PUBLISHED:October 15, 2021

SAEF Legal Aid takes home the grand prize at Duke Law Tech Lab's Demo Day


Three early-stage companies with a core mission of expanding access to justice pitched their businesses to a panel of experts.

Clockwise: Sasha Davenport from Justice Innovations; Duke Law's Kelli Raker; Eamonn Keenan of SAEF Legal Aid; Erin Lee ’23; and Libby Weingarten '13 Clockwise: Sasha Davenport from Justice Innovations; Duke Law's Kelli Raker; Eamonn Keenan of SAEF Legal Aid; Erin Lee ’23; and Libby Weingarten '13

SAEF Legal Aid won the grand prize of $7,500 at the Duke Center on Law & Technology's fifth annual Demo Day, while runners-up Justice Innovations and Creators Legal received $2,500 each. Justice Innovations took home an additional $2,500 for as audience favorite. 

Founders pitched their businesses to the audience and a panel of three judges during the Shark Tank-style competition held via Zoom on Friday, Oct. 22. Audience members voted for their favorite presentation. 

The three companies were all participants in Duke Law Tech Lab, a summer pre-accelerator program for early-stage legal technology startups. All three have a core mission of offering products or services that increase access to justice.

  • SAEF Legal Aid is a self-help triage and screening platform through which users can diagnose their core legal problem and get referrals to Legal Aid and other free and low-cost assistance with family law issues including child support, custody, and divorce. The service is currently in beta test phase in the Chicago area.
  • Creators Legal offers industry standard contracts for content creators in businesses such as photography, music, podcasting, and live theater.
  • Justice Innovations provides a cloud-based information management software for district attorneys’ offices. The product, called Vet-it, is designed to connect law enforcement with prosecutors, enabling a quick decision on whether charges will be pressed and resulting in fewer unnecessary arrests and dropped cases.

“The challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, when everything from client meetings to court hearings went virtual, showed us just how critical technology is to a functioning legal system,” says Clinical Professor Jeff Ward, director of the Duke Center on Law & Technology and associate dean for technology and innovation.

“These companies are leveraging technology to expand access, streamline legal processes, and improve affordability of legal services. All three of them are winners. We’re excited to support this new cohort of legal tech leaders and look forward to watching their businesses grow.” 

Demo Day is sponsored by the Duke Center on Law & Tech, Latham & Watkins, LexisNexis, & Travelers. Judges last year selected JusticeText, a video transcription platform for public defenders, as the grand prize winner. In 2019 the winner was Courtroom5, a Durham-based platform for pro se litigants.

This year’s judges were:

  • Stacy Butler, director of the Innovation for Justice program at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law
  • Sean Pillai, innovation attorney at Latham & Watkins
  • Jeff Pfeifer, chief product officer, LexisNexis North America
  • Dan Weiss, managing counsel at Travelers

While the judges deliberated, the audience heard from speakers Erin Levine, CEO and founder of Hello Divorce and the 2018 Demo Day grand prize winner, April Dawson, associate dean of technology and innovation and professor of law at North Carolina Central University, and Jeff Kelly, associate at Nelson Mullins in Raleigh and chair of the N.C. Bar Association Future of Law Committee. Kelly joined the Center on Law & Tech in August as a Fellow to work on facilitating projects that leverage technology and design to serve unmet legal needs.

The Duke Law Tech Lab is a three-month virtual program that gives participants opportunities to expand their networks, navigate the legal tech market, and move their business plans forward. Companies receive an initial $1,000 jumpstart grant and ten weeks of virtual programming that includes speakers from top law firms, advice from legal tech companies and investors, and connections to key mentors and pitch coaches. This year's Tech Lab was its fifth cohort. 

“It’s always a pleasure to join the Duke Law Tech Lab for a conversation about privacy and cybersecurity,” says Libby Weingarten ’13, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Washington, D.C., who spoke with the teams in August on such topics as privacy by design and state and federal laws on data privacy and security. 

“The companies at Duke Law Tech Lab are thoughtful, innovative and, most importantly, passionate about increasing access to legal services. Each year I am impressed with the creativity of the founders and the work they are doing to further the public interest.”