Meet the Real Justice League: 10 Entrepreneurs Helping Average People Navigate the Legal System
These startups make it less complicated -- and often cheaper -- to sort out your legal troubles.
The problem of U.S. citizens getting poorly treated by the justice system is acute. One particularly shocking report found that 86 percent of civil legal problems among low-income Americans fail to achieve adequate legal redress.
Enter a new breed of legal superhero. This real-life justice league is made up of entrepreneurs on a mission to fight inequality. More than that, they are receiving big funding from leading investors as they use advances in technology to promote truth, justice and the American Way.
1. Joshua Browder, founder, DoNotPay
Joshua Browder, aged just 21 and a student at Stanford University, has disrupted the legal industry even though he is not a lawyer. Browder created the DoNotPay "chatbot," which has saved thousands of motorists more than $11 million in parking fines and has since moved to ensure air passengers get cheaper fares. DoNotPay has raised $1.1 million (£840,000) from venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Greylock Partners. Browder told the Artificial Lawyer website: "Elon Musk has driverless cars and is sending rockets to Mars. It seems possible that we can solve a few legal problems that are really just decision trees, and quite easy to solve."
2. Dorna Moini, founder, HelpSelf Legal
Seeing technology mostly benefiting corporations and high-income people, former Sidley Law associate Dorna Moini launched HelpSelf Legal, an automated legal site for allowing low income victims of domestic violence to obtain restraining orders. In an email to me, Moini gave this advice to others: "Your team is everything. Working with people who share your passion and the company's mission will make everything more fun and easier as you cement your masterpiece from thin air."
3. Kristen Sonday, co-founder, Paladin
With two women at the helm, Felicity Conrad and Kristen Sonday, Paladin streamlines pro bono management.
Kristen Sonday told me, "Felicity and I care so much about ensuring equal access to justice because the justice gap disproportionately affects women, minorities and immigrants, of which we're all three. Startup life can be all-consuming, so it's important to remember why you started the company in the first place".
4. Kristina Jones, co-founder, Court Buddy
Kristina and James Jones founded Couty Buddy to help clients save money on legal fees by cutting out high retainers and hourly fees. Kristina Jones told Piloting Your Life podcast: "Do not be afraid to ask for advice and solutions. The answers are out there you just have to find them."
5. Julia Shaw, co-founder, Spot
As allegations of workplace harassment and discrimination have created a fundamental shift in workplace culture, Spot launched an AI-powered recording tool to help employees who feel they have been treated improperly. "There are a lot of hurdles to reporting these kinds of experiences," said Spot co-founder and chief scientist Julia Shaw, in an interview with VentureBeat. "One of them is fear of retaliation."
6. Julia Salasky, CEO and co-founder, CrowdJustice
Founded in London in 2015 by ex-United Nations lawyer Julia Salasky, CrowdJustice is bringing the Kickstarter model to legal cases that would otherwise find it hard to get funded. CrowdJustice plans to expand to the U.S. thanks to $2 million in seed funding. Salasky told Slate, "The legal system is a public good, but what does that mean if people -- from those defending themselves from deportation, to those advocating for social change and advancing civil rights -- can't access it?"
7. Michelle Crosby, CEO and co-founder, Wevorce
Wevorce CEO Michelle Crosby claims the average divorce costs $27,000, while her site is able to charge just $949.. The company has raised $6.5 million including $3 million from Techstar Ventures. Crosby told CNBC: "Every 13 seconds, someone is getting divorced in this country. It's created a $30 billion market in legal fees alone."
8. Laura Wasser, founder, It's Over Easy
Celebrity divorce attorney, author and family law expert Laura Wasser has represented clients including Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian. Creating the online divorce platform called It's Over Easy, she told Entrepreneur.com it was for the 99 percent of people who cannot afford lawyers: "In the back of my mind, I have always thought if I could do [all the divorce paperwork] myself when I wasn't even practicing family law, there must be a way of showing people how to do it themselves."
9. Xiao Wang, founder, Boundless Immigration
Founder Xiao Wang came to the U.S. from China at a young age and is using technology to simplify the process of filling out complex applications. The company has raised $3.5 million in seed financing and is helping U.S. citizens and Green Card holders apply for visas for their spouses. "The immigration process is opaque, intimidating and high-stakes," Wang told GeekWire. "I am dedicated to giving everyone the information and tools they need to confidently and successfully navigate the legal immigration process."
10. Javad Khazaeli, co-founder, Road to StatusRoad to Status is an online platform that helps people file immigration applications. Co-founder Javad Khazaeli is a former prosecutor for the Immigration and Naturalization Service who immigrated to the U.S. from Iran at age 2. He told the Stanford Law Codex site: "As an immigrant and a former immigration prosecutor for the U.S. government, I saw first-hand the broken application process. While with the government, I could not understand why there wasn't a technology fix to streamline the process. Once I left the government, I found the best partners to take my idea and make it a reality."
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