Legal services, particularly in the US, can be costly to obtain. For some disadvantaged groups, legal representation can be an impossibility.
On the flipside, there are a lot of lawyers out there willing to put in pro bono hours, in aid of those who otherwise might not have the resources to seek legal aid. But getting in touch with these disadvantaged groups can prove difficult.
Enter Paladin, a tech start-up dedicated to getting lawyers in touch with the pro bono work they’re passionate about. The innovative enterprise quickly received US$1 million in funding from investors like Mark Cuban, among others.
The CEO Magazine spoke to Felicity Conrad, the CEO and co-founder of Paladin, about the mission behind the startup.
What was the inspiration behind Paladin?
I set out to build Paladin after representing a Colombian family seeking asylum, pro bono, while a litigator at a major law firm. My co-founder and COO, Kristen Sonday, witnessed first-hand how complicated our judicial system is while working at the Justice Department and wanted to find a way to assist those in need.
Why is this facilitation of pro bono legal work important?
Now more than ever, pro bono lawyers are urgently needed to represent folks in need – a recent example is the thousands of separated families at the border.
In fact, 86% of low-income Americans never get the legal help they need, yet there are 1.3 million lawyers with a professional responsibility to do 50 hours a year of pro bono. Lawyers sometimes forget that they can have a tremendous impact on people’s lives, but in reality, that kind of impact is often just one pro bono case away.
What challenges have you faced as a recent start-up?
From funding, to hiring, to product, to sales, to impact, we’ve faced challenges in all directions. A key to overcoming challenges (which are an inevitable part of starting a company) is to surround yourself with mentors who can guide you along the way.
For us, Techstars was an incredible experience that has helped us overcome key challenges, build a strong network of advisors and gain the momentum we need to succeed.
How do you envision Paladin transforming pro bono legal work?
Our mission is to build a global pro bono platform that helps increase access to justice. By creating technology that makes it easier for lawyers to do pro bono work, and for law firms, companies and law schools to manage their pro bono programs, we hope to inspire every lawyer to use their legal skills to ensure equal access to justice for all.
How have you found the experience of entrepreneurship?
It’s exciting to wake up every day and know that we’re creating our own future, but at the same time it’s sometimes daunting that there is no roadmap for what we’re building. Having each other for support and accountability has been key to our success.