The founders of a Mark Cuban-backed startup think they can help lawyers do more good for the world

Mark Cuban made a name for himself and made lots of money entertaining people, whether through his ownership of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team or as the host of the show “Shark Tank.”

Now the billionaire businessman is hoping to use some of his wealth to help those far less fortunate than him.

Cuban is backing a company called Paladin that has designed a system designed to pair up lawyers wanting to fulfill their obligations to do pro-bono work with those who need but can’t afford legal services. On Monday, he joined Paladin founders Felicity Conrad and Kristen Sonday at Business Insider’s IGNITION conference to explain and tout the new service.

“I’m looking for companies that have an impact,” Cuban said. He continued: “What Paladin is doing is important.”

The American Bar Association, the professional association for lawyers, recommends that attorneys provide at least 50 hours of work for free each year to non-profit groups or to people unable to afford a lawyer. Many lawyers don’t meet that goal. Meanwhile, Paladin estimates that some 86% of the people who need legal services don’t get it because they can’t afford a lawyer.

Paladin attempts to match up the two sides. It works with law firms, law schools, and corporate legal departments that are looking for pro-bono work for their attorneys and pairs them up with legal-aid organizations that help those in need.

Read this: IGNITION 2018: Hear from billionaire investor Mark Cuban and 2 cofounders who scored a deal with him

Paladin may be in the right place at the right time

The three think they are founded Paladin at just the right time. There have been a growing number of legal-access crises in recent years, most notably those faced by immigrants due to the policies of the Trump administration, they noted. So there’s a growing need for legal aid among those who can least afford it, they say.

Mark Cuban said he invested in Paladin, because he was looking for companies that would have an positive impact on society.
Jin S. Lee/Business Insider

At the same time, social consciousness is becoming ever more important in American culture and business, they said. Recent law school graduates want to know what kind of pro-bono work is being done by the firms they’re considering joining, Cuban said. Tech and other companies are similarly going to be scrutinizing the pro-bono work of the firms they hire, he said.

“It’s going become part of the criteria for selecting a law firm,” he said.

That Conrad and Sonday are the founders of Paladin is unusual not just for the tech industry in general, but for the legal technology sector in particular. Even today, women founders represent a small portion of all startup teams and get only a small fraction of the funding of their male counterparts.

But women and people of color are needed for companies in this sector, Sonday argued. Women and people of color are much more likely to be in the group that Paladin is seeking to help than white males. To be able to help them, it needs to have people who can empathize with their plight, she said.

“I think it’s really important that the people building these solutions are the ones that are closest to the problem,” she said.

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