[This guest post is by Maya Markovich, executive director of the Justice Technology Association, an organization formed to support companies in the justice tech sector. She is also executive in residence for justice tech at Village Capital, the largest organization in the world supporting impact-driven, seed-stage startups.]
Justice tech entered mainstream industry consciousness in 2022 as the social impact side of legal tech, and also of adjacent and interconnected verticals like fintech, govtech, and edtech, which are all creating innovative solutions to the access to justice crisis. Last year also saw the creation of Justice Technology Association, the first trade group dedicated to supporting founders in the space, as well as the first justice tech-focused investor support network and startup accelerator through the work of Village Capital and the AmFam Institute.
In 2023, the justice tech ecosystem continued to grow rapidly, with a significant increase in solutions addressing access to justice-related challenges for consumers. Justice tech caught the interest of both impact investors, as well as those seeking opportunities to fund the disruption of antiquated systems via technology.
Justice Technology Association had a remarkable year, growing to 50+ members, rolling out strategic partnerships with Village Capital and Gener8tor, co-producing its inaugural startup accelerator with LexLab, developing an ever-growing suite of member benefits and a robust internship program, and winning the prestigious Chapman Award for Justice Improvement. JTA continued its strong online presence as an industry resource on LinkedIn and Twitter and contributed to significant research with the Ford Foundation and Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health. JTA continued to build awareness for justice tech, including speaking at ClioCon and keynoting Legal Innovators and sponsoring the American Legal Technology Awards. featured in ABA Journal, Pulse 2.0, Bob Ambrogi’s LawNext podcast, and Accelerator Insider, and its executive director, Maya Markovich, was named to the 2023 Fastcase 50.
Highlights from 2023 JTA member justice tech startups:
BlissDivorce, the only complete online divorce solution to help couples reach a full agreement and move on without attorneys or mediators, recently demonstrated its AI-powered Digital Divorce Mediation™ technology at the National Center for Technology & Dispute Resolution’s Cyberweek 2023 conference.
Clearbox builds solutions to simplify the US immigration process for DIY applicants. In 2023, Clearbox raised a friends and family round, built its first suite of products, and onboarded its first paid customers.
Courtroom5, a platform that helps self-represented litigants navigate complex civil litigation matters, licensed their tech to NCCU Law for classroom use and is in development on a new platform slated for release in spring 2024. CEO Sonja Ebron was recognized as an ABA Legal Rebel along with co-founder Debra Slone, joined the advisory boards of IAALS and Legal Aid of North Carolina Innovation Lab, spoke at ClioCon2023, presented on AI for pro se litigants to the Federal Bar in Alaska, and was featured in podcasts including Pioneers and Pathfinders and Dialpad for Good.
descrybe.ai, a free generative-AI legal search engine, has summarized 1.8 million judicial opinions from across the US and made them accessible via natural language search, rolled out a new abstract feature, and was profiled in multiple publications and webcasts, including law.MIT.edu’s IdeaFlow with Dazza Greenwood, Notes to My Legal Self with Olga Mack, and Legaltech News Startup Spotlight by Cassandre Coyer.
LawWurk, a platform designed to connect self-represented litigants with essential allied legal professionals and resources, was one of six U.S. startups selected for the prestigious Justice Tech Founder Workshops by AmFam Institute and Village Capital, reflecting its commitment to making legal assistance accessible to those unable to afford traditional legal representation.
Level, an AI-powered platform that helps people accurately determine the value of their property when making an insurance claim, raised $1M in funding, rolled out their public beta, and won top mention at the LexLab Justice Tech Accelerator.
My Pocket Lawyer, a platform that uses gen AI to provide accessible high-quality legal information online, emerged from stealth last month with the goal of fundamentally changing the legal industry by aligning economic incentives for lawyers and consumers to improve access to justice. The startup has been featured on Fox Business News, Good Day LA and Good Day NY, Bloomberg, TechCrunch, and Forbes, and have ruffled quite a few feathers, receiving multiple lawsuit threats and at least one cease and desist from incumbent industry participants.
Namesake Collaborative, a trans-led company streamlining legal name and gender marker changes for the transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive community, rolled out their initial offering to Massachusetts residents, and held multiple clinics state-wide. It was also selected from the largest applicant pool to date for LexLab’s Justice Tech Accelerator, winning top mention at the program’s Demo Day along with cohort member Level.
Rasa Legal provides simple and affordable criminal record expungement services and has raised $2.1M to date. In its first year, Rasa served over 10,000 people with criminal records across the state of Utah and will be expanding to Arizona. Rasa Legal was recognized as Startup of the Year at the American Legal Technology Awards and received Clio’s Reisman Award for Legal Innovation. Rasa’s founder and CEO, Noella Sudbury, was featured on the cover of Utah Business Magazine, and named as one of the 200 most dynamic female founders in Inc. Magazine.
RECORD empowers individuals injured in car accidents with essential knowledge and tools to efficiently navigate their legal journey, closed its pre-seed funding round, onboarded a dedicated full-time CTO, and was nominated for Las Vegas’ Top Tech Award for Startups.
REYETS, an impactful AI advocacy tool for justice, has been recognized as a World Changing Idea by Fast Company and won the Index Design for Good award. The initiative is supported by funding from Camelback Ventures, Dream.org, and Village Capital and was spotlighted in Ernst and Young’s Better Heroes podcast. Reyets’ CEO Wa’il Ashshowwaf received the Key to Arlington, Virginia, reflecting the organization’s leadership in innovation and social justice. Nationally recognized civil rights attorney Justin Moore and AI expert Noelle Russell joined as founding members, underscoring REYETS’ growing influence in the field.
Shariawiz, the leading faith-based Islamic estate planning online portal designed to make estate planning for American Muslims easy, accessible, affordable, and secure, is rolling out the first Sharia-compliant prenuptial agreement in December 2023. Shariawiz is the only platform in the world that offers Islamic Trusts and Family Waqfs (joint trusts) online.
TermScout, a venture-backed startup in the B2B contract space, released the private beta version of a new access to justice platform, Screens, that will enable consumers to quickly get expert opinions about their contracts for free. It’s expected to go live in Q1 of 2024.
Trust & Will, a digital estate planning and settlement platform, was named to the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies and was awarded a Smart Money Award for Best Financial Services for Families & Children by Real Simple magazine. They are working to pass legislation to allow for e-signatures of wills this year, including the first eWill in Minnesota state history, providing testimony in Ohio before the House Civil Justice Committee, and published an op-ed on the importance of electronic wills. Trust & Will added 25 attorneys to their network to help support families who want additional guidance while creating their estate plans and rolled out a significant product update to add testamentary trusts as an option.
TurnSignl, a Black-owned mobile platform that provides on-demand, real-time legal guidance from an attorney to drivers, is now fully available nationwide, leading the industry on in-vehicle integration capabilities. It also announced a partnership with LegalEase to join their nationwide group legal services plans. TurnSignl’s leadership team has been named Notable BIPOC Executives as well as CFO of the Year.
We Decide, a software platform created to substantially reduce divorce costs and assist with complex financial and property division issues successfully enabled out-of-court divorce settlements for six couples in the last 60 days and rolled out a new online platform. It was featured in investoready.org and Leveling It Up, Who Wrote that Up for You?, and in an interview with NTV News on the Tech Tuesday Edition.
ZAFlegal.com, a venture-backed platform that helps accident victims navigate the insurance claims process, officially launched its AI case builder, was runner-up for American Legal Technology’s Start-Up of the Year Award, and was featured by multiple outlets, including Entrepreneur Magazine and KUTV Fresh Living and podcasts including Who Wrote that Up for You?.