle long-term preservation in accordance with eIDAS regulation. This is something Justikal solves very smoothly.

The use of Justikal results in huge savings for societies. Here in Iceland we have estimated that Justikal can save approximately 24 million EUR annually (and we have around 15.000-17.000 cases annually processed through the court system).

The courts do not pay anything for the usage of the solution. It's free for them. Only the user that creates a case pays a modest fee for the usage, all other users such as opposing attorney, clients, associates, assistants and other use the system for free.

Can you tell us about the successful pilots you have run and what have you - and the relevant users - have learnt from them thus far?

In 2020 the Ministry of Justice, Court Administrate, Court of Appeals, and the five largest legal firms in Iceland agreed to perform a pilot project of Justikal in real court cases. With outstanding recommendations from all the participating parties, Justikal received an approval from the Ministry of Justice and Court Administrate for the use of Justikal in legal proceedings before Icelandic courts.

In 2023 the Nordic Arbitration Court started started using Justikal for all their cases, allowing cross-border collaboration. Attorneys in Iceland and attorneys in Finland were both able to access and operate the system, available online, using their electronic IDs (eIDs).

Currently we are supporting eIDs from 34 countries and we are in the process of implementing a new login method which will enable us to onboard users from over 180 countries.

I believe it's a huge benefit having a solution like Justikal operated by a private party. If we had participated in a tender and been chosen we would not be able to constantly develop the solution like we have. In the last three months for example we have released two new features in the solution, i.e. Registered eDelivery which makes it possible to securely transmit sensitive documents between parties, guaranteeing that only authorised individuals can access them and General Cases which makes it possible for use the system for disputes that may not necessarily escalate to a court case.

How difficult is Justikal to implement and use?

A prerequisite for providing our service in new markets is getting formal approval from the local government and/or arbitration centre that confirms their employees will accept documents received through Justikal. The solution comes at no cost for them. The court employees and/or arbitration employees can use all the features in Justikal at no cost for them indefinitely. Our customers are the Law Firms. Additionally the service is not intended to replace any existing internal systems such as internal systems such as internal case management systems and can be seamlessly integrated with them if requested. The solution is designed to enhance public service.

Justikal is accessible via web browsers and is optimised for laptops, desktop computers, smart phones and tablets. The system is very user friendly and no special training is required before users can start using the system.

What does the future look like for Justikal, and how would you describe your ambitions for the business?

Our solution is currently being used before the district courts in Iceland and the Nordic Arbitration Centre. The Nordic Arbitration Centre has already told us that they are extremely happy and they feel our solution has been a game changer for them. It elevated their entire workflow.

We are currently in advanced conversations with a couple of national courts and arbitration centres outside of Iceland and we would like to encourage those interested in having our solution available in their market to contact us. It takes us approximately 6 to 8 weeks to translate the system and have it available to a new market once we have received the approval from the relevant authorities at the relevant market to accept documents sent through our solution.

Link to the full article.