July/August 2020

Product Watch

Paladin: Personalized and Tech-Driven Pro Bono Opportunities

Heidi S. Alexander

We are a helping profession. We’ve been trained to provide services to people in need. Whether it’s a requirement to maintain your license or not, pro bono is part of our ethos. The subject of this Product Watch column is Paladin. It’s a service built with advanced technology to take the burden out of matching pro bono volunteers with legal services organizations and pro bono matters. Not only does this product help lawyers and law firms find pro bono work, but it also provides a benefit to legal services organizations that typically undergo a laborious and manual process to match volunteers with pro bono work. Of course, for firms, there is great benefit in having lawyers do pro bono work including: helping associates develop skills, assisting with recruiting, partnering with corporate clients and sharing their impact through marketing.

How It Works: Personalized Pro Bono

Paladin takes a personalized and on-demand approach to pro bono. Once a firm or legal department adopts Paladin, its attorneys fill out a short survey indicating their pro bono interests around practice areas, communities to serve and types of work to be done. On the other side of the equation, partner legal services organizations tag inbound cases across the same criteria, including information like key skills required and acquired and training offered. This creates a unified taxonomy that provides for better matching and helps capture data in a consistent manner.

Based on those interests, Paladin sends each attorney a weekly, personalized digest of firm-approved opportunities, rather than a series of one-off emails from referrers. This helps save attorney and law firm time as well as streamline processes for legal services organizations.

For legal services organizations, Paladin creates a centralized referring platform. That way, they can record and manage all their pro bono referrals in a centralized location and also use the tools in that platform to send referrals via case digests, emails or websites.

The Technology Behind the Product

Paladin is a cloud-based solution that is mobile accessible and requires a minimal single sign-on tech integration from firms and in-house teams. Its user experience and interface is simple and intuitive, and the functionality was co-developed in partnership with half a dozen pro bono counsel including teams at Dentons, Holland & Knight and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, as well as a number of legal services organization partners.

Not only can attorneys receive a customized digest of opportunities, but they can also view opportunities in a portal. The software auto-populates a real-time database of what’s currently available in their communities, which is searchable and sortable. As opportunities are placed, they’re automatically removed from the portal, keeping it as up to date as possible. This is essential because oftentimes legal services organizations distribute matters to multiple firms and by the time an attorney volunteers, the matter may already be placed with another firm. That’s wasteful time for the attorney, firm and legal services organization.

At ABA TECHSHOW 2020, Paladin co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Kristen Sonday gave attendees a look under the hood of the product to demonstrate how it sorted and matched volunteer attorneys to potential pro bono cases. In real-time, Sonday asked session attendees to complete a brief intake form that inquired about experience and interests. Upon completion, she unveiled a spreadsheet of all the attendees and how closely they matched to certain pro bono cases.

Currently, the algorithm takes into account attorneys’ preferences and backgrounds, but in the future, this might be expanded to catalog criteria like attorneys’ pro bono (and billable) trainings, pro bono case histories and outcomes, and special licensures to even better optimize for engagement and outcome.

Data-Driven Approach

At the core of Paladin is data. Not only does the product collect data for intake and use that data to distribute matters, but it also uses the data for reporting functionalities. Paladin allows firms to report on engagement (number of hours, percent engagement, etc.) by practice area, title, office and more. This helps to better structure the pro bono process and serve more clients. Legal services organizations also benefit from data by understanding what happens with the pro bono hours through reports on communities served, type of engagement and area of law leveraged to help those in need.

The team at Paladin also gathers helpful insights from the aggregation of data in its system. For example, the team found that attorneys are more likely to open pro-bono-related email midweek, Wednesdays to be specific; attorneys are most likely to search for pro bono opportunities by practice area; and partners with the highest engagement with pro bono typically offer more limited opportunities (suggesting that attorneys appreciate more focused and manageable experiences).

As more data is collected internally for firms and law departments as well as aggregated by Paladin, there will be better information about case outcomes to make pro bono matching better—ultimately serving more pro bono clients faster and more efficiently.

Parting Thoughts

I’ve been impressed by this company’s commitment to implementing technology to both assist attorneys and help decrease the access to justice gap. By automating the pro bono process, it decreases paperwork and increases accuracy, thus saving time for attorneys and legal services organizations. For firms and corporate law departments, it provides a central repository for hosting, directing and capturing volunteers. For legal service organizations, it provides a way to effectively share pro bono opportunities to a broad pool of volunteers, a way to visualize volunteer sign-ups in real-time, and a wider access to law firms and corporate networks. For volunteers, this is a central location to search, learn about and sign up for opportunities without having to match specific interests or having to visit separate organizations or issue-specific websites. And, most importantly, this product provides access to a larger network of attorneys to help with problems.

From a tech and innovation perspective, this product demonstrates the vast opportunities that artificial intelligence brings to the legal industry. As the company continues to collect more data, the system becomes more intelligent and can better serve attorneys and organizations, and in turn play a part in closing the access to justice gap. The Paladin team provides helpful insights from its data, discussion of product development and other observations on its website, joinpaladin.com

Heidi S. Alexander

Director

Heidi S. Alexander is Massachusetts’ first director of the Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Lawyer Well-Being. She is the author of Evernote as a Law Practice Tool, past co-chair of ABA TECHSHOW and founder of the ABA’s Women of Legal Technology initiative.

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