In Ireland, the UK, Europe and as far flung as Hong Kong and Singapore, notaries play pivotal role in our legal system. Their primary role is to witness the signing of documents, participating in an entirely independent capacity. The primary way to find them, though, is far less straightforward.
“I was in work one day and an email went around, frantically looking for a notary,” says Jennifer Hourihane, founder of Oathello. “The stakes were high, the people emailing needed to close a case and, because there's no efficient marketplace for witnessing and notary services right now, they ended up doing what we all do.”
With a decade of professional experience in law, Jennifer has seen it all. People email, ring, frantically WhatsApp anyone and everyone, calling in favours to secure a notary at short notice, at strange hours, on weird dates.
For Jennifer, this was 23 December. Nightmare.
“Because the marketplace is so inefficient and fragmented, you might end up getting an appointment with someone an hour away. You're so desperate that you take them, often paying cash, not knowing the exact moment you’ll need them, just working it out as you go.”
Jennifer spotted the gap, thought of a solution, and Oathello was born.
A Cork woman, Jennifer’s legal background stretches from Munster to Leinster, with some Luxembourg flair thrown in for good measure.
Having studied a BCL in University College of Cork, Jennifer got inspired by law, “because it’s where business and people intersect in a really exciting way”.
Jennifer spent six months in Luxembourg during her legal studies, eventually working on what was, at the time, the largest steel merger in history.
From there, to exams at Blackhall Place, stints at Byrne Wallace and A&L Goodbody, and onto Oathello – which NDRC invested in in 2017.
We've completely digitised how notaries are found and booked in the current regulatory framework- Jennifer Hourihane, Oathello
Oathello lets you find and book lawyers and notaries near you, on demand, book them and pay them all through an app. This removes the need for cash, aligns timeframes at critical points of legal engagement and, in Jennifer’s words, is pivotal when it comes to “the opportunity cost”.
“You don’t have to travel to them,” she said. “After you have made your booking, you can get on with other business while they’re on the way. You can get documents sworn and notarised in minutes.”
“Notaries love it. At the moment, they have to set up their own business cards, build a website, pay Google for CPC-advertising, all just to reach their market.
“We’re cancelling all of that out - connecting supply and demand in the most efficient way possible. Witnessing and notary services will never be the same again. We've completely digitised how notaries are found and booked in the current regulatory framework.”
With offices in Dublin, and partnerships built north of the border, and into the rest of the UK, Oathello is eyeing London expansion in the coming months.
“It’s like every industry. Look at how taxi services used to be provided, compared to how they are now. There’s always room for improvement. I focused on what I knew best - law.
“We’re working with some of the leading law firms in the country. We're reducing a process that currently takes up to two hours, down to two minutes.”