Gravity and the law, an unlikely pairing but yet so fitting
Meet Jason Muloongo, the aerospace engineer turned entrepreneur, who serves as the Project Manager at Ryerson University’s Legal Innovation Zone.
From a background in actual “rocket science” - building the interior passenger stowage cabins for Airbus on Lufthansa’s A380 - Jason always seemed to have an innate knack for problem-solving, and hitting objectives, even under immense pressure and while managing stakeholder expectations.
Although during this time, one thing always seemed to be in the way of the simplest path to success - the do’s and dont’s of the immutable company law. Designed for safety and protection, it often led to the opposite, as new technologies were on the horizon and younger individuals came onto the scene with sharper minds and quicker thinking, causing companies to get left behind and leaving executives no choice but to make dire decisions out of desperation.
This experience translated directly into his role as an entrepreneur, where he explains,
“I saw a lot of businesses and entrepreneurs get dragged into trouble because of the law, including myself. Not because we were trying to do anything illegal, but only because of our belief that creativity is at the heart of problem-solving, which was not shared by everyone. I was solving problems where the law outlaws creativity, so by definition to even begin to think about solving the problem was a non-starter. It created limitations to solutions and new services. Barriers to change had widened the gap between the have’s and the have not’s. Laws play such big roles in, and around companies, whether it be agreements between shareholders or industry rules and regulations. So, I thought, how do I understand the law better, so I can solve more problems.”
“Law to me was like gravity. You can’t act against it. It’s like when you build planes, you can’t fight against gravity, but through working with legal innovators I gained a new perspective.”
Jason became exposed to a whole new world (intentional Disney reference) of entrepreneurship and problem solving within the legal space. Not only was he solving problems, but he was solving problems to issues that were not commonly addressed.
“I felt like one of the Wright Brothers. I had challenged gravity. Something that I thought was unchangeable suddenly was malleable and could be challenged to reflect societal changes.”
One example of a project leading this fight against the laws of gravity is the Family Law Portal, a project whose execution can be largely attributed to Jason,
“The idea behind the family law portal was established by the Legal Innovation Zone, and several well known legal experts in Canada, but the project needed to be managed and executed from start to finish by someone not afraid to challenge the status quo. Initially, I was hesitant of getting involved in divorce law or matters of separation as it contributes to a lot of suffering, but I realized the complex legal process was adding more pain to an already painful experience. The laws that existed were widening the gap, and creating severe power imbalances in relationships. I’m all about helping relationships move to a more ideal state.”
The Family Law Portal is a response to a cry for help from “The Access to Civil and Family Justice Report” presented by the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. Some major findings noted by the committee included the need for effectively triaging issues, allowing for greater access to information on the rights people have in family matters, and knowing who they can reach out to.
“By providing not just access to information, but a network of professionals as well, the portal has allowed people to avoid getting dragged into additional troubles.”
This is just a glimpse of the various ground-breaking initiatives Jason has led from their infancy, but his drive for innovation has deeper roots.
Hailing from South Africa, he has witnessed inequalities on a daily basis from an early age, often leaving him facing seemingly insurmountable walls. Nonetheless, his bright, warm smile persists, in spite of all the shadows that have attempted to veil it, they haven’t dimmed it one bit.
“Growing up in South Africa I had to be innovative by default. There were lots of challenges that affected me in very personal ways, so I quite literally had to be innovative in order to survive. However, it wasn’t until I came to Canada that I realized I didn’t have to use innovation only as a means of survival, but also as a tool to help fix the problems I was seeing in a professional and entrepreneurial setting. I had more freedom to be innovative in terms of my pursuit of happiness.”
Jason is quick to note the pride of his South African roots and the similar experiences many of his fellow South Africans have lived through. One notable influence being Peter Oliver, Co-founder of Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants, Toronto’s renowned chain of luxury restaurants:
“I remember him saying to me ‘don’t underestimate the value of your struggle in South Africa.’ I knew then that my history of pain was a powerful catalyst for my ability to innovate.”
As many legal innovators come to Jason for advice and guidance in order to be equipped for take-off, he naturally has a few major tips,
“First, network like crazy. The legal space is a tight-knit group with a small number of people, so it’s important to break into it. It’s also a very risk-averse environment as everything must be precise and specific, therefore you have to be able to convey your vision and convince others to fly in a new direction with you. This requires incredible story-telling abilities or relationships built on trust. Second, connect with the Legal Innovation Zone. I know I’m biased here but I truly mean it. They are incredible people with a passion for flying. It opens up a huge amount of doors, so join in whatever way you can.”
With his signature smile, Jason beams at the recent acquisition of the Legal Innovation Zone’s very own startups,
“We had two of our companies get acquired, shoutout to the guys at Founded. Their experiences are a testament to what can be done.”
However, as the saying goes “it takes two to tango”(or whatever dance variation you prefer), the legal profession itself must be willing to accept innovative solutions, and create a more welcoming environment for innovators. How?
“Professionals need to learn more, be more curious, come to places like firmUp where they can get informed on what’s happening in the legal space, and ask themselves if this is a space they want to fly in. I think of the words of Justice Ann Timmer: you should begin by injecting innovation in your lifestyle at home, and then bring it into the workplace. It allows you to get comfortable with the idea of change and not being perfect at the first go. So, when you implement it in your professional projects, you will be more familiar with the process and less likely to fail. Second, the profession needs to focus on de-regulating and setting up sandboxes.”
No, not literal sandboxes, but rather a regulatory sandbox, where current laws and regulations are waived, so new businesses are allowed to operate for a certain period of time without rules that would otherwise prevent them from existing.
The Utah Supreme Court did exactly that in August 2020, by voting unanimously to implement a regulatory sandbox in order to address the gap in access to justice in Utah. Read more here
Even during our own struggles in this pandemic, we are being forced to be creative in ways we had never fathomed. Jason included.
Among his many ventures, he has built a company to help keep Canadians moving during this pandemic. He has partnered with several big brands in order to create a community and deliver personal fitness challenges at LittPro (Learn It Through the Pro). These 10-day challenges have inspired people, such as Linh (scroll down for video), to workout and meet others who are also struggling in being cooped up at home. Best of all, there are branded prizes involved.
The moral of the story, good innovation can be found all around, but only great innovation can be found in life’s valleys. Don’t let your struggles define your path but rather turn them into tools, so when used creatively they will carve the path you wish to embark on.
“No bird soars in a calm” – Wilbur Wright
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To find out more about the initiatives mentioned please visit: