The Journey Begins

By Rohan Pavuluri

Any system produces the outcome that it’s designed to produce.

It’s a mantra I often hear the dean of my college repeat, and it especially holds true in the American legal system. In the U.S., we most often leave the responsibility of writing laws to lawyers. As a result, laws are often written in such a way that only lawyers can understand them. Ordinary Americans can rarely navigate the legal system on their own. They need lawyers.

Unfortunately, many Americans cannot afford one. The Legal Aid Society, America’s largest non-profit legal provider, turns down eight out of nine people who ask for help. We’ll just never have enough free lawyers. So we need good legal self-help materials to empower people to navigate the legal system on their own.

Unfortunately, most legal self-help materials just aren’t useable by the people they’re trying to help.

To remedy this problem, Professor Jim Greiner of Harvard Law School created the landmark Financial Distress Research Project in 2012. Professor Greiner’s team designed new self-help materials for consumer debtors using cartoon characters, affirmations, and plain language. His team set out to rigorously evaluate what works and what doesn’t through randomized control trials.

We’re here to bring Professor Greiner’s research to scale. We’re leveraging the power of technology to bring the best of self-help to those who can’t afford a lawyer. And we’re starting with Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

We’ve been lucky to receive support for our idea from some really smart people at Yale Law School, the Harvard Innovation Lab, and the Robin Hood Foundation, among others. And we’re looking forward to seeing where this journey takes us