The number of founders of U.S. legal technology companies who are women or people of color has dropped since 2018, but the overall percentage of diverse founders has risen slightly since then, because of fewer companies in the survey group.
While the number of women founders has dropped from 66 in 2018 to 57 now, the number of Black and Latinx founders has edged up slightly, from 11 Black founders then to 13 now and 15 Latinx founders then to 17 now.
Overall, the number of diverse founders has dropped from 478 in 2018 to 392 now. This number includes founders who are Black, Latinx, Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern.
These results were compiled by Kristen Sonday, cofounder and COO of legal tech startup Paladin, a pro bono management platform, with assistance from the CodeX team at Stanford Law School and Pieter Gunst, cofounder and CEO of Legal.io.
Update from 2018 Survey
Sonday first studied diversity among legal tech founders in 2018. As I reported here at the time, she found that women and people of color were significantly underrepresented, accounting for just 13.6 percent and 26.5 percent respectively. Black and Latinx founders accounted for a staggeringly low proportion of legal tech entrepreneurs, at just 2.3 percent and 3.1 percent respectively.
In new results published today, Sonday said that she wanted to see how much progress the legal tech sector had made since 2018 and provide a benchmark for things to come, especially in the wake of year in which both the legal and tech industries have reaffirmed their commitments to diversity.
“It’s been fantastic to read about, and will be even more fantastic to see their ultimate impact — if and when folks put serious action behind those commitments,” she says.
In compiling the current numbers, Sonday narrowed the scope to standalone, U.S.-based legal tech companies founded within the past 10 years. From the 2018 list, she also removed companies that had been acquired, closed down, pivoted outside of legal, or moved to a part-time staff.
That removed nine companies from the list that had Black or Latinx founders, including Rocket Lawyer, which is more than 10 years old, SimpleCitizen, which was acquired, and DealWIP, which shut down.
But she also added 13 Black and Latinx founders, including for several companies focused on access to justice, such as Athena, JusticeText and PeopleClerk, and new marketplaces, such as Anü, ListaLegal and Freelance for Law.
That resulted in adding 53 companies to 2018 list but removing even more, with the end result that she examined 392 founders across 219 companies.
What she found is a slight decrease in the number of founders of color, down from 127 to 124, and a decrease in the number of female founders from 66 to 57.
As a percentage of the whole, however, the data show an increase in the percentage of diverse new founders, from 26.5% to 31.6%, and a very slight increase in the percentage of female founders, from 13.8% to 14.5%.
Further, the companies added to the list resulted in a bump in the percentage of Black founders from 2.3% to 3.3%, and of Latinx founders from 3.1% to 4.3%.
Why Diversity Matters
In publishing these new results, Sonday, a Latinx founder herself, said that diversity among legal tech founders is important because “those who shape the tech will shape the future of justice.”
“By decreasing design bias through diverse and female founders, our technology will be more comprehensive and impactful,” Sonday writes. “Especially as consumers become more diverse, it’s essential that their backgrounds, experiences, and use cases are reflected in the tools they’re using to solve critical legal issues.”
But as these numbers show, aspiring to diversity and achieving it are far different matters. One way we can promote diversity, Sonday says, is by ensuring that current companies with diverse founders are “wildly successful.”
“If done right, we can change the pattern recognition of what ‘success’ looks like to buyers and investors, inspire others to start companies by visualizing representation, and increase investment in others by creating generational wealth.”
Specifically, she encourages clients to buy their products, investors to write them checks, journalists to write about them, conference organizers to invite them to speak, and law schools to have them present. Introduce them to decision makers within your organizations, she says, and promote them on social media.
Another way to promote diversity is to encourage greater numbers of diverse, budding entrepreneurs to get into legal tech, Sonday says. She encourages those at legal organizations of any kind to expose their teams to legal tech companies and innovative speakers, encourage them to try internships or externships at legal tech companies, and promote demo days and pitch nights.
But diversity is not the only ingredient of success, Sonday suggests. “We need to seriously commit to building scalable, sustainable, and VC-backable (if desired) companies that warrant the above actions. We need to do our research on how to approach complex problems, collaborate with others who can help, contribute to industry dialogue, and build products so good they can’t be ignored.”
Examples of Diverse Companies
As part of her survey this year, Sonday includes a list of some of the legal tech companies that have Black or Latinx founders and how to contact them. They are:
- Anu: a platform that connects underrepresented founders (minority, female and immigrants) with law firms that are mission minded and want to diversify their client pool. Contact Tiyani Mayoko, cofounder and CEO, at email@example.com for business development or PR opportunities. (Related: New Service Uses AI To Help Startups Connect With The Right Lawyer.)
- Athena: a service that empowers moms to collect the back child support that they are rowed. Contact Simone Spence, founder and CEO, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Casetext: an award-winning legal research platform that makes research faster and more accurate using advanced artificial intelligence. Contact Pablo Arredondo, cofounder and chief product officer, at email@example.com for business development, fundraising, or PR opportunities.
- Courtroom5: an automated legal toolbox for the 30 million people in the U.S. each year who go to court without lawyers. Contact Sonja Ebron, cofounder and CEO, at firstname.lastname@example.org for fundraising opportunities and connections to small/solo firms providing unbundled services.
- Divorceify: a roadmap to your divorce — a customized action plan, an education, access to reliable resources, and vetted local professionals selected specifically for you. Contact Sonia Queralt, cofounder, at email@example.com for fundraising, business development, and PR opportunities.
- FairClaims: an online dispute resolution platform that promotes access to justice and civility. Contact Stephen León Kane, cofounder and CEO, on LinkedIn for business development and PR opportunities.
- Gavelytics: finding insights and analytics about judges, litigants, and law firms in state courts using the power of AI and machine learning. Contact Juan Carlos Moreno, cofounder and CTO, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- JusticeText: an audiovisual evidence management platform designed to produce fairer outcomes in the criminal justice system by expediting the review of body camera footage, interrogation videos, jail calls, and more. Contact Devshi Mehrotra, cofounder and CEO, at email@example.com to help with connections to public defense agencies, small-medium private criminal defense firms, law school clinics, and for PR opportunities.
- Legal Equalizer: a multi-faceted app aimed at promoting positive police encounters through a more legally informed citizenry. Contact Mbye Njie, cofounder and CEO, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- ONE400: a law innovation agency that creates digital experiences that connect law firms and legal tech companies with people who need their services. Contact Allen Rodriguez, founder and CEO, at email@example.com with business development opportunities and new talent/advisors.
- Paladin: a law firm and corporate pro bono platform focused on increasing pro bono engagement and decreasing administrative overhead to increase access to justice. Contact Kristen Sonday, cofounder and COO, at firstname.lastname@example.org with fundraising and business development opportunities.
- PeopleClerk: a platform that helps pro se litigants navigate the California small claims process by helping them file, serve and prepare for hearings. Contact Camila Lopez, cofounder and CEO, at email@example.com with fundraising and PR opportunities.
- Quiktract: an affordable way to get your agreements in writing by creating simple, legally binding contracts that can be amended as needed to ensure everyone gets what they should from the work. Contact Blake Stanton, cofounder and CEO, at firstname.lastname@example.org to help with user feedback and business development opportunities.