Legal Alarm: Innovating Justice in Ukraine and Beyond

HiiL Justice Accelerator supports on a yearly basis innovations that foster faster conflict resolution and secure rights of citizens in legal systems all over the world. Legal Alarm, one of the winners of the last year’s Innovating Justice Challenge, falls with its efforts in the category of innovations proving legal information whereby it creates rights awareness and secures access to justice for people who normally would be left helpless.

Legal Alarm is a mobile app which was developed by a group of Ukrainian lawyers and legal experts who were eager to provide easy and quick legal help for people in need of it. This is especially useful in emergency situations such as when they cannot adequately assess their legal situation, as for instance during their travel abroad. Valentyn Pivovarov, a lawyer and a legal innovator, is part of the Juscutum Attorneys Association that stands behind this innovation. In his own experience, he describes how during his visit to Belarus he encountered a transport inspection that gave him a fine which he had to pay in order to preserve his car. Upon learning that the authorities were not authorised to do so, he illustrates that the emergency legal help is not only helpful but necessary.

He asserts that “every 40 second there is an act of police violence in Ukraine. More than 115,000 complaints were lodged against the law enforcement in 2016.” Thus, even though Ukraine is slowly yet surely on its way to becoming a full democracy, these legal innovations can significantly help the developing legal system adjust itself to the needs of Ukrainians. In HiiL’s Justice Needs in Ukraine Report from 2016, the study shows that most prevalent justice needs are related to employment, neighbours, housing and consumer problems. It was proposed that filling in the justice gap between self-help and formal justice processes with innovations in the form of “online platforms, legal information websites and different forms of hybrid programs for legal information and dispute resolution” would be the most promising way forward. Legal Alarm fits perfectly with its functions into this scheme; it provides you with a non-stop access to a local attorney; it gives you the option to notify people through a social media alarm; it can provide you with a legal advice; and it can geolocate you if need be. It is a comprehensive innovation that is specifically designed to target the gaps in law and ultimately serve the needs of the citizens.

For the moment the app is aimed specifically at the Ukrainian market, however, Valentyn is clear about their efforts to expand beyond the borders and make it available on an international level. During the Innovating Justice Challenge 2016 he got to meet many innovators from Africa, and therefore, he believes that it is a country with the greatest potential for improvement.There the citizens are similarly often unaware of their rights and they are unsure as to where they can get legal help.

Valentyn has also been active as an ambassador for the KYIV Legal Hack (partnered by HiiL) that regularly organises legal hackathons around Ukraine and motivates local entrepreneurs to start their own startups. What you can see in this Eastern European country is a quickly emerging community of young and inspirational innovators that collectively work towards the betterment of their legal system. Projects similar to Legal Alarm that are advanced through the Justice Accelerator programme can help citizens around the world stand against police harassment and abuse of power, sooner or later aligning justice system with the needs of its citizens.

You can download the Legal Alarm app through the following links: