It’s tough for a lawyer (like myself) to not get carried away when the topic of access to justice comes up. Having access to legal advice to defend your claims or defend yourself from the claims of others should be a basic right. But the truth is that legal advice is expensive and 70% of people who need it doesn't seek it. Let me rephrase it: 2/3 (!) of people who require a lawyer don’t get one, mainly because they can’t afford. This is an epic failure in a society.
Luckily that there are people with more constructive attitudes than mine, like Julia, a former lawyer at Linklaters, who left her life-time job at the UN to build a WordPress site to help people crowdfund for their legal cases. That was the very first version of Legl.
Today, Crowdjustice is an online platform for funding legal matters with donations, leveraging online networks to facilitate access to justice for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access legal advice. Ordinary people, charities and campaign groups with a legal case but no means to fund it can promote their case on CrowdJustice and raise money from third-party backers (donors) to take their case to Court.
But CrowdJustice is about more than just raising money, it’s about democratising the legal system, and that means bringing much needed transparency. Long-term vision is to become a trusted resource and legal destination for consumers — the go-to platform where they can not only raise money and pay for their cases, but where they can also learn about the law and get more transparency over the whole process.
So far CrowdJustice has made possible hundreds of cases like the most recent one regarding Brexit — which crowdfunded £190,650 from more than 6,000 people — establishing that the UK can unilaterally withdraw its article 50 notification; or a case brought by Stephen Hawkins and the British luminaries in defense of the NHS. But most of its cases are brought to the platform by ordinary people who don’t have the means for legal action on cases in areas such us human rights, immigration, police action, family, employment, housing and public law. CrowdJustice was recently featured in The Economist and awarded the FT European Innovative Lawyer Award, check it out if you want to learn more about it.
Previously backed by Kindred and First Round Capital, Samaipata recently led their Seed round and — together with our great friends at Backed — we became proud investors of CrowdJustice.
Layered up emotions aside, I’ll put my investor hat on to outline the reasons behind us investing in CrowdJustice, which have as much to do with their mission as it has to do with the potential of the opportunity. Because where the lawyer in me sees a failure in a democratic society, the investors in us all at Samaipata see a market opportunity to build a huge business and make a positive impact. A very large market is broken and there’s a big opportunity to fix it. And CrowdJustice has all the ingredients to be the one succeeding in doing so.
The team and strong founder-market fit was of course a fundamental part of our decision. Anybody who has met Julia knows how impressive and inspiring she is — her passion for opening-up access to justice goes hand-in-hand with her ambition to build a huge business. We met for the first time on a Friday afternoon, in a pub…and after just three — intense!— weeks of analysis and meetings we were ready to shoot a Termsheet. We were sincerely impressed by her superhuman levels of energy and drive, strong leadership skills and the ability to attract outstanding mission-driven talent.
Moreover, CrowdJustice’s business and vision fits like a glove with Samaipata’s thematic investment thesis: we look to invest in…
1. …defensible businesses…
We look for marketplaces with strong network effects that ensure defensibility. And CrowdJustice is a clear example of a highly defensible marketplace built on strong barriers of entry: clear first-comer advantage in a non-tech savvy industry of slow adopters where a trusted brand and be perceived as an insider is key; and very strong multi-sided network effects on the three sides of the marketplace — lawyers, case owners and backers.
Moreover, CrowdJustice is a highly scalable model driven by strong viral effects that act as powerful growth engines: lawyers bring case-owners to the platforms, case-owners bring backers to support them(Crowdjustice provides them with the online tools to do so) and backers are potential case owners.
2. …that fix crappy customer experiences…
We look for tech-enabled solutions that fix poor customer experiences. Today, the process of finding and hiring a lawyer is a terrible non-transparent and expensive customer experience that prevents many seeking legal advice from getting it. We see strong potential for a tech-enabled marketplace like CrowdJustice to fix that customer experience and open up a very large untapped market.
3. …in large (preferably untapped) markets…
Currently, the UK consumer legal market is £11Bn, all of which is privately funded, with the exception of Legal Aid. But by providing access to the legal system to those who otherwise wouldn´t be able to access it CrowdJustice is also market-making, expanding the size of the market to a huge £22Bn+, and providing an enormous social good.
And that’s only in the UK. But lack of accessibility to the legal system is a global and growing problem. And so is the market opportunity.
4. …making the world a little more human…
54% of people in the UK have had a consumer, immigration, employment, or other legal issue in the past three years. But 70% of people who need legal advice don’t seek it — — due to the inability to afford it and/or to the lack of information to choose and compare legal service providers. In a country where 40% of households cannot afford an unexpected GBP500bill, the cut in legal aid has only exacerbated the issue. Since 2013, there has been a 74% fall in the number of people receiving legal aid in civil and family cases and the proportion of state-funded judicial reviews has gone from ¼ in 2000–2004 to 1/20 in the past two years. (Source: Ipsos-MORI Law Society Survey, 2016).
With millions raised in donations from hundreds of thousands of donors, with hundreds of legal cases made possible and with the vision of bringing transparency into an obscure industry, Crowdjustice is building a big business that makes the world a little more human. And we couldn’t be more proud and more excited to, alongside Backed, be backing Julia & the team to execute on such an ambitious and enormous vision.
At Samaipata, we are always looking for ways to improve. Do not hesitate to send us your thoughts. We strive to partner with early-stage founders and to support them in taking their business to the next level. Check out more ways in which we can help here or for all our other content here.
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