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Artem Afian, Juscutum: “Technologization makes legal services more convenient and more affordable. And it’s a jackpot”

On September 12, 2018 Juscutum law company celebrates 10 years since its inception. During this time the company has not only managed to reach the top in Ukraine but has firmly asserted its position on the international scene, having launched solutions, innovative for the industry, such as PatentBot, SudoBot, StaffBot, a lawyer’s emergency call button Legal Alarm etc. Artem Afian, Juscutum’s lawyer and managing partner tells us how the balance between technology and law helps to work up the market.

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Juscutum started in the legal market in a difficult economic period. How the crisis has “helped” your promotion?

In the years preceding the crisis, the lawyers on the Ukrainian market had relaxed too much: the quality of services significantly decreased though the prices for services were high. So I and Dmitry Bondarenko thought that to ensure the highest quality at reasonable prices would be enough to start conquering the market. The crisis was not a decisive factor for our start, it only opened windows of opportunities for us,  which we used. The market was narrowing, the needs grew, and we were not burdened by high costs. We invested in people and in the things providing quality.

When we started our company, we did not understand clearly what we wanted to offer to the market, but we observed that the old format of services was becoming obsolete and that the tone of lawyers’ communications did not meet expectations. Lawyers had become complicated and incomprehensible, they were difficult to work with. It had become a real problem. And we wanted to change the situation.

Technologies are strategic direction for your company. How has technology changed the law market?

First thing is that the market has changed the lawyers themselves, forced them to be more comprehensible, adequate and somewhat knocked the stuffing out of them. It turned out that the lawyer, working with IT pros, in addition to his material, has to understand the scope of activities of his client: to know the difference between the front-end from the back-end, to delve into the specifics of product development, etc. This forced the lawyers to raise the bar of their quality, to become more customer-oriented and know more than is written in the laws. As well as to understand the practice, to know the law of other countries, to navigate the insides so that the services in some way anticipated needs. On the other hand, the technologies have been actively penetrating the market and changing the professions already far beyond IT.

What, primarily, should the technology release the lawyers from?

First of all, from routine work. Exactly the same as the telephone communication has evolved, the legal services have to change. Mainly the ones lacking high intellectual component. Drafting simple legal actions, standard contracts, registration of agreements and individual entrepreneurs, etc. These are the template services, which requested cost does not correspond to their real value. The consumer, in addition to the service, has to pay for staff salaries and office rent. Why taking into account the fact that all these things may be done remotely? Therefore, our main principle is technologization, it makes legal services more convenient and more affordable. And this is a jackpot.

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What are the most successful cases related to your tech products you may recall?

So far the most successful of our products is PatentBot. Today it consistently provides 1-1,5% of all submissions for registration of all brand marks in Ukraine. In one of the months, this figure accounted for three percent. We may well be proud of such figures. We have shown that in the market this innovation is really in demand. Therefore at present, we are entering other markets and trying to make this 1% not only in the Ukrainian market but also in larger and more global markets.

From time to time we come across the customers’ reviews, where they do not praise us, but just talk about new possibilities. For example, in the United States, a guy shot a video of how he registered his trademarks with PatentBot without human intervention, and it costed him three times cheaper than the standard procedure. It is especially nice when a person truly admires that inconvenient and expensive service has suddenly become affordable and more comfortable.

You were the first to accept payment for services in cryptocurrency, even when few understood what it is. Your company successfully conducted the world’s first Trans-Atlantic deal on buying an apartment for Ethereum cryptocurrency. How can you describe the prospects for digital money in Ukraine and in the world?

Of course, cryptocurrency and digital money have come off, they will continue to change the economic landscape of the planet. How? I don’t claim to know. But we are definitely already there and want to be a part of these processes. I don’t want to build theories, but I’m pretty sure only in one thing – a world without cryptocurrency will be gone. We may have a world without bitcoins, without ether, but the cryptocurrency and blockchain phenomenon itself will become ingrained into our everyday lives. The hype will subside, people will understand, which tasks are really required to be blockchained, what we really need cryptocurrency for, what new tools they will provide us, and these phenomena will take their regular place in our everyday lives where they will no longer impress or scare anybody. They will become as common as a microwave, mobile phones or electric cars.

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How big is the share of your foreign customers? What services are popular among them?

At present, there are few legal companies in Ukraine without a foreign business involved, because it is a good pool of financially reliable customers. But much more we are proud of the fact that we have customers in some areas where nobody knows much about Ukraine. They use our services only for legal activities in IT and blockchain field. These are the customers from the USA, Israel, Europe and even North Africa, and the total number of foreign clients exceeds 30%. We want to consolidate this trend and do the same thing that IT pros have long been doing, that is to build a legal outsourcing company. In our case, we will continue to move towards outsourcing, to build a communication model with our foreign customers, at the same time providing quality support to the Ukrainian market.

Are there any plans to expand the number of services or practices you render?

At present Juscutum provides practices of Business Support, Blockchain, International Business Administration, Business Security, Conflict Management, Taxation and Business Efficiency, Corporate Law, Technology Media and Telecommunications (TMT), Audit. This gives us an opportunity to reach a huge number of competencies and effectively cover many diverse challenges of our customers. We are oriented at market needs, at changing sphere. Our main vector is associated with the technology. Any new development in this area falls under our sight. Of course, we will continue to extend the blockchain and cryptocurrency concept. Thanks to new trends, we have new tools, we become more useful for specific areas and sectors. Participation in major global projects brings us closer to our goal of becoming one of those companies, which will be prominent on the world stage.

What services the company is betting on?

I think lawyers often go out of line when they begin to think exclusively in service categories. Our task is to solve the existing problem. As I mentioned before, we have enough competencies to close a lot of tasks. But we don’t create the need, we are not toothpaste producers. The emphasis is on the most relevant things. Investments, cross-border capital flows, and personal taxes hold the top positions nowadays. From the perspective of our practice, these are the taxes that should be paid from the cryptocurrency, their declaration, bank compliance for cryptocurrency projects. These are contributions in technology, technology assessment, start-ups’ purchase, collaboration between major corporations and startups. Field of activity is wide enough. In addition, it is, of course, a banking sector, where compliance procedure remains an important and serious area of services.

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You position yourself as Legal Engineering. What do you mean by this concept?

In my opinion, lawyers as a class will be changing, more and more engaging in social engineering. Legal Engineering is a current stage of Juscutum’s activity, it’s the time when we start working as engineers. We provide solutions, develop them, relying on not only the legal instruments. We don’t call jurisprudence an art, we do not try to work on an hourly rate only. We are working on the project with scheduling, which comprises classic engineering stage, design, analysis, and after that project’s presentation. Therefore, our services now look more like engineering, not just consulting. Consulting is something fleeting, it only gives you some knowledge, and engineering is a solution where you get at the end your solved problem consulting is a part of.

What do you wish for your company? Are there any recommendations to other companies striving to go beyond standard legal services?

I wish patience for my company. A lot of patience because our goals are not easy to achieve. Including the fact that we will never have a quiet life, we have long been done with it. We understand that the way to success takes time and it will add us a lot of gray hair and damaged nerves, that’s for sure. To other companies I wish courage. Do not be afraid, we live in the time of opportunities. But they should be aware of their risk. You can go a more or less classic way, having spent more time and feeling calmer or take risks. And remember that there is always a chance to lose. Our projects, technological products have not always been successful. We have a history of our products that didn’t make it through. And we appreciate it, as well as the history of intermediate cases because they allowed us to make following steps. Therefore, the essential advice is to work out everything and be ready for an unexpected outcome.

10 years – is it much or too little time to implement your ideas?

Our first plan at the time when our company was a mere concept was to get to the top in the country. Now we may consider this goal fulfilled. Yes, over the years, a lot of things have happened not as we had planned them initially. But we understand that you only need to move towards your goal, and the life will make its adjustments, and they need to be accepted. We are more experienced now, more wealthy, we have more energy than we had 10 years ago. So now we’re looking at the globe and trying to apply our ambitions to it.

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