From Founded to Funded: Challenges and Visions for Justice Tech from the Duke Center on Law & Tech and lead author Kelli Raker provides insights into the emerging field of justice tech and centralizes the stories of justice tech founders. Based on interviews with justice tech founders, investors, legal professionals, and individuals who have faced legal issues, the report details systemic hurdles confronting startups aiming to increase access to legal services.
This study was approved by Duke IRB #2022-0480. This research was made possible with the support of Duke Law School and the Duke Social Sciences Research Institute. Learn more about SSRI grants for Duke Faculty.
Among the report’s key takeaways:
- Justice tech is still in its formative stage, requiring collaboration and shared visions to mature as an industry. Startups face a steep learning curve, often pivoting their ideas and business models.
- Founders tend to be passionately committed to expanding affordable legal solutions, frequently drawing from personal experiences with legal problems. However, developing sustainable business models remains a complex puzzle.
- Traditional funding models are often insufficient. Justice tech startups struggle to secure capital aligned with their dual social impact and profit goals. New creative funding approaches are needed.
- While the market size is massive given the extent of unmet legal needs, acquiring customers is challenging. Startups underestimate resources required for marketing and user outreach.
- Concerns around legal liability and unauthorized practice of law stifle innovation. Navigating inconsistent regulations across jurisdictions requires significant funds.
- Startups must deliver robust, tailored solutions despite limited resources, recognizing the high stakes of legal issues. There’s little room for mistakes.
The report underscores how justice tech entrepreneurs are taking risks and persevering despite systemic barriers to achieving their visions of expanded access. To foster ongoing innovation, the legal industry needs regulatory clarity, funding models valuing social impact, and an embrace of technology’s potential to expand access to justice. Though challenges remain, From Founded to Funded: Challenges and Visions for Justice Tech demonstrates that justice tech represents a promising path to help narrow the justice gap.