Legalist: Leveling the Playing Field in Public Justice

These Harvard dropouts are improving access to justice through data-backed litigation financing.

Rough Draft Ventures is proud to announce our support of Eva Shang and Christian Haigh of Legalist as they set out to improve access to justice through data-backed litigation financing.

Lawsuits can be timely and expensive, and not everyone can afford them, even if they have a winning case. Legalist, a player in the emerging field of litigation financing, addresses this problem by funding those cases that need it most.

Legalist targets those cases that need more resources to resolve their case, especially small businesses that otherwise would not be able to see a lawsuit to its rightful end. To expedite the process and open it up to small businesses with smaller claims, Legalist has compiled a database of 15 million court records and developed a proprietary algorithm to vet litigation risk and need.

Christian and Eva founded Legalist last year as students at Harvard. The two have decided to take a leave of absence this fall to pursue the startup full time.

At Harvard, Christian was studying for a Master’s degree in Computer Science, along with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics. Christian brings deep expertise in machine learning and data science, which he has applied to his entrepreneurial work, and has previously worked in government data research alongside Harvard Professor Latanya Sweeney. His previous research on price discrimination in Princeton Review online tutoring was covered in Time, ProPublica, The Atlantic, and other major news outlets.

As an undergraduate at Harvard, Eva was heavily involved in social activism.

The two founders met in an economics class and founded TEDxHarvardCollege, Harvard’s first, university-wide TEDx event.

Image via The Crimson

The idea behind Legalist was sparked by Eva’s experience working as an investigator at the Public Defender Service in DC. She did a lot of record collection and was frustrated by how antiquated the court system was, as well as how many people were denied access to civil and criminal justice. With Christian’s previous experience in analyzing large amounts of data, the two Harvard undergraduates realized how inaccessible these records were and saw a tremendous opportunity to make them accessible and useful for lawyers and clients.

Christian and Eva spent the summer at Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley startup accelerator with a < 3% acceptance rate. Since then, Legalist has invested in one lawsuit, been featured in The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, Slate, Vanity Fair, and other national newspapers and magazines, and is continuing to improve their algorithm and invest in lawsuits.

We first met Eva when she interviewed Rough Draft community members for an article about minorities in tech.

Welcome, Eva and Christian, to the Rough Draft family!

To learn more about Legalist — check them out at

If you’re a student founder or interested in learning more about Rough Draft Ventures — check us out at