More so than in many industries, career progress in law is structured around a familiar and well-defined ladder. It looks a little bit like this: student trainee associate partner or GC.
Legal Tech represents an off-shoot from this traditional pathway and Julia Salasky, the Founder and CEO of CrowdJustice, can remember exactly the words which helped move her towards one, and away from the other.
“When I was at the UN I met a lawyer at the US state department who told me that just because there is a ladder in front of you, it doesn’t mean you have to climb it. I’ve never forgotten those words.
“At the UN I had a job for life. It was a cushy situation. But I then realised I wanted to push the boundaries.”
Salasky had always involved herself in pro bono work as an Associate at Linklaters and then as a lawyer for the UN and had noted first-hand the obstacles surrounding access to justice.
So when the decision to move away from law’s traditional path was made, access to justice was the sector she gravitated towards. Hence CrowdJustice, the high-profile platform which has helped to crowdfund legal cases around some of the foremost issues of the day including Brexit, climate change and Donald Trump’s temporary immigration ban.
Julia Salsky’s most memorable cases funded via CrowdJustice
- The People’s Challenge to Brexit which was heard at the same time as the Gina Miller case. £170,000 raised
- Doctor Chris Day’s successful appeal that helped bring in protection for junior doctors to blow the whistle and raise concerns about poor practice.£300K raised
- Sam Walton’s and Reverend Daniel Woodhouse’s acquittal from criminal damage charges after breaking into BAE Systems’ Warton Airbase when attempting to disarm warplanes destined for Saudi Arabia. They faced two years in jail but on the grounds that they had a moral justification for their actions, they won their case.£12,000 raised
CrowdJustice gathers headlines like they’re going out of fashion and Salasky says that the role her platform has played in helping people realise that their collective power and money can really change the law, is what she is most proud of.
But despite CrowdJustice’s current successes – making their name synonymous with access to justice in the UK and latterly in the US as well – it hasn’t always been plain sailing.
“I had moments at the beginning when I thought that CrowdJustice wouldn’t work,” admits Salasky.
“But I worked out that I had to be the one who believed in it!
“What I’ve also come to realise is that you have to find people, both inside and outside of your company, who will champion what you do.
“This has made me be selective of who I work with. But the return on this strategy is that now I truly think that we have the best investors, and the best team, and that is what makes the journey exciting and worthwhile.”
On the subject of gender discrimination in business, Salasky has clear opinions, borne out of her own personal experiences.
“I have been lucky, because discrimination – subtle or not – is quite prevalent in both the legal industry and in the tech industry,” she says. “But again I’d come back to this idea of finding amazing people who lift you up.
“I raised a round of funding when I was pregnant from some great investors. One of them told me how other people would be thinking: they would never invest in a solo female founder, let alone one who was pregnant. The prejudices themselves feel so socially acceptable that it’s ok to just air them as it’s so plainly stating the obvious. But can you imagine saying the same thing to a father-to-be? I think it’s possible that we can move the needle on changing these retrograde attitudes over the next decade. I do my best to champion the idea that you can be a woman and build both a company and a family at the same time.”
So far CrowdJustice has facilitated donations to legal cases from 150,000+ people, many of whom, Salasky believes, will have – in providing a donation – been encountering the legal system for the very first time.
It’s this level of engagement which allowed Salasky to raise $2million in investment last year, with her sights on raising further funds in 2018 as well.
For her team of 10 full-time staff, the success CrowdJustice has achieved so far could well just be the beginning. Learn more about Crowd Justice on our startup map.